Poetry Readings – Carol Ann Duffy’s works

I’ve often found that a bad poetry reading can ruin a poem.  I, myself, do not read my poems as well as someone who is an actor.  I’m sharing links to videos and recordings for readings I’ve particularly enjoyed.  But a good reading, or a brilliant one – well, if you do not like poetry, this is a great way to browse, taste, and experience a beautiful poem which otherwise might not make sense to you on the page.

Carol Ann Duffy is the Poet Laureate of Britain.  Her works are accessible because her language is stark, her imagery clear.  Yet, the works are layered.  The connotations, the references, bring to mind unsaid ideas and themes.  Here are a few of her pieces I particularly love.


Yet, Duffy does a wonderful job reading her own work and talking about it.  This is her poem, Premonitions.

If you ever get a chance to read her “World’s Wife” there are some amazing pieces in them. Again, this is a great video which is a prime example of what a good poetry reading looks like. The poem is, “Mrs. Midas

Let me introduce you

to Timothy Steele. His book, all the fun’s in how you say the thing was one of the first books on  prosody I ever read.   “Prosody is the study of the meter, rhythm, and intonation of a poem.”  I was taught how to scan (determine the metrical “character” of a line of poetry”) from friends I met on the internet in the “earlier” days of the bulletin board system.  There was one specifically who took the time to take me to a “black area” off a private bulletin board and run me through Alexander Pope, and spent the time to break down the confusion I suffered from too many badly taught English classes compounded by my very tin ear.

My approach to scansion is quite mechanical.  I have “friends” on the internet who are much more natural than I am in their approach to prosody.  Still, I have no reputation to uphold.  I make no scholarly claims.  The only claims I do make is that I occasionally attempt to write a good critique.  So, in the interest of sharing information from people who know much, much more than I dbroccoli braino, I’d like to introduce the interested student to Mr. Timothy Steele.  Wikipedia him.  Google him.  Poets.org him.  He’s an accessible instructor and there’s a lot of his technical information littering the web.  They’re well worth reading.

Here are two of his technical pieces:  one on rhyme and stanza and this piece on meter.  If you’re going to do some broccoli reading (reading which is good for your head), this stuff won’t put you to sleep.

I also ran across this old document, notes really, from my “early days” of trying to figure this stuff out:

Basics of accentual-syllabic prosody

Lewis Turco, The Book of Forms,

1st count all syllables
2nd count stressed syllables
3rd count verse feet


  1. Every word in English two syllables in length or longer will have one strongly stressed syllable.
  2. The general rule for stressing words of a single syllable is this: Verbs and nouns generally take a stress: action words, subjects, or objects.
  3. Exceptions:
    1. verbs that we generally elide: “Have” (I’ve), “are” (you’re), “am” (I’m)
    2. articles (a, the)
    3. prepositions (of, to, on, in, etc.)
    4. coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for)
    5. certain pronouns such as “I” and sometimes “you,” which we tend either to use in an elision or merely to slide over
  4. In any series of 3 unstressed syllables in a line of verse, one of them, generally the middle syllable, will take a secondary stress through promotion and will be counted as a stressed syllable.
  5. In any series of 3 stressed syllables in a line of verse, one of them, generally the middle syllable, will take a secondary stress through demotion and will be counted as an unstressed syllable.
  6. Any syllable may be rhetorically stressed by means of italics or some other typographical ploy.


There are FOUR standard feet in English prosody:
(u = unstressed, / = stressed)

  • iamb – 2 syllables – u /
  • anapest – 3 syllables – u u /
  • trochee – 2 syllables – / u
  • dactyl – 3 syllables – / u u

minor feet:

  • headless iamb – foot of 1 stressed syllable (/)
  • tailless trochee – same

One can tell these two feet apart only from their position in a line of verse. They occur, for instance when the unstressed first syllable of an iamb is dropped in order to vary the rhythm of a line of verse, or when the unstressed 2nd syllable of a trochee is dropped for the same reason.

(For the most part, besides the double iamb, I have ignored the “minor” feet which have more than a single strong stress.  At that point, I resolve to one of the more common feet.)

