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Scansion: The Secretary Chant by Marge Piercy – Sample 1014 words

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This poetry is a free verse. The poetic foot of each line will be identified according to syllables or phrases since one line cannot be generalized as “iambic pentameter,” for example, since the lines are irregular. The Secretary chant has no regular pattern like this (Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73):

ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ ´
That time ⁄ of year ⁄ thou mayst ⁄ in me ⁄ be hold ⁄

ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ´
My hips ⁄ are a desk. ║
Foot: Iambic, Anapestic
Meter: Dimeter
5 syllables
ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ
From my ears ⁄ ║ hang
Foot: Anapestic, Pyrrhic
Meter: Dimeter
4 syllables
ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ
chains of ⁄ pa per clips.

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Foot: Pyrrhic, Dactylic
Meter: Dimeter
5 syllables

´ ˇ ˇ ˇ ˇ ´
Rub ber bands ⁄ form my hair. ║
Foot: Dactylic, Anapestic
Meter: Dimeter
6 syllables
ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ˇ
My breasts ⁄ are wells ⁄ of mim ⁄ eo graph ⁄ ink. ║
Foot: Iambic, Iambic, Iambic, Pyrrhic, Pyrrhic
Meter: Pentameter
9 syllables
ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ
My feet ⁄ bear ⁄ cast ers. ║
Foot: Iambic, Pyrrhic, Trochaic
Meter: Trimeter
5 syllables
´ ´
Buzz. ⁄║ Click. ║
Foot: Spondaic, Spondaic
Meter: Dimeter
2 syllables
ˇ ´
My Head
Foot: Iambic
Meter: Monometer
2 syllables

ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ´
is a ⁄ bad ly ⁄ or ga nized ⁄ file. ║
Foot: Pyrrhic, Trochaic, Dactylic, Pyrrhic
Meter: Tetrameter
8 syllables
ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ
My head ⁄ is a ⁄ switch board ║
Foot: Iambic, Pyrrhic, Trochaic
Meter: Trimeter
6 syllables
ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ
where ⁄ crossed lines ⁄ crack le.


Foot: Pyrrhic, Trochaic, Trochaic
Meter: Trimeter
5 syllables
ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ
My head ⁄ is a ⁄ waste bas ket
Foot: Iambic, Pyrrhic, Dactylic
Meter: Trimeter
7 syllables
ˇ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ
of worn ⁄ i de ⁄ as. ║
Foot: Pyrrhic, Iambic, Pyrrhic,
Meter: Trimeter
5 syllables

ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ
Press my ⁄ fin gers
Foot: Pyrrhic, Trochaic
Meter: Dimeter
4 syllables
ˇ ˇ ´ ´ ˇ ˇ
and in ⁄ my eyes ⁄ ap pear
Foot: Pyrrhic, Spondaic, Pyrrhic
Meter: Trimeter
6 syllables
´ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ
cred it ⁄║ and ⁄ deb it. ║
Foot: Trochaic, Pyrrhic, Trochaic,
Meter: Trimeter
5 syllables
´ ´ ˇ
Zing. ⁄║ Tin kle. ║
Foot: Spondaic, Trochaic
Meter: Dimeter
3 syllables
ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ´ ˇ
My ⁄ na vel ⁄ is a ⁄ rej ect ⁄ but ton.║
Foot: Pyrrhic, Trochaic, Pyrrhic, Trochaic, Trochaic
Meter: Pentameter
9 syllables

ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ
From my mouth ⁄ is sue ⁄ can celed ⁄ reams.║
Foot: Anapestic, Pyrrhic, Trochaic, Pyrrhic
Meter: Tetrameter
8 syllables
´ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ
Swol len, ⁄ ║ heav y, ⁄║ rec tan ⁄ gu lar ║
Foot: Trochaic, Trochaic, Iambic, Pyrrhic
Meter: Tetrameter
8 syllables
ˇ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ
I am ⁄ a bout ⁄ to be ⁄ de liv ⁄ ered
Foot: Pyrrhic, Iambic, Pyrrhic, Iambic, Pyrrhic
Meter: Pentameter
9 syllables
ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ
of a ⁄ ba by
Foot: Pyrrhic, Trochaic
Meter: Dimeter
4 syllables
´ ˇ ˇ ´
xe rox ⁄ ma chine. ║
Foot: Trochaic, Iambic
Meter: Dimeter
4 syllables

