“Poetry is the music of the soul”-Voltaire

True, but there is more to building a poem than laying words down on a blank page. It’s an art, and the art to it is to translate what you are burning to say and translate it using your vocabulary and tricks like rhyme, assonance, dissonance, meter and rhythm to compel your reader to believe what you say.

I keep reiterating the fact that I am new to form and form writing. There are forms I like, but before Christmas I hadn’t a clue what a troich or a spondee where. I’ve been playing with form a while, and am more than willing to put my work up for the critique today up at one stop poetry. The task today is to turn a free verse poem into meter, or form.

I’ve learnt that there is more to poetry than writing it dow, straight from the heart, or from the burning pit in your belly when you really want to say something. There are tools that we can use to strengthen what we want to say, and I think, or rather I hope that my free verse has benefitted from it also.

Here’s the original for you:

over seas we dance

dreams our only remedy

abating distances


both aching, always

for more than shared words

an emotional voicemail


patiently waiting

for moments of surrender

slowly simmering anticipation


In fantasy

lips collide feverently

exploring, intriguing knowing


Our lives intermingle

awaiting opportunity

to join souls as one

Turn it into iambic diameter:


It’s over seas

we yearn to skip

our dreams only

a remedy



then rhyming couplets in tetrameter


It’s over seas we yearn to skip

and only dreams will let me slip

into your arms-a parody

your love the only remedy


The musicality of the poem changes at once.


Trying pentameter


It’s over seas we yearn to dance and skip

and only dreams transport and let me slip

into your loving arms a parody

your love provides the only remedy


You can then play with the stresses to cause anapests and trochees if you wish to do so.


Iambic hexameter


Over seas, where you wait let me dance, let me skip

In my dreams, I transport come to you then I slip

Into arms strong and warm, but I wake, parody

It’s the love that you share that provides remedy


I’m hoping that Gay can comment here, as I have difficulty coping with anything other than pentameter!

I still don’t understand a lot of the terminology, dactyl to me is a dinosaur, Pyrrhic sounds like a virus! But I’m willing and ready to learn!

7 responses to “Meter

  1. Well done, so many different versions and each one subtly different. I have to say you have been much more successful than I was. I
    must do better. I must do better. I must….

  2. Hi Shan, Most informative. Thanks to River I found this link. You’re doing a great job girl. One day when I have silence and time I will try my hand at some of these forms… till then mostly free verse for me… xxx

  3. Hi Shan,

    I found your name on onestop. love your examples here. they help me a lot. I can’t really comment if you’ve done the forms proper or not for i am just learning these forms as well. All really get the emotions across beautifully but I’m partial to the rhyming couplets in tetrameter. love the flow !

    thank you
    enjoyed your poem!

  4. OK Shan…good sport that you are (and with such a wealth of words you’ve given us) I’m going to take you on. Let me say to begin you have made amazing strides since I first started reading your “form” poems when all these terms were a maze of new words and meanings for you. You have conquered iambic. Once one has conquered this information and the technique of doing it, one can abandon it. It’s only important to know what it is, how to defend your work to others, and to readily claim what you say and how you say it. These devices are the tools of our trade. We have many others as well and if we choose to paint with rags rather than brushes, it’s our choice. But we might just have some brushes in the drawer to fix up the details so to speak.

    To begin with dimeter not diameter (probably a typo there). The four lines perfect dimeter of two feet lines and for you dear, Shan, in Wales I KNOW it scans perfectly as well. However I just checked the dictionary and it says
    Only [OHN’-lee] has the stress on the first syllable…otherwise perfect!
    But in this context, other readers note, we hear Shan clearly, putting the stress thus [ohn-LEE] – we can completely deduce that she says it that way because the other line are so meticulously iambic. So hearing her read these lines we would have nothing at all to pick about.

    The iambic tetrameter is perfect. She uses “only”again but when placed with other words the hard stress of OHN falls naturally in place on the second syllable.

    Again the iambic pentameter is perfect (and wouldn’t we all love to hear that said of our work!). Iambic pentameter is the language of Shakespeare
    and the chosen lines for many particular FORMS. Mastering that line of poetry is the key to enhancing our tool chest.

    Then, dear Shan, you give me the chance to quibble but only a little. You title the next four lines iambic hexameter (but you give us a clue you know you’re doing something else prior to the heading). The lines are actually tetrameter and they are perfectly done in anapests. But remember as I said in the article, anapests are a THREE syllable foot as are dactyls. So here you make up your lines in perfect anapests…four to the line (tetrameter).
    I’ll break the first line just as an example:
    Over seas| where you wait| let me dance| let me skip
    As you see, there are four feet and the heavy stress falls on the last syllable of each of the feet… seas, wait, dance and skip. This makes for more movement and more thrill than the sing-song of the iambic. It’s interesting to note that because we may always use the device of adding an anapest into our line when writing in set line length form poems..from trimeter in rhyme to free verse. It speeds up the read, or it may lighten it, or it may emphasize that phrase as it becomes different from the other meter of the line. Excellent Shan. Thank you for working so diligently and giving us so much to talk about. I love that you are such a sport about all of this.

    I also think knowing the difficulty of writing these forms gives us a deeper appreciation of our literary heritage. We can exclaim even more about the genius of Shakespeare, the beauty of Keats, the wealth of knowledge and experience of other writers we admire and know what skill they had to craft their works and realize the care they took to do it.

    Thank you.

  5. Just this note to all who are reading me. The keys on my laptop are very sticky, my space bar doesn’t work but half the time and sometimes I hit keys or think I do and they don’t depress. Therefore, excuse my words needing spaces or more letters..I really do know how to type, how to spell and correct cases but it’s not showing up in things I post these days. SORRY. I am planning on getting a new one and this one fixed as soon as I can afford it.

  6. Thank you Shan for sharing, and for offering up as examples and critique… I was thrilled to read this lesson and learn a bit more. Have been limitted on time today, not allowing me to explore as much as I would have liked, so seeing yours is helping a lot. Thank you.

Put me out of my misery people!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s