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Meter


Blog Posted:1/14/2014 6:58:00 PM
Trust me on this, you cannot learn good meter by reading good meter any more than you can sing well by listening to a good singer or watching anyone else do anything correctly.  You must be individually coached.  Also, my guess is from experience that perhaps only 10% of poets can write acceptable meter and perhaps 5% can write exceptional meter and some can never be taught no matter how much training.  It takes aptitude, an internal ear and feeling for it and a willingness to admit you are wrong or convince your coach you are correct.  The inherent problem is that when we read what we write we read it in the meter we desire when it actually is not.  No different than proof reading your own work and totally skipping over major errors because we are not truly reading but scanning thoughts. I will not write a poem in perfect meter for you here because it will not help you but I will, if you wish, help you with yours.
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  1. Date: 1/16/2014 8:48:00 PM
    This is the most helpful site I have found on scansion...it is an interactive board so read the instructions. http://prosody.lib.virginia.edu/

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/17/2014 8:50:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Thank you Suz----another word Debbie helps with and you too!
  1. Date: 1/16/2014 8:02:00 AM
    "Meter? What knows meter? For 900 hundred years have I trained meter; my own counsel I will keep on who is to be metered!" What Yoda would say on this topic, I think! Love ya, bud; great blog ;)

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  1. Date: 1/15/2014 10:24:00 PM
    A fiction writer's perspective. Those of us who write fiction, as well as poetry, know how words can be stressed within written dialogue. Here, I'll write a bit, a husband and wife having a light tiff.....She stares at him, wondering what has happened to their conversations. They used to talk. Really talk. She tried again. "How was your day?" "Fine," he says, his eyes still trained on the television. She changes tactics, smiles, overly brightly, "What would you like to do this weekend." "What? Oh. Read, I guess." She counts to ten. "And?" He looks up, finally. "Golf." A muscle in her eye twitches. "AND?" He stares at her. "Sleep?" Slowly, she bends to his level, takes the remote control and tosses it into the waste paper basket. "WHAT THE HELL?" He bleats. She pauses for a moment, then says, "AND happy FRICKIN' anniversary to you, too." SO and isn't necessarily an unstressed word. Sometimes, it is VERY STRESSED. LOL

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/16/2014 8:01:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    8-) Sounds occasionally familiar! lol
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 5:40:00 PM
    oops, I ran out of room. You cannot depend on a dictionary and stress symbols . Meter changes sometimes according to the words surrounding other words. The way we speak naturally is not always the way the dictionary shows a word either. What may be metered to one person, is not that way to a more formal speaker, etc. In the end, when doing a traditional form of poetry, meter is nice, but perfect meter is not a necessity. Once in a while, you can stray from the meter to use a great word that is impossible to work into the pattern. As long as it does not sound too oddly out of place, I see nothing wrong with this! Like all things, poetry evolves. Modern sonnets are not always prim and proper!

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/15/2014 6:07:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Agreed Andrea
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 5:34:00 PM
    Craig, yes, it is a natural talent to use and understand it. I think that is why some of us are drawn more to rhyme than to free verse. IF something comes naturally, we cannot avoid it easily. Some have told me that I am too "sing song-y" and writing perfect meter will give that effect. Even when I try to write free verse, I end up doing it metered, and I know this is wrong. As for people not being able to learn it, I disagree. I remember several poets who used to tell me they could not do metered poetry. When they put their minds to it, I saw them getting better and better. Practice CAN make BETTER. Also, perfect meter is sometimes impossible to do with certain words you may desire to use.

