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Steinzor: On form in In Dante's Wake

In Dante's Wake consists of 100 cantos, spread over three books, written in polyrhythmic, unrhymed, ten line stanzas. Each stanza consists of alternating lines of five and four stresses: 5-4-5-4-5-4-5-4-5-4. In the third book, Once Was Lost, each line begins with a stressed syllable, an added regularity that somehow seemed appropriate to that book's more elevated status. Instead of a regular meter, I used a variable foot throughout. I wanted the freedom that a variable foot would allow me in a work incorporating a multitude of voices and tones; and a more basic concern was that a regular meter, adherred to more or less rigorously over thousands of lines, would be as tedious to write as it would be to read. I settled on the 5-4 scheme for several reasons. It was a way of acknowledging the numerological importance of nine to Dante, placing it at the foundation of my work as it is in his, without having to indulge in numerology myself. Also, I needed something gently propulsive in place of the impetus that, in Dante's work, is provided by terza rima, his aba bcb cdc rhyme scheme. I don't have the facility with rhyme to pull that off in English, a language relatively impoverished in rhymes compared to Italian, although I know that some of Dante's translators have managed it. A beat of five over four serves the purpose, always creating an urge to move on to the next line, easily accommodating the variable foot, flexible as to tone and content. After a while it came naturally to me, to the point that, after a stint of writing, I would sit down to read a book or the newspaper and my brain would insist on chopping the sentences into rhythmic bits.