Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Written by Chel Owens

Chel is a person, much like you. She also writes occasionally, reads often, mothers daily, and sleeps and eats in her free time.

July 5, 2021

Today’s the day for more poem-ing! Don’t look at me like that; the title should have told you something poetic lay round the nearest hay bale!

If’n you’re old hat, you definitely knew where we were going. You also tried limericks last month, haiku before that, parody before that, and a loosening up exercise back when we started.

Myself, I’ve been right pleased with the results. Y’all oughter be proud. But let’s talk where this wagon train’s a-headed now…

Back when I took piano lessons, I preferred the parts where I played interesting songs. Impatient, distracted, bored; I skipped out whenever theory reared its ugly head. Why learn about The Circle of Fifths when I could learn “The Music of the Night?

What’s that to do with rodeos and poems? We’re going to learn a little ‘theory.’ Since it’s me teaching, however, we’re gonna have more fun than a bull-riding competition.

Thing is, despite encouraging everyone to poem (they need to!) and saying anyone can poem (they most certainly can!), I have some pet peeves about poetry.

#1. BIG NUMBER ONE: Meter! Meter is the beat of the poem. It’s the pattern you feel as you write or read poetry. It’s the syllables and how we place them. It’s reading something aloud and clapping along with a preschool class, for Pete’s sake!
And many, many poems screw this up.

…including my own. No joke.

At last, I lie upon my bed.
At last, I sigh; rest my head…

Meter can be difficult because of us. Because of YOU! You and I and every other artist out there is subject to viewing his or her work through the way it was created. We read our poem the way we thought of it and not the way others will read it.

Meter is also difficult because we get tied up in counting syllables (think haiku) and do not pay attention to where we put stress in words. Frigidaire works differently in a poem than Washington; both have three syllables, but the stress in Frigidaire is on the last while Washington‘s stress is on the first.

Meter applies to both structured and free verse poems. Despite a free verse poem not fitting rules like 5/7/5 or iambic pentameter, our minds still seek a meter like we seek a comfortable gait whilst walking down the sidewalk.

Enough boring theory, though. Let’s apply our more-fun-than-bull-riding activity.

I want you to totally mess up a famous poem by intentionally inserting extra syllables or by intentionally changing words to ones with different stresses.

To be helpful, I suggest the following:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Because I could not stop for Death – 
He kindly stopped for me – 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 
And Immortality.

One fish
two fish
red fish
blue fish.

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

With a sincere apology to the masters who wrote them, I command you to congest a poem to mess up its meter.

Type us up one in the comments, or send me your terrible work through the form.


©2021 Chel Owens

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  1. Norah

    Good one, Chelsea. Messing up metre is just one thing I’m good at. 🙂

    Tyger Tyger, burning bright
    In the dark forests of the cold lonely night;
    What mortal writer’s hand or eye,
    Would dare mess this poet’s poetry?

    • Chel Owens

      😀 I’ll admit to a keenness for it as well, but not intentionally!

      • Norah

        Never intentionally.

  2. Michael B. Fishman

    (It’s pretty difficult to have more fun than a bull-riding competition…)

    This feels odd to do but here’s my attempt?

    One fish
    Two fish
    Red fish
    I am Fishman
    Blue fish.
    Black fish
    Blue fish
    Smoked boneless filet of fish
    Old fish
    swimming in water and making
    New fish.

    • Chel Owens

      😀 😀 This reminds me of a contest we used to hold a long time ago… ????

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Regarding The Peeve”

    Are there wild peeves or only pets?
    Are there any peeves that aren’t tamed yet?
    Free and unmetered, unstressed peeves
    Unaccountable, free as you please?

    What’s wrong with measured steps to keep verse in line?
    To help find the rhythm, to dance with the rhyme?
    Counting syllables provides a mark to toe
    But like peeves some verse flounders in its flow

    Yep, anyone can poem— and it shouldn’t bring one stress
    Just put that pen to paper, pen a few syllables more or less.
    Put your peeves aside, be they wild or domestic
    Take the stress in stride, for poeming is eclectic.

    I am always so grateful to you and your spot Chel! Thanks!

    • Chel Owens

      … judging by what you just wrote, though D., maybe they’d be better handled by you… 😀

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thank you for the prompting! Apologies for not being more consistent, having trouble still with the muse. (I did do a limerick last week but in the comments of the Saloon piece on Bigfoot, Elusive Exclusive)

      • Chel Owens

        Great! I’m still catching up on all the limericks, hidden or otherwise.

