1. Teladan

    Teladan Active Member

    Dec 20, 2017
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    Questions on Poetry Form/Structure

    Discussion in 'Poetry' started by Teladan, Dec 20, 2017.

    Apologies if this isn't the right place for this, but I couldn't see a general area for writing other than here. I've been wanting to dip into poetry as opposed to prose, so I spent the last few hours learning about metre, rhyme scheme, etc. I wrote something in iambic pentameter as an exercise, but I have a fundamental question regarding form and structure. How and when do you vary the metre/feet? I'm not sure if it's correct to say, for example, "This poem is written in x". The poem I wrote was in iambic pentameter (I suppose you could say), having 5 units of iambs and 10 syllables. However, when can you vary this and when do you know how make such variations? For example, instead of

    ------------------------------- (iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb)
    ------------------------------- (iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb/iamb)
    Repeat for a few lines exactly the same, etc, etc.

    When would you change this? Could you, in one line, just write all anapests or just one word as an anapest when all the rest are iambs? What would that be called? The reason I ask is, if an English sonnet is mostly written in iambic pentameter, if you vary it, would it be a sonnet or does every line have to include five iambs for it to be a sonnet? Another way to put it is, if I wanted to just start writing a poem, how would I know to make such changes? These questions are clearly fundamental, but for some reason I can't figure it out.

    Edit: I've actually not really come across any poems which greatly differ in meter in lines or at all. Ozymandias, my favourite, is all in Iambic, isn't it?

    This poem seems to be very varied, however. It has 10 syllables each line, but maybe some words are not iambs? Can someone break this down for me?

    Wood strips, cross-purposed into lattice, made
    this nursery of interstices—a place
    that softened, then admitted, sun with shade,
    baffled the wind and rain, broke open space.

    by Frank Osen

    Apologies, I'm very new to this.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
  2. ReproveTheCurlew

    ReproveTheCurlew Active Member

    Nov 6, 2015
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    Essentially there is no clear-cut way to go about metre and variations - it never is, never was, and never will be an exact science, just because the scansion in individual lines can vary. Obviously some words/syllables/phrases are clearly this or that metre, but others are not. The only thing to be recommended is to listen to the sound. A poem which exclusively uses one foot will necessarily be boring, I suppose, but if you vary it too much you won't get the necessary rhythm out of it. So when writing I'd just recommend to be as regular as possible, but not worry too much if a certain line won't be forced into the rhythm... only practice and a good ear can help you there, I fear :)
  3. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

    Nov 19, 2016
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    Chicago, IL.
    Wood strips,/ cross-purp/osed in/to latt/ice, made
    this nurs/ery of /in-ter-/stic-es/—a place
    that soft/ened, then/ admitt/ed, sun /with shade,
    baffled/ the wind and rain, broke op/en space. (Trochee/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb/Iamb)

    There is only one variation and that is the trochee opening in the last line.

    For simplicity, I will say there are three variations that occur within Blank Verse.

    Trochee openings: Where the first foot of the line is a trochee.
    Mid-line Trochee: These occur after a punctuation mark within the line, and can appear in the second, third, or fourth foot. (Never the last).
    Feminine endings: This is where you have an extra unstressed syllable that appears at the end of a line.

    You may have a line with only one of these variations, or a line with all three.


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