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We Got Rhythm!
By Brenda B. Covert
1 To be grammatically correct, the title should be we have rhythm - or more precisely, poetry usually has rhythm. Recite a limerick; do you hear that rhythm? A poem's rhythm comes from a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. The poet arranges the words of each line in a way that gives the poem a repeating beat. Just as a drummer can create a variety of drumbeats - from "ONE, two, three, four, ONE, two, three, four" to "one, two, THREE, one, two, THREE - poets can also work a rhythmic, drumbeat kind of pattern throughout their poetry.
2 There are five basic rhythm patterns. We call the portion of rhythm that repeats the meter. Using the drumbeat as an example, the meter would be the count that is repeated - one, two, three. Or, think of it as a repeated sound - la, da, de, dum. The five basic rhythms, then, are made up of five different meters. Each meter has a set number of syllables. We call them feet. The five types of meters are the iamb (I-am), trochee (TROH-kee), spondee (SPON-dee), anapest (AN-uh-pest), and dactyl (DAK-til). Rather than represent the stressed and unstressed syllables by the traditional "/" and "U" symbols, in this lesson we will show the stressed syllables in boldface.
3 First we'll look at the meters with two-syllable feet. With two syllables, there are only three possible arrangements of stressed or accented syllables.
4 Iambic (i-AM-bik) meters have an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (U /), such as is exhibited in this word -perhaps - and in this line: What light in yonder window breaks?
5 Trochaic (troh-KEY-ik) meters have a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable (/ U), shown in the word charming and in the line, Peter ,Peter, pumpkin eater.
6 The third possibility for two syllables is that they are both stressed, such as in the word tom-tom. We call this a spondaic (spon-DAY-ik) meter (/ /). It is illustrated in this line: Break, break, break, from the poem of the same title by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Poems are not written completely in spondaic meter. When used, this meter is slipped in with a different meter. It's like an accessory to dress up a poem.
7 The two remaining meters have three-syllable feet. The first is the anapestic (an-uh-PES-tik) meter, which has two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable (U U /), such as the words in-complete and kan-garoo.
8 The dactylic (dak-TIL-ik) meter begins with a stressed syllable and ends with two unstressed syllables (/ U U). The words celebrate and beautiful are good examples of the dactylic meter.
9 All rhythmic patterns are made up of a string of these feet. The meter will have a number-based name that depends upon how many feet of any of these five basic patterns there are in a line. The list from one foot up to eight feet is as follows:
| ||1 foot - monometer|
11 2 feet - dimeter
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