Poetry challenge#46: Meter

This weekโ€™s challenge is more about the sound of the poem than the content. Sometimes it seems to me that we work hard to get our thoughts either into rhymes or simply into the right line lengths, and donโ€™t listen to the sound it makes. This week, I thought we could concentrate on listening to the beats in the line rather than simply count syllables or find an appropriate rhyme.

Tetrameter (four beats to the line) and pentameter (five beats) give a rhythm that helps to make a line memorable. Try to think more of the way the stress falls than the number of syllables. It will inevitably mean shuffling word order or occasionally choosing a synonym, but you will end up with a poem that flows like a song.

You can use either four or five beats, and you donโ€™t have to rhyme unless you want to. Iโ€™ve chosen to rhyme occasionally, and find itโ€™s effective to end with a rhyme.

The theme is

Stars, night, and water

The rather lovely image is loaned by ยฉJess Mann

My poem is in unrhymed (mostly) tetrameter. Iโ€™ve bolded the stress syllables so you see what I mean.

Forgot to add, usual rules, post the link to your post in the comments before next Tuesday for the round up, please ๐Ÿ™‚


One time the stars wheeled just for us,

A midnight dance across the sky,

Weโ€™d watch their brightness cabriole,

Leap into unimagined depths.

One time the stars shone in a sea

Of wishes dreams and fantasies,

When you were all the world to me,

The dark, the light, the softest dusk.

That time is past, stargazing nights

When nothing could keep us apart;

No longer can I stretch my hand

To touch a star, your face, your heart.

Perhaps one day you may recall,

How love was plucked from nightโ€™s dark pall.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

72 thoughts on “Poetry challenge#46: Meter”

  1. I hate to say it, but meter is my least favorite part of poetry – mainly because I have to give as much thought to that as I do the content.
    But, I’m in. (soon)

    1. I don’t understand how you can not enjoy rhythm. I agree, it’s one of those building blocks that can be a constraint if you have something very precise to say and making it sound pretty just isn’t important. But it can add to some poems if you want to use it.

      1. I agree, but I dislike the effort involved. However, that doesn’t keep me from attempting it if I think it will work for the poem.
        Also, many times, I think of meter as being too “sing-song” when emphasis is placed on the syllables. I prefer to hear a poem in a normal speaking voice, which prompts me to ask why bother with meter if I’m not going to stress those syllables.?

      2. But even given that, I know when a line I write doesn’t flow smoothly, and that’s most likely due to a lack of meter when the surrounding lines have meter.

      3. That’s really what I’m driving at. Writing a whole poem with a particular rhythm is a way of practicing working the words so they flow the way you want them to.

    1. It’s perfect! If you wanted shorter lines you could have used tetrameter rather than pentameter. I might be having trouble with comments again, so if you can’t find one, have a look in your spam box.

  2. The rhythm in your poem is beautiful, Jane.
    And yay for the challenge! I love metric poetry most as it feels just right=)
    I was wondering, though, may I have a line shorter than a tetrameter? My poem is turning out to be an alteration of iambic tetrameter and trimeter, I’m afraid=D I could change it, though.

  3. Thanks for this Jane–the mysteries of meter…happy to give it a try :)) and I enjoyed your poem which I expect to read a few more times.

      1. mmm I used to teach University level (just the basics like Critical Thinking, International Business and mostly 101 stuff like Intro to University) and my writing does not evidence my teaching background though I think my support of younger writers does. I would not automatically have thought you a teacher, which I think is a compliment if we generalize the ideas we have of teachers, though to call someone a teacher is in my mind anyway, a compliment, they are much undervalued and necessary, without whom we would surely be worse off. Now that you say you were, I can see it, only in your exactitude, but this could also be from learning/experience and personality. I see you as a very disciplined and I mean this in a good way, something I struggle with for sure. Discipline in writing is necessary for success and endurance. Those who are talented but have none, usually do not last the down-sides of writing. In your prodigious output I see so many things, so teacher would only ever be one side of you, you are multi faceted and few are, few have more than one side to them, a writer who surprises us, and keeps us engaged, usually has to have more sides. xo

      2. I’m not sure I’m entitled to this praise. Discipline? I’d rather write than do most things, certainly than the humdrum stuff that has to be done but that I pretend doesn’t. Queen of procrastination, that’s me. When I write I keep at it, but it’s at the expense of a social life or the kind of entertainment that most people find enriching. At least they say it’s enriching. My social life is walking the dog, talking to other dog walkers about everything under the sun, passing the time of day with some of the homeless people I see every day, watching how the trees are changing. It’s not what most people would call exciting, and I don’t know if it makes me multifaceted, but I know a lot of things. Maybe I’m living on the capital accumulated over an intensely curious childhood and young adulthood, and having moved around a fair bit. I’m pleased you have an idea of me as a person though. It means something personal comes over in my writing.

