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In Charles Bukowski's "my old man," how would you define the meter pattern as...

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ninoj90 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted December 9, 2011 at 3:44 AM via web

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In Charles Bukowski's "my old man," how would you define the meter pattern as relevant to the meaning of the poem?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 10, 2011 at 1:48 AM (Answer #1)

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The meter pattern in Charles Bukowski's poem, "my old man," is irregular. Each of the lines present a different meter and no pattern is held throughout the poem.

One could easily justify that Bukowski wrote "my old man" in this way because of the meaning behind the poem. He ends the poem with the following:

I guess that’s
as close
as we ever got.

The poem, therefore, is one of recollection. Given that most memories are not brought forth in a complete way, meaning that memories are fragmented, the poem's meter is fragmented as well. What this does is offer the reader a sense of fragmentation when reading the poem. Thoughts are recalled as short spurts defined through the short and fragmented lines.

When reading the poem, Bukowski has written it in such a way as to force the reader to stop in the middle of a complete thought. The lines are segmented multiple times, which depicts the irregular meter, and while it shows a story, it forces it to be somewhat disjointed (as memories are). Though irregular, the meter is built around iambs, worked in dimeter, that are varied with trochees [stress mark ^]:

I’d come^ / home drunk^ [iamb]
[...]
“Hen^-ry, / please^ take / ..." [trochee]

Therefore, the meaning of the poem is compacted by the meter through the, essentially, pulses of phrases set by the poet. Short lines are meant to allow the reader to regard, in small sections, what the poet is recalling about his relationship with his father. The relationship, in the end, is short, irregular, and limited.

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