  • spondee – 2 syllables – / /
  • amphibrach – 3 syllables – u / u
  • double iamb- 4 syllables – u u / / – equals 2 iambs in a line of verse. (Oliver, Rules, p. 27: There is something called the pyrrhic foot, which is composed of two light stresses. The pyrrhic foot appears in Greek and Roman poetry; in English verse it occurs only when immediately followed by a spondee, and the two feet together are called a double ionic.)
  • double trochee – 4 syllables – / / u u
  • amphimacer – 3 syllables – / u / – does not exist in English. It is either a headless iamb and an iamb, or a trochee and a tailless trochee.
  • antispast – 4 syllables – u / / u – iamb followed by a trochee
  • tribrach – 3 syllables – u u u – 3 unstressed syllables does not exist in English
  • molossus – 3 syllables – / / / – 3 stressed syllables does not exist in English
  • bacchic – 3 syllables – u / / – iamb & tailess trochee
  • antibacchius (antibacchic) – 3 syllables – / / u – headless iamb & a trochee
  • choriamb – 4 syllables – / u u / – trochee (choree) followed by iamb
  • paeon – 4 syllables – in the following of 1 stressed, 3 unstressed combinations:
    • / u u u
    • u / u u
    • u u / u
    • u u u /
  • epitrite – 4 syllables – in the following of 1 unstressed, 3 stressed combinations
    • / / / u
    • u / / /
    • / u / /
    • / / u /

Who wrote this amazing, mysterious book satirizing tech startup culture?

Creating interactive works in meatspace


A mysterious little book called Iterating Grace is floating around San Francisco right now. At least a dozen people have received the book in the mail—or in my case, by secret hand-delivery to my house. (Which is a little creepy.)

The artifact itself consists of a 2,001-word story interspersed with hand-drawn recreations of tweets by venture capitalists and startup people like Chris Sacca, Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Sam Altman, and others.

The story’s lead character, Koons Crooks, goes on a spiritual quest by contemplating the social media feeds emanating from the startup world. It leads him to a Bolivian volcano and a chillingly hilarious final act with some cans of cat food, a DIY conference badge, and a pack of vicuñas (which are sort of like llamas).

“For him, the tossed-off musings and business maxims of these men (they were almost all men) shimmered with a certain numinous luster. He…

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Working on Submissions Today

It’s been a busy week for me.  While I’m “unemployed” at this time (i.e., there ain’t a paycheck in sight), I spend my time working at my crafts.  I have to split my time between code work, job searching, poetry writing, and the “pilgrimage” I’m on to explore this larger world I’ve inhabited for so long, but in such a small way.  I call it my “walk-about.”  So, I go to a variety of conferences and technical talks to learn, listen, and meet people working in my professional field.

I don’t do this with writing or writer’s groups.  Why, you ask?  Because most writers I’ve worked with just want to hear expressions of appreciation for their own work.  There are only rare individuals who want to, or can manage, direct, blunt commentary on their work. Me, I need blunt commentary.  I can’t “see” my defects during the drafting process.  Now, if I come back to a piece after six months, a year, or more – then I can “see” more clearly what needs to be cut, reworded, rethought, or maybe just the whole thing tossed into the trash can.  But in the heat of the drafting process, which is the same week, month, quarter, or even half – year of the initial inspiration of the piece.  No.  I can’t see clearly at that point.  So, that might actually be another reason why I don’t submit.  I’ve needed this time to gain perspective on the work I wrote 10 – 13 years ago.  Still, the writer’s groups I’ve attended while in “meat-time” have been less than clear, without technical precision.  And no, I’m not interested in a master’s progragm.  Gah.  I can read and I can write.  Give me correspondence over lectures any day.

And then there’s the writer’s get-aways.  That’s almost too precious for me to credit.  If I won one, I’d go check it out, but  I’ve created my own nest, so traveling to write is usually more bother than productive for me.  My husband is fine with leaving me alone to the quiet of my office, to the emptiness of my space.  I sit at my comfortable desk with the large window in front of me open and I hear the beat of the hummingbird’s wings, or the heavy “thuk!  thuk!” of the pigeons walking on my roof.

Today is “working on my poetry” day.  I’ve been asked to send two pieces to the ERWA summer gallery and I’ve got to get my Rattle submission prepped.  Working to prepare submissions is not one of my strongest skills.  First, I have to actually care about the publisher and for erotic work, that’s quite, quite limited.  There’s a lot of vanity publishers available, there’s a lot of crap websites.  Anyone can post anything, but if you’re working on poetry as a literary endeavor, those publishers have seen more dreck than quality and so shy away.

I wrote about Rattle before.  They’ve just put up a new challenge, so if you’re stumped for a topic, go check this out. It’s also a great way for you to familiarize yourself with a reputable publisher, and what good writing looks like.

And what does “good writing” look like to you?  What poems have you read by people who aren’t dead or famous?  Do you carry someone else’s words around with you?  What are your thoughts about the poems in this month’s Rattle?  Could you riff off any of the pieces and make any of them more sexual?  What makes for weak writing in erotic poetry?  What do you think makes for stronger work?

Now for me to get back to my paperwork.