All Syllables Are Not Created EqualFoot and meter are not all there is to rhythm in poetry. To the vast number of modern poets, foot and meter are the most minor aspects of rhythm.
In this topic, we will cover other ways to build the rhythm into words, give you examples of their use, and let you play with them. I don't guarantee you'll wind up another Dylan Thomas - but not everyone wants to be. You will have more of a feel for the music of your own language.
Stress Levels"Feet" are composed of stressed and unstressed syllables. However, not all syllables are stressed equally. Some are completely relaxed, like the suffix "er". Others are sitting up and alert, but not all that active, like the "posed" in "composed". Some jump up and demand attention, like the "ev" in "howEVer" can, if spoken urgently. And some need Valium, like the capitalized words in certain modern poetry.
Exercise : Stress VariationsWrite an eight-line poem in iambic pentameter. Start out with a slow, calm feel. Accelerate the urgency until you wind up with an effect of panic, rage, or demand. Achieve this by selecting words with different stress levels.
Guidelines for critiqueWhat is the effect?
Is it achieved by syllable stress?
Is the basic meter kept (basically)?
Long and Short"Attention" is pronounced "uh-TEN-shun". Both the "uH" and the "shun" are unstressed. But the "shun" is slightly longer than the "uh".
Using the variation between long and short syllables can also be a way to create effect in poetry.
Exercise : Syllable LengthWrite an eight-line poem in iambic pentameter, using variations in syllable and word length to vary the rhythm.
Guidelines for CritiqueWas the meter basically kept throughout the poem?
Did the rhythm vary?
Was the variation in rhythm achieved by variations is syllable and word length?
What was the effect of the changing rhythm?
SentencesPoetry has sentences, too - at least some of it does. A line broken into two sentences, a line that comes to a full stop at the end, and a sentence that extends over two or more lines, will each have a different rhythm.
Exercise : Sentence LengthWrite an eight-line poem in iambic pentameter that either starts with long sentences and accelerates the pace with shorter ones, or starts with short sentences and slows the pace by extending them.
Guidelines for critiqueWas the basic meter kept throughout the poem?
Did the rhythm vary as the line length changed?
What was the effect of the change in rhythm?
InflectionThe cat in the hat has sat.
And what do you think of that?
Those two lines have exactly the same meter, but entirely different inflections - and rhythms. There are other variations of inflection in English, besides questions and exclamations, but those are the most common.
Exercise : InflectionWrite an eight-line poem in iambic pentameter in which the rhythm varies due to different inflections. Ty to find as many ways of varying the inflection as you can, besides questions and exclamations.
Guidelines for critique
There you go. Now --