More on the Dochmiac

Marble Mask – Ancient Greek –  (c. 1st Century BC) – from the Archaeological Museum of Athens

Allen Ginsberg on metrics continues

Student; What’s it called?

AG: Dochmiac, the dochmiac or dochmiac meter – D-O-C-H-M-I-A-C. However, when you reverse it like this [Allen shows on the blackboard] – where the two long feet or two (stresses) come first –ba-boom-boom ba-boom-boom – you get the hypo-dochmaic . Now this is a dochmaic or dochmaic meter (in) that form, and the one that we’re using (which you’ll come to again, so you might as well find out what this is and know it forever and use it, get on with it) , it come to (us) again with Hart Crane, and it’s a heroic meter.

It’s really important. Because people don’t know about these things, and it’s like an FM, or, you know, like extra vibe beyond the usual reception, receptions, grammar-school AM poetic radio. But this is where you get into a .. the meters that I use very often (like in “Moloch”  [the “Moloch” section in “Howl”]) – bompa-da-bompa-da bompa-da-da-da” – “Moloch, whose eyes are a thousand blind windows” – I’m using meters called ionic, docmaic …and.. there’s a thing called…epitrite (epitrite primus, tertius, there are epitrite four-beat meters, but this is rare, this is a five-beat meter). You don’t even see them in the books of meter in English. It’s rare to ever appear – a five-syllable meter, and a repeated meter, with five syllables that’s repeated –  “Droop herbs and flowers”, “fall grief and showers” “Lo, Lord, Thou ridest! ” –  So they’re real, actual meters, the Greeks knew them, used them and used them for explicit moments for the crises, for the highest poetry, for the highest moments of poetry they reserved these, for the moment of revelation, that’s what these meters were for. So, if you want to write, if you want to write revelatory poetry, inspired poetry, this is..these are meters for inspired poetry, the highest inspiration. So hypo-dochmaic meters – H-Y-P-O-D-O-C-H-M-A-I-C – hypo-dochmaic – hypo,because you hyped it around! – What does “hypo-” mean?

Student; Do they call those declarative phrases, like a declarative sentence – “Droop herbs and flowers”, like a command, or..

AG: No, it’s not declarative, it’s imperative

Student: Imperative?

AG: Imperative. Yes, but imperative declaration,

Student: Is this like a kind of inspiration, that it works on others?

AG: That’s a good line. This is like imperative inspiration,

Student: I suppose it’d work for other types of phrases or standard meters, or something,, but, in this instance, where you’re doing it at this point, is there any other…

AG: The dochmaic meter is a meter that when you have a great peroation beginning, “Fuck You!!” (da-da da) – that’s the dochmaic or hyperdochmaic meter!.

Student: Is it only used.. is it only used in comparative type phrase(s)?

AG: Well you could make another arrangement.

Student; I suppose you could.

AG: Well, you could say.. you could make it, actually, ( if you wanted it) – “Herbs droop and flowers, grief falls in showers” – You could make it that way, if you want – but imperative, It’s useful for the imperative, and the “Fuck you” imperative, particularly – Sure. (I’m trying to translate it into vernacular Americanese, to show you how it’s a totally natural, totally basic body-rhythm – except our poetry never rises to those, rises..or arrives at those, basic inspired body rhythms. Because of the kind of obstruction, we never get to unobstructed rhythm, or rarely is there unobstructed body-rhythms, and that’s the secret of a lot of this. This poetry (it’s) unobstructed body-rhythms. So, it’s called hypodochmiac ( …O-C-H-M-I-A-C), or, if you want some even prettier nomenclature for it, anaclastic dochmiacs – anaclastic dochmiacs

Student: Same thing?

AG: Yes, same thing, just different words, because..there weren’t too many people who were that interested in getting high! – not that many people knew..knew what it was called – “anaclastic dochmiacs”  [ Allen writes it on the blackboard] – variant of the dochmaic meter, useful in imperative declamation, and inspired climactic prophecy. In this case, very sweetly done . It’s an imperative, but, you know, it’s an imperative with a dying fall, so to speak.

{Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-three-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-nine-and-a-half minutes in]

[ This material was first featured on the Allen Ginsberg Project – here]

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