Man, oh woman, this has been one heck of a month! Thanks to all the poets (you *are* all poets!) for playing along with these prompts despite your busy lives. I tip my hat to ya.
Last time I got up on this here stage, I encouraged y’all to intentionally mess with meter. A few did so in the comments; I hope many more tried it on their own.
Now, destruction is always easier than construction. To create more difficult than to destroy. Ice cream is far better than raisin cookies. -You get the idea.
Therefore, we must now turn our metering ear to improvement. I have a few, easy exercises for your poeting minds:
- Read this poem, preferably aloud:
At last, I lie upon my bed.
At last, I sigh; rest my head…
- Decide what’s wrong with its meter.
- Fix it.
If you did Steps 1-3, your Answer Key is that the meter -the BEAT of the poem- trips up between sigh and rest. It needs an extra syllable there; maybe an and.
Did you see that? Did you fix it?
Let’s try another:
- Read this one; again, preferably aloud:
The cow is a member of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.
- Decide what’s wrong.
- Fix it.
This one is a mutilated version of Ogden Nash’s The Cow. If you are familiar with his original, your mind automatically corrected it to how it should sound. If you are unfamiliar, your Answer Key hint is that I added two words (a member) where there were none.
Let’s try another!:
- Read it so they can hear it in the back:
Because I could not stop for Death –
He sure stopped for me –
The Carriage held just Ourselves –
- *Tick* *Tock* *Tick* -Can you find the problems? There are two.
- Well, fix them!
You may have guessed that this is an excerpt from Emily Dickinson’s Because I Could Not Stop for Death. You may have cheated and fixed it based on her original words; I replaced kindly with sure and omitted but from The Carriage held but just Ourselves. Did you choose to add the same words as she? Another two-syllable word will work for kindly; another one-syllable for but.
What am I trying to do here?
…Actually, I’m trying to enclose your mind more than free it. I’m trying to help you see the pattern of words. I’m trying to help you feel the rhythm. Feel the ride.
Films aside, learning to feel the meter of a poem is very important. Knowing this meter is vital to taking your own poem and realizing one reason why it just doesn’t sound right.
So, you have homework:
Send me your poem. Use the form that I’ve included and send me that bit of your creation that’s niggling at you so much you just want to stick it in a shoebox and shove it under the bed. You and I are going to do what you did with my poem, Ogden Nash’s, and Emily Dickinson’s: FIX IT! We are going to look at the meter and decide what will make it flow.
Go on. I triple dog dare ya.
©2021 Chel Owens