Today I’ve got something a little different for you. A guest post from CC who I hope will return to walk us through different poetry forms and techniques. If you would like a one off, or regular guest spot, please leave a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, over to CC…
Learning to write poetry in form is a little bit like learning how to dance. You need to know which rhythm you are supposed to use (the steady waltz is far different from the passionate salsa) and you need to remember where you put your feet. But once you’ve got to the point where you can feel the rhythm, and once your partner (in this case your words) knows what you intend to do, dancing – and writing poetry to form – can be a lot of fun.
In poetry, the rhythm of the music is called the metre, and Wikipedia’s definition of metre is actually the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in a verse.
In dance you often start out by counting out the rhythm. In waltz it’s ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three… In foxtrot the same count would be ONE-TWO-THREE-and-FOUR, ONE-TWO-THREE-and-FOUR… By counting this way you mark out the ‘heavy/slow’ steps (the ones I’ve written out in capitals) and separate them from the ‘light/fast’ steps. It is exactly the same principle you use when writing poetry. You count feet.
Wikipedia’s description of a metric foot is the basic metrical unit, composed of syllables, that generates a line of verse. And then Wikipedia goes on to describe a list of various common and uncommon feet used in poetry (the first time I read that list, I had nightmares). But what on earth does it mean?
If you take a common sentence in English, ‘The sun is shining nicely today’, you will instinctively know where to put the stress in the different words (the SUN is SHIning NICEly today), because stressing them any other way would just sound wrong – try saying THE sun IS shiNING niceLY TODAY and you’ll (hopefully) hear that the words no longer convey what you intended them to. A foot actually tells you where to put the stress in a word or a sentence.
The most common English feet are:
- iamb (and-ONE/ta-DUM)
- trochee (ONE-and/DUM-ta)
- dactyl (ONE-two-three/DUM-ta-ta)
- anapaest (one-two-THREE/ta-ta-DUM)
So, when someone says iambic pentameter, what they’re really saying is that each line of the poem has a rhythm (meter) that consists of five beats (penta=five), and you should stress those beats ‘and-ONE-and-TWO-and-THREE-and-FOUR-and-FIVE’.
Of course it isn’t always that easy, but for now… Think of it as music and write a poem where you specifically think of the metre of the words. You don’t have to complicate it by rhyming, counting syllables or adapting to a specific form, unless you want to, of course.
If Pooky allows me the honour of popping by again, we can deal with some of those other pesky things (counting syllables, rhyme patterns etc) that – in the end – make up scary (but beautiful) things like Villanelles, Sestinas, Pantoums and Sonnets another time.”
Hope you’re having a great and sunny day!
CC Champagne spent only a few months on the burlesque stages of Stockholm, Sweden before she realised her muse preferred shaking words to shaking tassels, and the blog ‘A Glass of Bubbly’ was born. The topics that occupy her muddled mind range from world politics to mental illness – though some may say that leap isn’t very long – but she prefers to write about life, love and everything in between. CC lives just on the border of Stockholm, Sweden and proper Sweden, Sweden and considers herself a Swedish passport-holder, with an English-speaking mind and a heart that was sadly left behind in Switzerland a long time ago. She is also a strong proponent of the de-stigmatization of mental illness and a huge animal lover – though people can sometimes scare her. If you want to learn more about CC Champagne, please visit her blog.