I am a graduate student in the English Department at UT-Austin, studying contemporary poetry and digital poetics. I am currently an Associate Editor at PennSound, where I have been working since 2010. I received my Bachelor’s Degree from The University of Pennsylvania in 2010, studying English with a concentration in poetry and poetics. This summer, I will also have a commentary on Jacket2 entitled “Notes from PennSound”, where I will explore the PennSound archive and highlight some of my favorite recordings that I’ve worked on over the past few years.
My research arose from a passage in Paul Fussel’s Poetic Meter and Poetic Form (McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1979):
A spoken syllable manifests at least four phonetic qualities: pitch (highness or lowness on the musical scale), loudness, length…and timbre or quality….Clearly when some of these phonetic qualities are emphasized we say that the syllable is accented, but we really do not know the answers to questions like….Does an accented syllable have a higher pitch…? Is it louder? Has it a longer duration? Has it a unique timbre? Or is its emphatic characteristic the result of some sort of mysterious energy or “impulsion” which is not entirely accounted for? (9)
I was shocked that despite the long history of metrical study, a question so fundamental as, “What makes a syllable stressed or unstressed?” could go unanswered. The purpose of this project is to make some preliminary judgments about the sonic qualities that create metrical stress in poetry, as well as investigate the anomalies and new modes of investigation that are opened by this foray into metrical analysis.