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Wesley's workshop Lesson One

Rhythm vs. Meter.

What is rhythm?

Rhythm is the flow of the poem. How it reads, whether smooth and moving from one word to the next with ease or choppy, clumsy and ugly.
Rhythm is what you get when you write a poem… good or bad.

Meter DESCRIBES what the rhythm is. With an understanding of meter we can guarantee our poem moves smoothly and identify difficulties in the work. Meaning, what works and what doesn’t and (most importantly):


Let’s begin at the beginning.

A line of poetry is called a “verse”.
Each verse is divided into poetic “feet”. There are a multitude of poetic foot styles. We will discuss the two most common: the “iamb” and the “trochee”.

An iamb is a two syllable unit. It is an accented (or stressed) syllable preceded by an unstressed syllable.
An example would be “beyond”. The “be” is unstressed while “yond” is stressed.
We might write it like this: “be - YOND”. This is known as scansion (or parsing).

Scansion is how we break a poem down into its component parts and will be used throughout the workshop.

Some more examples of what we would call “iamb”:

“aloof” (scanned as a / LOOF)
“reject” (re / JECT)
“respect (re / SPECT)

All of these words begin with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. This is “Iamb”.

The number of these poetic feet in a given verse will determine the “meter” of the verse.
Seventy percent of verse in English poetry is “pentameter” which means there are five feet in the verse.
E.G. “When I have fears that I may cease to be…” (Keats). This verse is written in iambic pentameter.
I would scan it thus: “When I / have FEARS / that I / may CEASE / to BE”.
We can write in shorter and longer lengths of verse such as “monometer” which is one iamb.

E.G. Again… “beyond”

Dimeter: two iambs “they RAN / a-WAY”
Trimeter: three iambs “i WATCHED / a SIN- / king STAR (note how the division of an iamb actually happens in the middle of a word).
Tetrameter: four iambs “The CROWS / have FALL- / en SI- / lent NOW”
Pentameter: five iambs “When I have fears that I may cease to be…”

Lets have as our first assignment something simple. Create a small list of iambic words such as I have done.
Then we’ll talk about it.
W. H. Snow..

Damn Now I have to work correctly lol
Yours Ian..

Okay, we've had several participants go ahead with ex. two,

so let's move on to it.
First Rula, the words you're looking for are "dimeter" and "trimeter".

Dimeter is a two foot verse. Meaning, there will be two poetic feet in the line. In this case we are chiefly using iamb, so stick to it. We'll experiment with Trochee tomorrow.
Trimeter is a three foot verse and so on as was explained earlier.

Write a single verse in all the "meters" (monometer to pentameter). You should have five and only five verses in the exercise.

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