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    Guzzi Avatar Debbie Guzzi Date: 1/16/2014 7:43:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    yup Andie helped me, Joyce helped me & I still work on it, but I no longer try for a consistent meter, using meter doesn't mean you have to use the same meter throughout the whole of the work, 21 st verse has taken the governor off so many forms, sonnets, sestina's, ghazals on and one what was once done in strict meter is now freed
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 3:28:00 PM
    That was the basic reason METER came to be in such common use i.e. Ballad meter or Common Meter it was so people could easily memorize 'something' the words to a song, a genealogy, a history of a country - but it is simply 1 tool in a good writers tool box NOT the be all end all BOX

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/15/2014 6:08:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Hadn't thought of that Debbie but his mix of meter does sound like a galloping horse!
    Guzzi Avatar Debbie Guzzi Date: 1/15/2014 3:40:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    marking the stresses has a name it scansion, where you stress makes a rhythm so you should pick a meter that suits your topic - so you'd want a galloping clopping sound for Paul Revere but maybe not for a death verse?
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 10:25:00 AM
    A good example of consistent meter with perfect flow is Paul Revere's Ride by Longfellow. Please read it and see what I mean. I had memorized the first stanza in the 6th grade. It is very difficult to memorize a poem that does not have nice flow.

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/15/2014 10:30:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    That is through to "The country folk to be up and to arm"
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 10:10:00 AM
    Hi Craig,Poetry, I would submit can best be described as structured prose spoken aloud between the poet(author) and the listener to create a ' now aural experience' much like the visual 'now' experience when looking at an original piece of art.My travels on PS from short form to here lead me to conclude poetry is ' language with a shape' and the best advice I can give is..write it...then read it aloud..how does it sound in your ear? This applies to one line broken monoku...to haiku..to sonnet to free verse.Rgds Brian

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/15/2014 10:30:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Very true Brian
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 9:48:00 AM
    My biggest issue is determining the stresses. I know what I want to say and I know how I want it to feel and as long as it has a flow I don't care so much about the meter. I did however stumble onto a pdf that gave me much more insight of what this stuff all means (I'm no English/literary/Writing scholar, just a hobbyist :) ) http://www.mainepoetssociety.com/craft/meterhandout.pdf

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    Hapworth Avatar Adam Hapworth Date: 1/15/2014 9:50:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Plus most of my writes are of a short form anyways, where the meter isn't as much in play.
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 7:43:00 AM
    Good point, Craig...never thought about that. Of course, I guess I've never really payed attention to meter in anything I've done...takes patience for it I imagine.

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  1. Date: 1/15/2014 7:41:00 AM
    I like what I'm hearing. If the poem flows as you read it, and you absorb the inspiration it works. To me that is ideal. Sometimes a poem in perfect meter seems too singsong and can almost put you to sleep. I happen to like jazz and there are some arrangements in every type of music that become boring with the same repetitive backbeat throughout. That being said, however, we are poets and there are occasions and requirements that call for, if not perfect meter, close too it. My current Constanza contest asks for consistent meter. I think that consistent meter is good because it helps the poem flow.

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/15/2014 10:31:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Actually, a modern sonnet can take more liberties than I intend here.
    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/15/2014 9:02:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Cyndi, not even perfect meter but one more like what you would accept in a modern sonnet. Flow is the important thing because if you trip on words because of a beat in the wrong place it becomes a speed bump--if you know what I mean---I know you do Cyndi, so in your case it is a helpful rhetorical question---thank you
    MacMillan Avatar Cyndi MacMillan Date: 1/15/2014 8:11:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    So, if a line or two fell out of perfect meter, yet retained it for the rest of the poem, you'd consider this consistent? I was wondering....
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 7:05:00 AM
    if the meter is perfect only to pander to the requirements of stressed/ unstressed syls, i don;t think this will blow me away..but a slightly flawed one with SOUL will do.. not even the masters created perfect meters, craig.. hugggs

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    onclaud Avatar nette onclaud Date: 1/16/2014 1:22:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    yup, craig.. how uptight can we get about perfect meter to the point of having to sacrifice content or substance.. look at the bamboo tree: it sways with the rhythmn and therefore flows and doesn;t break when the strong winds come... but with the oak, stiff as it is falls and collapses... like your figure skating analogy.. huggs
    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/15/2014 9:17:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    I totally agree Nette. It is like many other creative and artistic performances. Let's take figure skating. They used to require the compulsory figures which is why they called it that. Some great skaters had problems with that put them at a disadvantage going into the free skate. Now, thankfully, they have replaced that with the short program with some compulsory jumps etc. The freedom of expression with guidelines has replaced concrete requirements.
  1. Date: 1/15/2014 12:58:00 AM
    Ten percent write acceptable and five percent write exceptional meter..That gives me some great hope Craig,.cause I was thinking that I'm the only one on the planet who needs to learn more about meter.Sometimes I get confused when it comes to stressed and unstressed syllables.How the words sound and feel resonating in my ear,and how the words are to be written vary. I am confused at times.I do need to.try harder when time permits.Tnks for offering help,Craig. : )