  4. pedometergeek

    You want to see messed up meter, look (okay listen) to all those holiday commercials who try to adapt Clement Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. They always add extra words and it grates when heard (okay, maybe it only grates on my husband’s and my nerves.).

    • Chel Owens

      Do *not* get me started on that poem. I hope I never write something that commercially successful and roll that many times in my grave!

  5. Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

    Fun prompt, Chel.
    I try to keep a rhythm in my prose and yeah stress matters.
    This one’s cheating, since it’s not to be taken seriously even in the original version, but it’s one I’ve been playing with a lot recently:

    Matilda told such Dreadful Falsehoods,
    It made one want to squash it in the bud;
    Her Aunt, who liked to keep things neater,
    And kept a Strict Regard for Metre,
    Attempted to Believe Matilda:
    The effort very nearly destroyed her,
    And would have done so, had not She
    Discovered this Malady.
    For once, towards the Evening,
    Matilda, growing tired of drama,
    And finding she was left alone,
    Went tiptoe to the Telephone
    And summoned the Immediate Assistance
    Of Firefolk who did not keep their distance …

    • Chel Owens

      😀 Thank you, Anne. One must follow that strict metre!

  6. H.R.R. Gorman

    Are we allowed to start with a bad famous poem? If so, the below is my contribution to the party. The original poem is “Tip and Ty”, a campaign song in 1840. It’s probably going to be the most famous campaign song in American history forever. And no one else probably cares. The change I made is in double asterisks; there’s good reason they used “Tippecanoe” in this – and not just to evoke Harrison’s military victory!

    ~~Tip and Ty, But Somehow Worse~~

    What’s the cause of this commotion, motion, motion,
    Our country through?
    It is the ball a-rolling on

    For Tippecanoe and Tyler too.
    For **Harrison** and Tyler too.
    And with them we’ll beat little Van, Van, Van,
    Van is a used up man.

    And with them we’ll beat little Van.

    • Chel Owens

      I’ll not turn a history lesson down! 😀

  7. reading journeys

    Hi Chel,
    Enjoyed this very much –
    here’s my attempt with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”
    (first two verses). I love this poem for its imagery, rhymes, sounds and atmosphere, etc, but couldn’t resist the prompt!!

    ONCE upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, sorrowful and weary,
    Over many an archaic and curious volume of lost lore,
    While I nodded, virtually napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one rapidly rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
    “‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “hip-hopping at my chamber door—
    Only this, and nothing more.”

    Ah, distinctly I recall it was in the desolate December,
    And each separate flickering ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—futilely I had sought to borrow
    From my books cessation of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
    For the uncommon and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
    Incognito here for evermore.

    Thinking of trying this with other poems …
    Thanks for a great prompt!


    • Chel Owens

      ???????? Very good, Saifun! I love your subtle, extra syllables. I also love Poe.

      • reading journeys

        thank you, Chel! I think I’ll attempt another one!!

  8. Charli Mills

    Totally mess up a famous poem? Oh, yes, I think I can handle this assignment, Chel! Actually, what a brilliant way to teach. Let your students mess up intentionally to learn how meterworks. I like your hat and dialect, too, Ma’am.

    • Chel Owens

      Why, thank’ee!

  9. reading journeys

    Hi Chel – here’s another one!
    The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes

    I chose the last two stanzas – but couldn’t bring myself to change that glorious line:
    “Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul”

    Thanks for the divine message brought by thee,
    Child of the peripatetic sea,
    Flung from her shelter, forlorn!
    From thy silent lips a clearer note is born
    Than ever Triton exhaled from wreathèd horn!
    Whilst upon mine ear it rings,
    Through the deep caverns of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

    Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
    As the fleeting seasons roll!
    Abandon thy low-vaulted past!
    Let each new imposing temple, nobler than the last,
    Cover thee from heaven with a ceiling more vast,
    Until thou at length art free,
    Abandoning thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

    Great way to appreciate a poem’s “inner” beauty!

    • Chel Owens

      Great, Saifun, but this one seems to still work. 😀 It’s epic.

  10. robertawrites235681907

    This is an intriguing idea, Chel. I’m not sure I can deliberately mess up metre when I work so hard to get it right, but it is an interesting idea to try to do so.

    • Chel Owens

      What works best for me is to pick a random word and change its syllables. 🙂

    • Chel Owens

      This is great, Doug! He encapsulates so much of what is laughable about cliché poetry.


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