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Poetry: June 24, 2009 Issue [#3127]


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  Edited by: Red Writing Hood
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“Teach you children poetry; it opens the mind, lends grace to wisdom and makes the heroic virtues hereditary.”

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

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Poetry By Numbers - Part One: 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s

Counting is important in poetry; from counting syllables and metrical feet, to counting lines and stanzas in order to follow certain forms. Today we will go over the vocabulary that accompanies some of these tasks, as well as a couple poetry forms for you to try.

Poetry By 2’s

The couplet is the most used poetic element related to the number two. It is simply a two-line stanza. Some of the different types of couplets are: elegiac (L1 - dactylic hexameter, L2 - dactylic pentameter), heroic (See below), short (iambic or trochaic tetrameter), skeltonic (didactic subject matter, often mismatched meters), and split (L1 - iambic pentameter, L2 - iambic dimeter). The difference between each couplet is their meter and how they rhyme.

Heroic Couplet

First created in England, this is a rhyming iambic pentameter couplet.


The heroic couplet is “most often used for epigrams, verse essays, satires, and narrative verse, and the dominant form for [English] poetry from ca. 1640 to ca. 1790” (New Princeton, 522).


--Iambic pentameter.
--Must rhyme, but any type of rhyme can be used.

COULD HAVES or What's The Poet's Choice In All This?

--Any type of rhyme.
--Any subject matter.

Poetry By 3’s

The main terms when you speak about things in threes in poetry is the tercet or triplet. They are both three-line stanzas. A tercet may rhyme (AAB, ABB, ABA) or not rhyme. A triplet has all three lines rhyming with each other (AAA).

Terza Rima

An invention of Dante (of The Inferno fame), the terza rima is made up of rhyming tercets.


Rather than The Inferno mentioned above, the terza rima was created for The Divine Comedy. It is interesting to note that “The Divine Comedy is written in three books, each of which contains thirty-three (or thirty-three plus one) sections called cantos, and each section is written in tercets (Padgett, 192).


--Stanza length: 3 lines
--Interlocking rhyme: ABA BCB CDC, etc.

COULD HAVES or What's The Poet's Choice In All This?

--Any meter (or no set meter – but usually in iambic pentameter). If a meter is chosen, stick with it throughout the poem.
--Length of poem.

Poetry By 4’s

Beginning poets often start out writing poems in four line stanzas. These are called quatrains. “The word quatrain comes from the French quatre and the Latin quattuor, both meaning ‘four’” (Padgett, 144). There are several different types of quatrain. They are: curtal (short fourth line), Italian (iambic pentameter, ABBA rhyme), and Sicilian (iambic pentameter, ABAB rhyme). Like the couplet, the difference between each quatrain is their meter and the rhyme scheme.


The rubaiyat is a Persian version of a quatrain.


The rubaiyat became popular in English in the 19th century when Edward Fitzgerald translated the poetry of Omar Khayyam (Miller, 71).


--Four line stanzas.
--Rhyme scheme of AABA
--Pentameter (any type of pentameter – but usually in iambic pentameter).

COULD HAVES or What's The Poet's Choice In All This?

--Length of poem.
--Subject matter.


METER ME in St. Louis, Louis

I didn’t go in depth with meter in this article. It can get long and complicated. However I will share these metrical terms: monometer = one metrical foot, dimeter = two metrical feet, trimeter = three metrical feet, and tetrameter = four metrical feet. (Look for more in Poetry By Numbers - Part Two: 5’s, 6’s, 7’s and 8’s)

Source Notes:

Padgett, Ron. The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms. 2nd. NY: T & W Books, 2000.

Williams, Miller (1986). Patterns of Poetry: An Encyclopedia of Forms. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press.

The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Edited by Ales Preminger and T. V. F. Brogan. 1993.

Theme: Poetry By Numbers


 The Rise  [E]
Heroic Couplet in iambic tetrameter for Rhythm & Rhyme Challenge Day 6
by Noelle

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by A Guest Visitor

 Riddle in the Rubbish  [13+]
Than-Bauk linking couplets
by NOVAcatmando


 ..:h a z e l w o o d:..  [13+]
A poem in tercets. Think Dante. Think scary.
by Mighty

 Sullen Pools  [ASR]
(7 tercets) I tread in sullen pools of water, trying not to drown
by John~Ashen

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by A Guest Visitor

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by A Guest Visitor


 A Gun in Sunlight  [13+]
A quatrain styled poem about death.
by StephB - Happy 17 WDC!

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by A Guest Visitor

The Bad Man  [13+]
A boxing story in poetic quatrain.
by Mitch

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RESPONSES to last month's poetry exercise:

No one wanted to share their response to last month's exercise. I hope that means everyone loved their results so much they decided to submit them to contests or publishers *Delight*


I've decided to use The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach: ($12.02 from Amazon.Com) in order to hone my skills.

Every month I will share a synopsis of one of the exercises I want to try. If you also try the exercise, please feel free to share it with me and the Poetry newsletter subscribers. If you send me a link to your item, I shall place that link in this section next month.

The exercise I will try this month comes from Part 2, page 51. It is called, "Experience Falls Through Language Like Water Through a Sieve." This exercise is by Susan Mitchell.

Write 20 lines that contain "similes and/or metaphors to convey a feeling, an idea, a mood, or an experience you have never been able to communicate to anyone because each time you tried it seemed that you were being untrue to the experience--you left out something essential or you couldn't convey how mixed your feelings were."

She suggests using five similes/metaphors or more. That's it. The rest is up to you. Smile


Have a question, answer, problem, solution, tip, trick, cheer, jeer, or extra million lying around?

If so, send it through the feedback section at the bottom of this newsletter OR click the little envelope next to my name Red Writing Hood and send it through email.

Comments on last month's newsletter:

Submitted By: NOVAcatmando
Submitted Comment:

"No RESPONSES to last month's poetry exercise" - oops, sorry I meant to respond. I actually purchased this book per your highlighting it and have enjoyed the exercises. Thanks!

Submitted By: emerin-liseli
Submitted Comment:

SO difficult to separate the writer and the poem ... how true. Yet the strength of poetry (and writing in general!) comes in part because we tend to do exactly that. Thanks for the great newsletter.

Cheers, Em

Submitted By: monty31802
Submitted Comment:

Great newsletter Red, Seems that most think we write about ourselves when we write from a line that inspires us that has little or nothing to do with our lives. As you say the write should be considered as just a poem unless a description says otherwise. So glad to see you make this point.

Submitted By: fx777222999
Submitted Comment:

I've just read this newsletter and I found out that it can help me a lot with my poetry writing. Just new in poetry writing and I want to explore the different kinds of poetry forms. Again, thank you and good luck!

Submitted By: Big A
Submitted Comment:

Very informative and helpful News Letter.
Thanks, Big A

Submitted By: thunderspeech
Submitted Comment:

What is the basis for your contention that you assume the author of the narrative poem is not the narrator? This seems illogical, and I would [think] the assumption would be the opposite.

Interesting point, Walter Smile I would always wait before assuming the author was the narrator, by experience, but in this case I would also wait because a narrative poem is defined as, "a poem that tells a story" (http://www.uncp.edu/home/canada/work/allam/general/glossary.htm#n). Stories can be fiction or non-fiction and be told from any POV. This would mean it could be from the author's POV or someone else's (as in a character or persona the author takes on for that particular poem). Smile

Thank you all for your comments and questions. Smile Keep them coming! *Delight*

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