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  1. Date: 1/14/2014 9:42:00 PM
    I am often puzzled by those competent in meter that visit a poem of those that are not and praise their work. Do they really think they are helping? Stop and soup them, help them or if they don't get it at all, help them change the form. Friends do us no favors by not telling us we have a piece of spinach stuck in our teeth.

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    Guzzi Avatar Debbie Guzzi Date: 1/15/2014 3:19:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    I find, I can accept & want & delight in changing some parts, some words and in some places, BUT I actually as Cyndi said don't like the monotony of perfect iambic pentameter, I like it to start OR end OFF? by a syllable better
    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/15/2014 9:20:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Their loss David---just tell them not to smile for any pictures! lol
    Williams Avatar David Williams Date: 1/15/2014 7:39:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Craig I have offered help to correct a poem that is supposed to be in meter, which isn't but the said poet does not want my help...
  1. Date: 1/14/2014 8:22:00 PM
    Most people who read poetry aren't going to care about meter. They want to feel something, identify and resonate with the words. A well written poem doesn't need meter to be exceptional. If a poem falls flat, it's because it's too complicated or not interesting to the reader.

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    Anglesey Avatar Karen Anglesey Date: 1/14/2014 9:45:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Hi Craig, It seems there have been several references to perfection and meter, in more than one blog. I am just saying that a perfect meter is far from the most important thing in good writing. When I listen to a good song, I don't focus on every single note. I kind of believe either a person can write well, or they can't. I agree that it's the subtle messages that captivate.
    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/14/2014 9:19:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    True, but for the wrong reasons. I never said that it takes meter to make a great poem, nor would anyone of intelligence ever say that. Honestly, a composition reveals itself, whether free verse or any form by what, as you say, resonates with you the reader and like a song you don't actually feel the back beat is happening, you aren't actually aware of the internal rhyme and like many art forms the subtle simple messages that you are not aware of are those that lure you! It is that difference, that intangible, that is the distinction between a lounge singer and a Sinatra. Hyperbole for sure, but true.
  1. Date: 1/14/2014 7:53:00 PM
    When I hear myself speak, where "I" put the stress on a word is completely different to where the dictionary puts the stress. I can't remember which poet on the soup said this but they'd been to Canada and found this to be inherently true of Canadians (Chris, yes or no?) I have to really really work on meter... I quite literally have to reverse my thinking as to what is stressed and what isn't in order to write it. My most "natural" poetic style is to literally fall in and out of meter, sometimes even alternate lines purposefully or occasionally put in one metered line in a free verse, just for effect. Meter is an aspect of poetry, ONE device, but poetry is more than meter.

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/14/2014 9:33:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    True, true, true, yet you are making my point. Read above.
    MacMillan Avatar Cyndi MacMillan Date: 1/14/2014 7:55:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    I'd like to take a metered, classic poem and then highlight its OTHER devices, speak of what spoke to me, if you read me...
  1. Date: 1/14/2014 7:30:00 PM
    Interesting observations, Craig: "The inherent problem is that when we read what we write, we read it in the meter we desire, when it actually is not."(I took the liberty of adding a few commas ha!). I think it would be cool if you added the examples of changes into this blog or other blogs(as Debbie asked below).

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/14/2014 9:35:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Agreed
  1. Date: 1/14/2014 7:04:00 PM
    Okies Craig mark this quatrain up [show where the accents are as you see] I know it is not in a consistent meter, put it in the body of your blog then let's play!Without reason rhyme would not be sublime./Un-metered runs of tale-tossed words, un-timed/ would reasonably scatter like broken chimes,/ petering-out upon the parchment page of springtime.

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    cornish Avatar craig cornish Date: 1/14/2014 9:22:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Thank you Debbie, let's do that tomorrow

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