´ ˇ ˇ ˇ ´ ˇ ˇ
File me ⁄ un der ⁄ W ║
Foot: Trochaic, Pyrrhic, Dactylic
Meter: Trimeter
7 syllables
ˇ ˇ ˇ ´
be cause ⁄ I once ║
Foot: Pyrrhic, Iambic,
Meter: Dimeter
4 syllables
´
was ║
Foot: Spondaic
Meter: Monometer
1 syllable
ˇ ´ ˇ
a ⁄ wom an. ║
Foot: Pyrrhic, Trochaic
Meter: Dimeter
3 syllables

Legend
Scansion:
ˇ = unaccented syllable
´ = accented syllable
⁄ = break between poetic feet
║ = caesura or metrical pause
Foot:
• Iambic: unaccented/accented (destroy)
• Anapestic: unaccented/unaccented/accented (intervene)
• Trochaic: accented/unaccented (topsy)
• Dactylic: accented/unaccented/unaccented (merrily)
• Spondaic: accented/accented (or one stressed syllable)
• Pyrrhic: unaccented/unaccented (or one unstressed syllable)
Meter
• One foot: Monometer
• Two feet: Dimeter
• Three feet: Trimeter
• Four feet: Tetrameter
• Five feet: Pentameter

The Secretary Chant is a free verse because it has no fixed or regular pattern of sound and structure. It can be analyzed according to sound, image, and structure. Poetic sound includes alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhyme, repetition, meter, and rhythm created from emphasizing certain syllables (see the scansion part for meter and rhythm. In analyzing how it creates a picture, examples of metaphor, personification, and imagery will be identified. Simile is a comparison between two unlike things using “like” or “as” but Piercy does not use any example in this literary piece. When it comes to structure, the line breaks are scattered and there is only one stanza.

Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds or beginning of two or more neighboring words or syllables within lines. Piercy’s examples of alliteration in the poem are seen in lines “crossed lines crackle” in which she repeats “cr” and “My head is a wastebasket of worn ideas” in which she repeats “w”. Onomatopoeia is the use of a word or grouping of words that imitates the actual sound to which it refers or describes.

Assuming that the objects are found in the office, she uses the words buzz (which may represent a buzzer either on a desk or at the door), click (which may represent clips, retractable pen or lock), zing (which may represent typewriter or passing vehicles if the office is near the street), and tinkle (which may represent buttons or keys of a telephone, fax machine, bell, coin, chime). Rhyme is the repetition of sound at the end of words or lines. The rhyming words are found in one line and these are “credit” and “debit”.

Repetition is a means of repeating words or phrases to emphasize a point or sound. Piercy used the phrase “My head is a” three times: (1) My head is a badly organized file, (2) My head is a switchboard where crossed lines crackle, and (3) My head is a wastebasket of worn ideas. Metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things. Piercy associated a woman’s (speaker of the poem) body part with objects found in an office: (1) My hips are a desk, (2) My breasts are wells of mimeograph ink, (3) My head is a badly organized file, (4) My head is a switchboard, (5) My head is a wastebasket, and (6) My navel is a reject button.

Personification is giving inanimate objects human qualities. In the line “I am about to be delivered of a baby xerox machine, the word “baby” is not what makes the Xerox machine have human characteristics because it could mean small or new. Piercy literally suggests that the Xerox machine will deliver the secretary. However, it can be interpreted as the secretary is almost like a product of a Xerox machine because she might have felt that she keeps on doing the same activities or producing similar outcomes in the office everyday.

Imagery is the use of strong verbs, specific nouns and adjectives to gives the reader a sensory experience. Examples can be seen in the following lines: (1) From my ears hang chains of paper clips, (2) Rubber bands form my hair, (3) My feet bear casters, (4) in my eyes appear credit and debit, and (5) From my mouth issue canceled reams. These images are not something normal or common. Piercy uses these images to emphasize the objects in an office and show that the secretary is preoccupied and busy with her tasks in the office.