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Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

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