I AMB a Foot: An Intro to Basic Feet and Meter
Iamb, Trochee, Spondee, Pyrrhic. Do those words have meaning for you? If not, you may find it handy as a poet to learn how to employ at least a few of them. They are names for the most common of the two-syllable feet used in classic poetry forms and many rhymed forms of today (there are other metrical feet used for 3 syllables). Poets can practice to become skilled at any one of them, but often poets are drawn to just a few when they write naturally. Iamb is the one that I prefer. When your words rise and fall in an unstressed to stressed rhythmic pattern, you are using iambic meter. Five feet of these unstressed-stressed syllables is called pentameter. That is why a sonnet is written in Iambic Pentameter. The traditonal sonnet writer uses ten syllables which are divided into five feet of unstressed/stressed syllables.
Here is the way Iamb looks if I show just two-syllable examples: de/TEST, un/LOVED, a/ WORD, go/ HOME. It would sound unnatural to say DEtest, UNloved, A word or GO home. The poet chooses his metrical foot and simply goes with the flow! If I choose to write a triolet, I would use Iambic Tetrameter (8 syllables with 4 feet of Iamb). When you consider all the different combinations of feet and meter, there is much to be learned! You can even mix up types of meter or use them unrhymed! To some poets it comes naturally -no textbook required. I have known free verse poets to say, "I just don't 'hear' it." But a few of those poets practiced and practiced; with time I saw them grow!
For those who want to practice poetry
in such a way to make their poems sing,
Iambic meter is one way to go.
Unstressed, then stressed creates a pleasant flow.
So give your words some musicality.
Keep practicing, and then your skills will grow.
Aug. 5, 2018
Copyright © Andrea Dietrich | Year Posted 2018
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