Introduction to Poetic Meter and Forms

Deborah Warren


Why meter?

We’ll start by looking at how poetry is a form of music—which means rhythm. A  poem completely devoid of rhythm is not a poem at all, but prose—no matter how striking the words or how fetching the line-layout on the page. Rhythm affects the listener physically and subliminally.

Using a handout/packet, we’ll view examples of irregular rhythm used to good effect—from the Bible to contemporary free verse. Then, however, we’ll zero in on regular meters to see why they can captivate the reader in a way irregular rhythms do not. (In passing we’ll check out a few bits of doggerel just to show the converse is untrue: meter alone doesn’t make poetry.)

We’ll spend some time with blank verse—a cornerstone of English meter—and some of its chart-topping hits by Shakespeare (drama), Browning (dramatic monologue), and Frost (narrative).

Why verse forms?

We’ll move on to common poetic forms—their meters, rhyme schemes, and stanza patterns—including the sonnet, the quatrains, the In Memoriam and Rubaiyat stanzas, the ballad/e, and other forms. The idea is to notice how a poet chooses a particular form to engineer the reader’s reaction.

There will also be some tiny (optional) writing exercises for ‘homework’ during the Saturday afternoon free writing time. 


Sponsored by the Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm and the Hyla Brook Poets