“BEATING” POETRY ( for Beginners)

posted by Gay Rudisill

                     Lemons, apples, peas, and fish

                     Mix for quite a crazy dish.

                      Add some rhythm, add some rhyme

                     Veggies, fruit, and fins sublime.

                      Clap your hands and stomp your feet.

                      Try to get a patterned beat.

                      Spread the picnic on the floor.

                      Makes you want to shout for more.

Did you ever try writing a picture book in poetry form?  For some it’s simple.  For others, however, the rhyming comes easy, but having a consistent and unforced rhythm is a real challenge.  I have chosen a very simple poem to illustrate a way to work on this.  The opening stanza usually sets the stage for the remainder of the work so it is important to recognize what beat you have established.  Check out the poem from above. (note: vocal emphasis is on capitalized syllables  below)

    LEmons, APPles, PEAS, and FISH

       MIX for QUITE a CRAzy DISH.

Both lines tap out Strong, Weak, Strong, Weak, Strong, Weak, Strong

Although the next two lines continue the same pattern, what if the wording of the first of the two is rearranged;

           ADD some RHYME, ADD some RHYthm

The beat becomes;    S, W, S, S, W, S, W

Instead of  ;               S, W, S, W, S, W, S         How that changes the nice flow and rhythm of the original line!

A good way to help yourself is to take a pencil and mark your strong and weak syllables as you read your work aloud, making sure that you read the words correctly.  Sometimes there is a tendency to try to force words to fit such as honeyMOON for HONeymoon or

TRIPelet (3 syllables) for TRIPlet.

Before you consider your work finished, be sure to compare the beginning with the end.  Have you maintained the original rhythm to the end or has it gradually changed without your realizing it.

Remember the old saying, “ the beat goes on”?  That’s very true but when it’s your own poetry “masterpiece”, you want to be the one to control the beat!


5 thoughts on ““BEATING” POETRY ( for Beginners)

  1. Good points, Gay. I know that I have to read my own poetry aloud in order to really hear the beat. If I read it in “my head”, I don’t always catch the forced rhythms and accents.

    I’m going to tweet a link to this post. Nicely done!

  2. Gay, thanks soooo much for this post! I read a lot of poetry, I read a lot about poetry. But I’ve always been intimidated by the thought of writing poetry. No problem with rhyme – it’s the concept of beat that I’m insecure with. You’ve done a very good job of making this clear. Makes me want to give poetry a try.

    One question I do have about forcing words: is there a rule to apply to find out if words are being forced? Words are pronounced differently in different parts of the country – how do you know whether you’re forcing a word or not?



  3. Thanks, Gay! Your explanation is clear and underSTANDable.

    Kelly, I don’t think there is an easy answer for your question. In different English dialects pronunciation does vary. I guess we do it the way our agents or editors tell us is the right way.

    Yea, like I have an agent or an editor. Only in my dreams!!


  4. Rhyme I can do. I thought I was all right with beats, but as was pointed out on my last sub to our group, my rhythm was morphing with each stanza. I don’t think I realized that it’s not all right for beats to change patterns from stanza to stanza. Keeping the beats the same seems to make the poem more cohesive and easier to listen to/read. Yay for Gay! Thanks for the great advice!
    (My favorite forced line found in a Mother’s Day poem written by a child: “She turns out the light and puts me to bed / ‘Cause Mom always knows when I am ti-red.) Oh, that still makes me laugh.

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