      3. Well my social life is much akin to yours. I would protest you are a procrastinator, maybe by your own standards but certainly not by the usual standard. Then again who wants to be measured by a usual standard? I expect you have high standards, this is why you are able to do what you do, it’s all in keeping with being able to do it, rather than simply wish on it, or talk of it. Curiosity being the best trait a child can ever possess.

      4. Comparing my child self to my own children I see one huge difference in our respective curiosities. Where I would dive straight in the deep end with my dozens of different passions, read all about the subject, beg a pair of binoculars or a telescope, the jars and nets, the encyclopedias and guidebooks, and become incollable on the subject, my own kids flit from subject to subject, dabble and move on. They touch on the big subjects, but don’t ever let anything become a passion.

      5. I suspect without knowing enough, this could be a product of their age. I don’t know what era you were born but I was born in 72 and that was perhaps the last intense era (the fifties and sixties being more intense, things tapering off at the mid-eighties perhaps). Not to say wonderous writers haven’t existed afterward but surely it is harder for them, with less inspiration and more technology. I have seen young people flit as you describe, and I suspect this is a sign of their times, much as intensity was a sign of ours. In some way I think if it is their destiny to become something more, they will, irrespective of their earlier fleeting interests, because nothing stops what we are destined to do and childhood lasts longer than it ever has (both good and bad). It is the ADHD of the times, the rapidity of information, making us impatient guests of our own lives. I couldn’t agree more. Few have passions because life is a continual reinvention, and passion requires intensity and patience. I couldn’t be more glad to have been born when I was and not later, though of course, I sound like a old luddite bemoaning (ironically online) the loss of former passions like letter writing ๐Ÿ™‚ Every parent examines their child and wonders ‘why’ – this is part of the process, you being so observant, I would this do this in magnification. But if they are of you, they will be of you no matter what, it may just take them longer to settle.

      6. In 1972 I was starting secondary school. It was a great time to be an adolescent, just unfortunate that it ended with Margaret Thatcher and awful boorish conservatism. That’s why I came to France. I asked my fourth child the other day why she thought they had all turned out so unacademic when they were all considered ‘bon รฉlรจve’ to brilliant in their early school days. She said that we (her parents) had shown them the futility of joining the system, that not only can you be happy outside the system, you can’t be happy by joining it. She’s twenty.

      7. Can’t fault her or her parents. Many times, those who think, reject the narrow confines of education, whilst others, like yourself and many whom I know, make it work for them. Maybe it was easier then, education is a joke nowadays, but wasn’t always so, and you could really grow within the system. Maybe by teaching your kids to think for themselves, when they experienced their turn, they saw that it had narrowed and was just a membership they did not need. I can see the wisdom of that, and if they are happy, it’s really a success, because so many attempt to do what they ‘think they should’ and end up miserable. I admire anyone who dares to step outside and do what they really want to. Bringing up your kids to be free-thinkers is a job well done, especially if she has this insight at tender 20.

      8. It made me feel not quite so bad that they seem to lack direction. Not the role model I expected to be, but I’m not sure I ever expected to lead from the front.

      9. At twenty these days, that’s the equivalent of 40 in the 1950’s and nowadays is considered to be a little above ten years old ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think people just mature differently and come at life differently, sometimes I think every generation should have lived through the Depression but that’s rather bleak. The idea being, we only learn to grow up when we’re given the impetus, these days, where is it? I expect they will find direction just differently, they come from a family of artists and writers, what’s not to be talented about? Role models are strange things, we often do not know what it is we do or do not do to cause our modeling, and yet, we are (role models) despite ourselves. I expect if you asked them what about you was a role model you’d be quite surprised at the answers they wouldn’t be what you’d expect, but they’d be lovely, and the surprise would be the best part, almost like introducing you to the way you are when you’re not viewing yourself from your own eyes if you know what I mean.

