Meter is like the recipe for a beautiful poem

It seems to me that meter and rhyme in poetry is like a recipe for beauty. It’s like saying “although a poem can take any form, if you follow these rules you have a greater likelihood of writing a nicely structured poem that will be pleasing to the ear.” I used to think of the rules of the various kinds of poetry as useless and arbitrary, and perhaps they are, but there are some distinct advantages as well. For example, it’s really easy to love a well structured sonnet.

One of my favorite forms of sonnet uses three quartets and a couplet, and iambic pentameter. I haven’t had the guts to write one, but I will one day. I like that form of sonnet because I understand it and because it really sounds good to me. So much of poetic structure is really fairly understandable once you break it down. It’s remembering what is called what that always trips me up!

Here’s an example. “Iambic pentameter” just means a line where there are five beats to it. The “beats” are made by the stress on the syllables. Example:

the BEATS are MADE by ALL the STRESS in WORDS.

If you stressed the syllables as shown, that would be pentameter. “Pent” just means five, like pentagon. That is the foundation of a lot of poetry and quite a bit of what Shakespeare wrote. Maybe I’ll try writing a sonnet now!

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