Fixing Meter in Poetry

Wordsmith Essays is the best essay editing service around. With over twenty years of combined experience, our international team of editors can polish any form of writing to a fine shine.  We don’t just handle essays and statements of purpose, however—we can deal with creative works as well.  Today, one of our editors talks about meter and form in poetry.

Over the past few days we’ve looked at some of the fundamentals of meter, but now it’s time to build on that foundation in order to develop some helpful techniques for writing poetry. This is not an exhaustive list and I would encourage anyone interested in further information about writing poetry to track down more accomplished writers and poets such as Mary Oliver or Mark Strand, both of whom have written excellent and detailed works about the art of writing poetry. I’ll leave the hard work to them and instead focus on two techniques that I believe can be useful for inexperienced poets struggling to write metrical poetry.

The first technique is to determine which form you want to work with as early as possible. There are a variety of traditional forms, from the sonnet to the sestina, and each one operates under different sets of rules in order to achieve specific effects. For example, the Spenserian sonnet uses iambic pentameter to give the feel of natural speech and an interlocking rhyme scheme (abab bcbc cdcd ee) to weave the traditional three stanzas of the English sonnet into a congruent whole. The result is a thoughtful and calculated approach to the sonnets traditional themes of love and desire, a far cry from the Shakespearian sonnets more informal and natural approach. Deciding on your form early allows you to use these effects to emphasize and manipulate the content of your poem. It also gives you a roadmap to follow and specific goals to achieve, such as deciding on the repetitions of the sestina or the placement of a turn in a sonnet, that can help focus your work in useful ways.

Once the form is established, the next technique is to start writing a metered line with a syllable count. For example, let’s say that you want to write a line of iambic pentameter. We know that a line of iambic pentameter has five feet—ten syllables. Rather than trying to write a perfectly metered line from the beginning, start by writing a line that matches this syllable count instead:

A broken clock on the wall struck midnight.

Determine the stresses:

A broken clock on the wall struck midnight.

And you have a strong base for your line. You simply have to reword and manipulate the base concept until the stresses fit into place:

A broken clock hung on the wall strikes twelve.

A similar version of this technique can also help with the rhyme scheme of a poem. Simply write out the appropriate number of lines without working on the rhyme and rework them as a whole to maintain the rhyme and meter of the piece.

These are both very simple techniques, but they are invaluable for writing poetry. By using them in conjunction with some serious study into the various forms and elements of poetry, you should be able to develop the skills you need to move beyond free verse and into a wider world of poetic forms.

Well, that’s it for our series on writing poetry. I hope that you enjoyed it and that you’ll return next time for a discussion on the common grammar mistakes that writers should be concerned about. Until then, stay safe and keep writing!

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