Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup!
Hello lovely Poetry Friday folks! I'm so excited to be hosting this week! (If you aren't sure what Poetry Friday is, please check out this excellent post from Renee M. LaTulipp.) Today, I thought I'd share a bit of my process around writing metered poetry. I know that I love learning how other poets create their words, so I'm hoping that might interest you as well. And at the end, there's a giveaway!
For me, metered poems tend to spring up wildly when they come. Often, I'll draft a poem in free verse, and then discover that there seems to be a rhythm to the words. Almost. Or, there might be one part of a poem draft I love, and as I go back to revise I realize that the rhythm is what resonates. If words want to fall into a meter, who am I to stop them?
This way of writing metered poetry is a two-part challenge. First, I have to figure out what meter I'm using. Then, I have to apply it consistently (unless there's a really good reason not to, which is a whole OTHER topic for another post...) to the rest of the poem. For me, the core of that is mapping out the stresses.
This image on the left is often what that process starts out like. I read through the poem line by line and track the stresses by syllable. (I use the "u" for a stressed syllable and a dash for an unstressed syllable, which I know is the reverse of how you're "supposed" to do it... but it's my writing process, and I do what makes sense to me!) The first time I do this for a poem, I also put the number of syllables per line with it. This helps me to spot patterns quickly.
In the case of this poem, I realized that I kept wanting to write 8-syllable lines, and I preferred lines modeled on an "unstress-stress" pattern (otherwise known as repeating an "iamb" foot). As I revised this poem, I focused on using those two elements as the core of my meter. I added an "abab cdcd" rhyme scheme to better echo the meter I was using, and watched the poem come alive.
Once I've figured out the meter of a poem I'm working on, I'll stick it in a box at the top of the page. The photo on the right is the set meter for another poem where I was a fan of the iamb foot. You can see that the pattern that felt right to me for this poem was one long line followed by 3 shorter ones. This poem focused on a marching band, and this meter seemed to convey the sound of marching with regular drumrolls. While the poem wasn't broken up into stanzas visually, this repeating pattern helped create a steady forward momentum.
The image to the left shows a further revision of the marching band poem. You can see a section of the poem with two blocks of the core pattern. Here is how this revision went:
I read the poem aloud (or listened to the dictation tool in Microsoft Word read it aloud), and recorded the meter of the entire poem as it was currently written.
I identified the meter I wanted to use for the poem, and put it at the top of the page.
Referring to the meter in the box, I went line by line checking to see if the meter I had written matched the meter I wanted.
When I found a section that didn't match, I outlined it in a box.
Once I'd identified weak points in the meter, I went back to the text to start editing words. I updated the box with cross-outs and updated my meter map as the revisions progressed, so that I could see where things had been fixed.
Of course, revisions often branch out to other lines. Changing one word can have a whole ripple effect on the rest of the poem. But, I find that being able to identify where the meter is off in a sidebar like this, and looking solely at the pattern of beats in a poem without words distracting my brain, helps me avoid getting too attached to sections that aren't working. It helps my revision process stay, if not completely organized, at least somewhat focused and goal-oriented.
Here's hoping you found something in this post to enjoy! If you've made it through to the end of the longest blog post I've ever written, you deserve a treat! I'm giving away one bundle of THREE surprise poetry books to a winner! To enter, comment below and share a word that resonates with you. I'll announce the winner in a post on October 14, and pick three poetry books for you based on the word you share!
Don't forget to leave your link below, so we can all celebrate this Poetry Friday together. I'm looking forward to an afternoon and weekend of reading and commenting on all your posts. Happy Poetry Friday!