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Rhythm and the raven tee tum tee tum tee tum - Nina Parmenter's Blog

About Nina Parmenter
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Hello, I’m Nina :-) 

I have been dipping in and out of poetry since I was very young - in fact one of my most treasured possessions is a book of poems I wrote when I was six. (That and my copy of Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes - which I still love to this day!) As a teenager I used to gift little rhymes to my friends to cheer them up but I never seriously continued my scribbling into adulthood.

If you’d told me a year ago how much poetry I’d be writing today, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. My brain was fogged by baby brain and, unbeknown to me, an undiagnosed illness. Towards the end of 2017, the baby brain began to improve, I got the illness under control, and with a burst of joy at its new-found clarity and creativity, my brain started to spew forth poetry as never before! I seized the moment, started a blog (called “It All Rhymes”) and with that going down well, joined Poetry Soup in January 2018. So far, I’ve not looked back!

In “real life”, I’m a Marketing Manager and I live in Wiltshire, UK with my fabulous husband and two wonderful, exhausting boys. 










Rhythm and the raven tee tum tee tum tee tum

Blog Posted:9/18/2019 4:34:00 PM
When I set my current contest, I asked for ‘good rhythm’. Well, that was a bit of a subjective term to use wasn’t it! I imagine our perceptions of what makes ‘good rhythm’ all differ. So, with the help of everyone’s favourite sinister little blighter, the raven, I wrote the same rhyming poem in some different rhythmical styles to show what I think is the good - and bad - in each style. All of which is entirely my opinion and open for (civilised) debate!
1.  Good old-fashioned iambic metre
I started by writing the poem with fairly strict iambic metre, which alternates stressed and unstressed syllables, so each line sounds like “tee TUM tee TUM tee TUM tee TUM.”
The raven sits with parted beak,
a silent nudge to those who seek
to clothe their lives in permanence.
He does not hide, nor don disguise,
he only stares with shadowed eyes
that mock our blithe impertinence. 
I love a good tee tum tee tum, it’s most pleasing, although sometimes relentlessly strict metre, especially in a long poem, can get just a little bit... dull?
2.  Well-behaved metre but a wee bit broken
Here I kept the four stressed syllables (the TUMS) but in a couple of lines 2 and 5 - I broke the rhythm up a bit (with some missing tees!)
The raven sits. His parted beak
a bleak nudge to those who seek
to clothe their lives in permanence.
He does not hide or don disguise.
Instead, with old, shadowed eyes
he mocks our blithe impertinence. 
This is one of my favourites. While I can feel the rhythm throughout, there’s also a bit of interest to wake the reader up a bit and emphasise certain words - in this case ‘bleak’ and ‘old’ - ah what lovely words to choose...
3. Triple rhythm
There are three different words for rhythm with two unstressed syllables between each stressed syllable. There’s no hope for me remembering which is which, so I think of it as triple rhythm - something like “tee TUM tee tee TUM tee tee TUM tee tee TUM.”
The raven sits motionless, parting his beak,
a silent reminder to those who may seek
to paint their existence in permanent hues.
His face has no mask and his wings no disguise,
he waits as he gazes with old, shadowed eyes
deriding the fables and fancies we choose.
Poems with triple rhythms are often either jolly or lyrical - usually the sort of thing I love - but, to be honest, I find this rhythm a bit TOO jolly for this particular poem!
4.  Even syllables but no metre
This version has no particular metre but I’ve stuck to a strict nine syllables per line. 
He sits, the raven, with parted beak,
silently rebuking those who seek
to clothe their small lives with permanence.
He does not hide, nor is he disguised.
But with the cold stare of shadowed eyes
he mocks our wayward impertinence. 
I’m kinda coming round to this style, much as I hate syllable counters, and I do find it works best if in each line I stick to the exact syllable count. I think these work quite well with odd numbers of syllables too - like the nine here. Feels like you’ve got a spare syllable to play with. This style’s still not my personal favourite thing though.
5.  Spoken word type rhythm
This has no metre as such, but does have rhythm. It’s just that the rhythm is a lot closer to natural speech rhythm than most poetry. To match the freedom of the rhythm, the rhyme scheme is freer too.
I see the raven.
Black, sleek with parted beak,
a silent reminder to those who seek
to clothe their mortal bones with permanence.
He does not hide,
nor does he don disguise,
but as he stares through black-shadowed eyes
with head cocked -
we are mocked
for all our blithe impertinence.
I love this style if done well (I’d rate this one as a mediocre!) With this style, I think you can get away with some uneven line lengths and have real fun with things like internal rhymes and some assonance - like the ‘A’s in ‘black-shadowed eyes’.
6.  Uneven
This is the one I can’t get on with. Although it’s arranged as a formal poem and there are rhymes (couplets in this case) the lines are all different lengths. My brain can’t process it! This is where it gets really subjective. Why would I like the previous one but not this one? I think because the previous one knows it’s free, but this one feels like it’s trying to be formal, but at the same time trying not to be! 
The raven sits with parted beak.
He is a reminder for the weak.
He doesn’t hide or wear a disguise
but stares at me with cold, shadowed eyes.
And if I try to clothe my life with permanence
I will find him laughing out loud at my impertinence.
So, what I’d love to know is... which do you like best?




