by Michael Follow
You have a song that reminds you of your first crush, but not a poem—if you did, poets today could write poems so haunting that people think of them on their deathbeds, before they think of their own families. The reason poets often don’t write them has something to do with meter.
Before 2011’s It’s All True, Junior Boys recorded “Double Shadow” on So This Is Goodbye. Five years and a Kode 9 remix later, the song is still memorable for its meter—Bacchic monometer—and the two ways the meter marries the song.
The history of the meter marries the song. The song uses an unusual foot called a Bacchus: ~ — —. One unstressed syllable followed by two stressed syllables. Ancient Greeks used it in hymns to its namesake. “Double Shadow” is a hymn to a lover.
The structure of the meter also marries the song. The unstressed syllable is a person and the two stressed syllables are two shadows. At the same time, the duplicity is undercut by singularity: at only one foot per line, the meter is called monometer. The meter contradicts the lyrics: the breakup is coded into the meter.
The last person to use Bacchic monometer in English was the poet Gwendolyn Brooks in “We Real Cool,” over fifty years ago. Today, “Double Shadow” not only describes a lover: it is memorable enough to recall a lover, even fifty years later, and all for the meter. Brooks is dead. For poets today, the arms of the living (and the lip of the dying) are in others’ hands.