Introduction to Meter and Rhyme


Midge Goldberg

If you want to write formal poetry, you have to start with the basics: meter and rhyme. They are like the scales of music, once you know them, you can use them, play with them, improvise, stray away, and come back, but you need to have that solid footing in the basics. Meter forms the underlying rhythm that moves you through the poem

We'll start with the metrical foot and the line, and we'll move on to common poetic forms—their meters, rhyme schemes, and stanza patterns—including quatrains, the sonnet, and the villanelle, The idea is to notice how a poet chooses a particular form to engineer the reader’s reaction.

Rhyme in poetry can accomplish many things. With its innate ability to set up expectations for the ear, it can satisfy, disappoint, or “bring a poem home” just like a song. Rhyme can, of course, add humor. By being unexpected, it can shock. And when you’re pushed to find a rhyme, it can suddenly take your poem in a direction that you didn’t imagine, and yet takes it in exactly the direction the poem was meant to go.

We'll address basics of rhyme: the definition of a rhyme, masculine and feminine rhymes, slant rhymes, then move on to examine rhyming forms—sonnets, villanelles, ballad stanzas, triolets, and rhyme that can be found in any form. As in the meter portion, the idea is to notice how a poet chooses a particular rhyme scheme or rhyming form to engender a particular mood or reaction. Though rhyme is often associated with humor, some of the darkest moments in poetry are accomplished by using rhyme effectively (think Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”).

The class will be a combination of instruction, discussion, some in-class exercises, and a small assignment for the Saturday afternoon free writing time.



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