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Date: 10/16/2019 10:36:00 PM
(2nd Part) An example from a poem of mine: the first line runs: I tried to hold onto you but could not— Not a strict rhythm at all, though when read as a variant on iambic it adds to the interpretation. The "normal": stress would be: I TRIED to HOLD onto YOU but COULD not— But I meant it to be stressed thus: I TRIED to HOLD ONto you BUT could NOT The stress on "but" and on the final (not generally stressed) "not" makes the statement more emphatic., and ends the line more "iambically" (so to phrase it!) In some forms-- especially jocular ones like Limericks or Double Dactyls-- the lines tend to sound strict of rhythm when read, even when technically only approximating it. -- Thanks!
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Date: 10/16/2019 10:20:00 PM
Hey there-- a most interesting and enjoyable exposition of rhythm. Each to its own uses: shorter poems can be stricter if rhythm, I agree, than longer ones. And stress in words is not monolithic; there is a certain freedom as to how a word is stressed in differing contexts. The first example (strict iambic -- or indeed any other foot type) can become "singsong" or even trite if adhered to too slavishly-- run your eyes down Shakespeare's sonnets, for example: very very few are written in strict iambs top to bottom-- indeed, I can't think of a single example, actually. And sometimes ambiguous rhythms can be given structure, even meaning, by the whole structure... (to be continued)
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Date: 10/12/2019 9:23:00 PM
I like #2 best because I like the poet to indicate where to take the breaths. What an awesome blog, Nina. I am printing to reread (hopefully something will sink in). I took one university level poetry class a million years ago but it was french and we never touched anything similar to iambic meter so this is a totally new concept for me. But of course I always LOVE a poem with rhythm. A big thank you for sharing.
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Date: 10/12/2019 6:31:00 AM
thank you for this informative blog
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Date: 10/11/2019 5:49:00 AM
I like the first. Thanks so much for sharing this information. God bless you.
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Date: 9/19/2019 2:41:00 PM
I'm 1, 2, 3 in that order. Very nice blog, Nina!
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Nina Parmenter
Date: 9/20/2019 9:33:00 AM
Thanks Andrea! I think I'm 2,5,1. I would like 3, in fact I usually like those sort of rhythms best, but in this case I don't think it quite suits the subject matter.
Date: 9/19/2019 7:10:00 AM
Nina, I found it very enlightening what you wrote in your reply to Suzette... about the line between Poetry and Prose.. I can now honestly say that I definitely write in Prose !
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Nina Parmenter
Date: 9/20/2019 9:31:00 AM
Ah see, personally, I'd still call your work very much poetry. The way it's laid out, the way it's expressed... for me, it's poetry. I think if you read something and, if it wasn't broken into funny little lines on the page, it would basically be a paragraph, then that's more prose to me. Which, don't get me wrong, *can* still be enjoyable - although often I don't find it so!
Date: 9/19/2019 2:42:00 AM
I enjoyed reading them all. Metre (or 'meter' per the poets across the pond) and rhyme are not subjective and you either adhere to it or write in Blank Verse (metre but no rhyme) or open form/free verse (depending on the poetic form). Rhythm in poetry is one of the things which sets it apart from ordinary prose. You have illustrated it very well, Nina. You might consider posting this over at the ARTICLES here on PS or on their sister site: Writerly.
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Suzette Richards
Date: 9/19/2019 3:22:00 AM
Yip! Not all poetry rhymes and not all rhymes are poetry ...
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Nina Parmenter
Date: 9/19/2019 3:11:00 AM
Metre will always have a strong role to play for me; however I am up for messing with it a bit! I think that sometimes works even better - if done knowingly. Of course there's always an argument as to where the line between poetry and prose falls. To me, like you, they are two very distinct things - but not all are in agreement, I know.
Date: 9/18/2019 9:39:00 PM
I see you've smitten the devil - nice job! (Meter)
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Nina Parmenter
Date: 9/19/2019 3:08:00 AM
Ah meter is an angel - the wheels that convey a poem to the soul and all that!
Date: 9/18/2019 7:13:00 PM
I love number 1. To me that's true poetry
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Nina Parmenter
Date: 9/19/2019 3:07:00 AM
Yes, I know some find it old fashioned, but it still delivers for me. I don't mind messing with it a little bit though :-)
Date: 9/18/2019 6:28:00 PM
Nina, what a great blog, it was so interesting, I think I am more of a #5 but not sure if I am even that. I really admire poets that can write in meter.
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Nina Parmenter
Date: 9/19/2019 3:05:00 AM
Thank you Constance. I do quite like the style of number 5. I think it's a very expressive form of poetry - and fun to write.
Date: 9/18/2019 5:18:00 PM
I personally like the first example the best but all of them were enjoyable to read. I tend to try to write rhyming poetry with a melody in my mind as I do but I don't ever get it exactly right. Thank you for this lesson, I loved reading these examples. I just hope there isn't homework. I'm not good at that.
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Nina Parmenter
Date: 9/19/2019 3:04:00 AM
Yes, I tend to write with music in mind. In fact I had to correct some of this from "beats" to "syllables"! Sorry it got a bit lecturey. I just meant to present the poems, then I couldn't resist saying what I liked and didn't like, then I thought I'd better define some of the terms... before I knew it, I had a tome on my hands! For homework, write a poem :-)

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