      10. For the Irish living in England in the 1930s the Depression didn’t change much. It was always the Depression for them, poverty and discrimination. I grew up hearing about it and witnessing the discrimination at first hand. My children have no idea what that was like, nor has my husband or any of his family.
        I see what you mean, and yes, we are the least well-placed to how others see us. Mostly I like my kids. They’re not mainstream and they’re opinionated, but I’d rather that than have them supine followers of every fashion going round.

      11. Opinionated is just a sign your brain is switched on. You did good ๐Ÿ˜‰
        That’s interesting about the Irish. I had some Irish friends when I was in the UK and they were still discriminated against a little, though mostly they knew from their histories how this had occurred. I assume some of your family was Irish? Just absurd. How few people know their history and thus, never realize the awful experiences of so many people. They only know the popular stories, there are so many never even mentioned. Makes me think of that wonderful film My Brilliant Career (an equally wonderful book) and the frustrations for women at the turn of the century wishing to strike out alone.

      12. All my family is Irish. Being Irish we had the emigrant experience as well as the immigrant. It’s a burden I’ve brought with me to France, and can’t see either ghost leaving me alone.

      13. I should add – I used to be a disciple of the ‘must be in lights to be interesting’ school of thought but getting older helps us to realize, ‘interesting’ is in the eye of the beholder, and what can be written about, is rarely the ‘razmataz’ but the experience of life. Few true writers live in the belly of the bright-lights, they tend to seclude in order to advance. I now see the wisdom in this. I think of that scene in funnily enough Nine and a half weeks where she is trying to convince a reclusive artist to come to an art show in NYC he is not interested, being older, living in the seclusion of the countryside, finally she cajoles him and he reluctantly comes, only to be a specter at his own ‘party’ and she feels such a chagrin seeing him there, sadfaced and wrong, and realizes then, the mistake she as an art-procurer is making. Okay probably the worst film to quote from but it was so apropos I recall that well beyond any of the supposed steamy scenes ๐Ÿ˜‰

      14. I can’t think of any way razamataz is anything but superficial glitz, self-serving and shallow. I’d rather be one of those golden carp flickering in a weedy pond ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. This exercise was very reminiscent to me of my songwriting days Jane. Many moons ago, I traveled the countryside in my little corner of the world with my guitar and a head-full of original songs, singing them to whoever would listen. While it wasn’t compulsory, rhyming felt quite natural to me for this poem. So…here it is. It has left me in a sublime mood this afternoon. Thanks for the memories! ~kat

      1. Thanks Jane. I do like to have a bit of rhythm in anything I write. I agree with you about the rhymes. The feel good to read and say. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. I know I prefer writing poems that I feel I could read aloud and not stumble over the lines. The poem doesn’t have to be a strict meter all the way through, but it’s hard to ‘listen’ to poems where the lines are intended to be read separately, but they are all different lengths with a different number of beats.

    1. It does have the flow! I think it’s a question of thinking in terms of phrases that have a particular flow, and hanging them together. It gets easier the more you do it ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Meter is a tricky thing and it is always satisfying to read a poem with a lovely flow, like this one. Sometimes, that extra beat throws off a reading much the same way as an offkey note spoils singing. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thanks, Jane. Sorry, I got to read your feedback only now. I know where those excessive word lines are – I think I revised the line at the last minute because when I was reading the (original) line around, I kind of sort of tripped. I will revisit the piece again, especially the last two lines, to see how I can improve them. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. It’s difficult to say. For me, with my pronunciation of your words, the beats in each line seem random. I don’t get a rhythm. But maybe when you say it you do. Think
        da DA da DA da DA da DA
        on each line with the emphasis falling naturally, as it would in speech.

    1. Comments have been back for a couple of days, but anything earlier might well have gone to spam. It’s pingbacks that don’t work now.
      Sonnets is hard. I admire your courage ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. I’ve been to check on a couple of blogs I know I commented on and my comment doesn’t show there either so there’s definitely a problem at my end. That’s not to say you don’t have a problem too. WP is wacky at the moment.

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