Steal pulse

Our last task was to write a poem with the focus on using rhythm, and preferably the interplay of contrasting rhythms.

The poem below was intended for a Christmas poem competition, but I missed last week’s entry deadline, so I don’t mind putting it up here. The starting point is a piece that I wrote a few years ago, but I ended up stretching most of the lines past the point where they can be strung comfortably along a recognisable metrical pattern. The long lines are typically around sixteen syllables, and the underlying iambic pattern would suggest eight stressed syllables, but I think the variation in degrees of stress becomes more accentuated the longer the line, and the stresses with truly siginficant weight probably varies from five to seven, but there are clearly legitimate possible variations of intonation both within and beyond that tendency, while the use of internal rhyme at various points disrupts further any attempt to establish a neat regularity in the longer lines.

You can decide for yourself what motivation I may have had for creating that rhythmic tension, perhaps informed by the other main rhythmic feature of this poem: the counterpoint between those long lines, and the short lines that interpose – each a half-line stolen borrowed from ‘Away in a Manger’.

The shops have been full of Christmas stuff since they took the Halloween decorations down, so I hope I can be forgiven for chucking in a Christmas poem even before Advent has begun. It seems somehow fitting given the slippage and disruption of the traditional seasonal calendar.

5 thoughts on “Steal pulse

  1. Sadly, reading this on my phone and there are two WordPress ads on that short post, one of which entirely covers the poem I was so looking forward to reading. I’ll just have to wait until I’m back at my desk.

    But perhaps that is the same sense of anticipation that advent is supposed to be about?


    1. Even if you can read it, phone rendering destroys the line breaks. It seems that WordPress is not a fit platform for poetry blogging, but it’s what we were asked to use. Thanks for trying to read it, though.


  2. I haven’t (as yet) got around to trying this contrasting rhythm, I think you’ve done so very well. It reads ok on a large screen, but a bit frustrating trying to get it on the page in the right format, how did you do this in the end? I’m still importing into Photoshop, but the text then gets rendered into something that is distracting with its fuzziness.
    Back to the poem. I love the way you not only contrast the rhythm, but also the story, intermingling what could be seen as a pretty story with the less pretty reality.


    1. Thanks, Sue. I’m typing the poems in Google Docs, then File > Publish to Web allows you to choose an ‘embed’ option. Copy and paste the embed code into your WordPress post and the document is automatically embedded. This also means that any edits made to the original doc also automatically update in the post.


  3. That’s right proper christmassy, I think you have hit the brief well. For some reason it reminds me of fishing– the line running out, to be cranked back in slightly by the shorter lines. I will thank you for the festive ear-worm I had to endure all the way through. In a way this poem made me feel very sad, as I only got to play the part of a shepherd at my Infant school nativity play. Not the much more interesting and alluring fungal spore.


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