Hampton Roads Writers


Rhythm:Words are made up of sounds that are either accented or unaccented when we speak them. In order to find the STANDARD way of pronouncing a word and to see where its accent falls when spoken in this fashion, see any good college level dictionary. Thus when we say words in groups, patterns begin to develop. We create rhythms in poems by being aware of these patterns and manipulating them. One of the most recognizable patterns of rhythm in English poetry prior to this century was the iambic pentameter, a five beat, ten syllable line of poetry. It has been said that this rhythm was popular because it matched the way English was spoken between small breaths; that is, the rhythm was simply a heightened imitation of normal speech. It has been further argued that in the Twentieth Century in the US the line was shortened as a result of the changes in the way we spoke.

  • Write a poem that imitates the way someone speaks, using line lengths to make breath pauses, during a heightened emotional moment, such as an argument or a plea.

  • Write a poem that varies line length to create a rhythm that doesn't rely on being repeated line after line. In other words, develop the rhythm across a variety of lines.

  • Write a poem whose lines all end with full stops (caesuras).

  • Write a poem whose lines are all enjambed except for the final line.

  • NOTE: A caesura is a pause, usually caused by punctuation, although it can occur naturally when the formation of a sound that ends a word changes dramatically from the way the next sound is formed, thus causing the speaker to pause long enough to reshape the mouth in order to pronounce the next word. An enjambed line is one which has no stop at its end so that the speaker naturally goes on to the next line without pause.


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