Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Have you ever set out to learn more about poetry and are baffled by the term meter? This is something I have never understood, and had gotten to the point where I had accepted I would never understand.
Then last week I watched a YouTube video by Lori Kloehn, and she explained it SO well, in steps just like a teacher, that I have a much better understanding now. I've summarized the notes I took from the video below, but I highly recommend to check out the video because poetry is all about the way it sounds, so it helps to hear what these notes are talking about. You can watch the entire video here.
Not only did watching this video help me to understand how poetry sounds, but I also began to think about writing poetry differently. When I set out to write my first poem afterwards, I picked up the thesaurus off the shelf for the first time since coming to own it. THAT'S INSANITY! As a writer, a thesaurus should be one of my best friends. I hope this can inspire, you too, to push yourself and take steps to better yourself as a writer.
Writing Poetry in Meter - Notes
Words have a certain emphasis on different parts of their syllables. Sometimes depending on the words placed around it within a phrase, it could be more or less emphasized, so not all are a hard and fast rule. For example: When You are Old - William Butler Yeats "And slowly read and dream of the soft look Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;" "of" in each line has a different emphasis - again, helps to see the video on YouTube
There are different types of meter patterns, which is the emphasis of the syllables. They are as follows, with some examples: Iamb - duh DUM - begin, the book Trochee - DUM duh - power, thinking Dactyl - DUM duh duh - beautiful, willowy Anapest - duh duh DUM - underneath, intercede Spondee - DUM DUM - Out! Out!, big truck
There are different lengths of lines, which are named by the number of feet they have. Feet is another name for the meter. So if a line had four feet of Trochee feet, it would look like: DUM duh DUM duh DUM duh DUM duh Or, three feet of Anapest would look like: duh duh DUM duh duh DUM duh duh DUM The line lengths are named by number: Monometer - one foot per line Dimeter - two feet per line Trimeter - three feet per line (tends to sound sing-songy, like a nursery rhyme, it also might be intense, with a sense of agitation) Tetrameter - four feet per line (quickness, spareness) Pentameter - five feet per line (most common, sounds like a heart beat) Hexameter - six feet per line (implies richness, sense of joy) So combining these two ideas, Iambic Pentameter, would be five feet of Iamb: duh DUM duh DUM duh DUM duh DUM duh DUM
Thinking about how the length of the line and the type of meter is advantageous because it allows you to create the sound you want, and for the poem to read easily - it sounds like music, and is in fact how lyrics are written as well. It's very important to make sure the meaning of your poem matches the form that you choose.
Another benefit of thinking about meter when writing (or reading) poetry, is to hear where the poet changed the meter. When a line is purposely different, there is a message there - it makes us stop and wonder. I find as I notice this within a poem, I start to see how other pieces like figurative language fit in as well.
I am by no means a poet. I am still learning, so if you have any favourite resources, please share. If you found this helpful, let me know! I will post more poetry notes I have soon!
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