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The Peril of the iamb: Poets beware!

August 10, 2012



Word forms: plural iambs, iambi (aɪˈæmbaɪambuses (prosody)

  1. a metrical foot consisting of two syllables, a short one followed by a long one (◡ –)
  1. a line of verse of such feet

The iamb is a heartbeat. You shun it at your peril. ba Boom ba Boom ba Boom.

There once was a poet who wrote only in trochee. His work was glittering, startling. It made people gasp and feel uneasy. It made you look at the world in a new way. Boom ba Boom ba Boom ba. The poems never seemed to end, they dangled in a most suspicious way. You felt as if each one wormed into your heart. You woke up in the middle of the night, thinking of the poems, they ran frantically through your head. Boom ba Boom ba Boom ba.

The poet himself was a thin pale man of nineteen. He had long luxuriant hair that you wanted to pet. He left a series of shattered lovers in his wake, male and female. You knew he was not a very good lover or a very attentive one; you still said ‘yes’ because only someone of great depth could produce such amazing work. It was a shame all his brilliance went into his poetry, instead of his conversation.

The poet grew more and more famous. More people read his work, and awoke in the night. Boom ba Boom ba Boom ba. Of course, since this was poetry only a few thousand people awoke in the night, but still. Until one day a poem of his was included in a national English syllabus for sixteen year olds. Now tens of thousands of people awoke in the night.

You cannot say that the iamb was jealous. No, that would be absurd. But the facts are these. A short while after his ascent into general fame, the poet went to his doctor complaining of chest pain. The doctor put a stethoscope on his chest, and heard the refrain Boom ba Boom ba Boom ba. It was only a matter of time for the poet. The heart beat was backward, and weak. He achieved his aim of dying younger than Shelley.

You say that the iamb had shunned the poet’s heart. I say this is a strong statement built on sand and circumstance. But still, these are the facts. The iamb is a heartbeat. You shun it at your peril. ba Boom ba Boom ba Boom.

Next entries noun:



  1. a sharp poke or stab
  1. a quick short blow, esp (in boxing) a straight punch with the leading hand
  1. (informal) an injection ⇒ polio jabs

From → Definition

  1. Amaryllis permalink


    But then, perhaps it would be best to say,

  2. I think this is my favourite one yet.


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  1. Dictionary of Peril | eight cuts

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