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We Got Rhythm!
By Brenda B. Covert
1 To be grammatically correct, 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 a drum beats–from "ONE two three four, ONE two three four" to "one two THREE, one two THREE"–poets can also work a drum beat kind of pattern throughout their poetry.
2 There are five basic rhythms of varying stressed and unstressed syllables. We call the portion of rhythm that repeats the meter. 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 [SPAHN-dee], anapest [ANN-uh-pest] and dactyl [DACK-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 [eye-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?
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