Iambic Pentameter


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Thread: Iambic Pentameter

  1. #1

    Iambic Pentameter

    I have to write a Shakespearean Sonnet for English class and, I'll be honest, writing in Iambic Pentameter is probably the most annoying thing in the world. What devil conjured up this atrocious writing style? Anyway, do any of you have any experience writing in Iambic Pentameter? How was it for you? Do you have or, rather, are there any tips or tricks for making the process easier? It seems like every time I try to do normal things like place a preposition next to an article ("to the", "in the", "on a", etc.) it makes two unstressed syllables and the meter is broken.

  2. #2
    Sure, Dictarium. A good rule of thumb is to count content syllables as stressed. For example:

    'A man who lived beside the shining sea'
    'had only found he'd died, posthumously.'

    In english, the primary stress is on the important content words: 'man, lived, -side, shin-[ing], sea'. While syllables that are not as important are not stressed: 'a, who, be-, the, ing', etc.

    Since iambic pentameter starts with an unstressed syllable on the iamb, each line will usually begin with a preposition or article. The end of the line will usually be a content word.

    As for your specific prepositional phrases: 'to the', 'in the', and 'on a'.

    You can use adjectives or pluralized nouns to achieve the proper effect. For example:

    'To shining seas of salty liquor, hear
    me dance within your vastness, dear.'

    as opposed to:

    'To the sea that has salty liquor, hear
    me dance on your vastness, dear.'

    Or something like that. Reading shakespeare might be difficult, because a lot of the terms he uses might be unfamiliar, and that makes proper rhythm when speaking difficult. I'd suggest reading iambic poetry closer to the present, in addition to reading shakespeare.

    Hope this helps,
    WechtleinUns.
    "Boku wa yandere desu ka?! More like, Ich kann der geh! Jah?"

  3. #3
    I write the content of my poems first so I know what I want it to say then I go back and write the poem out in pencil on lined paper, skipping every other line. Then I count out the meter, marking it on the blank line above the poem. If I need to tweak I tweak it from there.

    I'm not the best at meter but some of the advice my college writing professor suggested was "walk it out." She meant it as in walk and go over your poem. The foot you start with will be unstressed and the other will be stressed.

  4. #4
    That's good advice, amsatwell. Much easier to follow than my rambling. lol.
    "Boku wa yandere desu ka?! More like, Ich kann der geh! Jah?"

  5. #5
    Thank you both for your advice. The poem itself was due last week and, for some reason, like half an hour after making this thread, I got an ear for iambic pentameter. I can now read any line and tell if it's iambic pentameter, and the whole "walking it out" as well as tricks like the words ending in -ing are the kinds of things I did use to help.

    I got an A+ on it, too. FWIW:

    When Man was walking through a Forest green
    He found a Monster standing in his path.
    The Monster looked a terrible old thing, and mean.
    He drew His sword and bravely stood to face the Monster's fearsome wrath.

    The Monster, threatened, lashed at Man with claws.
    He dodge the blow and readied His attack.
    And for a moment, Man took time to pause.
    But then He drove His sword in Monster's back.

    The sun now shone on Monster's face and he
    Did now look upon the Monster's face and laughed.
    He'd conquered Beast, the Devil, now unliving, He was free
    To go on down the thick green Forest Path.

    But then, just yards from where the Knight did stand.
    There little Devils came to mourn their Mother; hold Her hand.

    (We had to break meter at poetically significant locations to get a high A, so I broke it every time there's a misconception made: the man thinking he's brave for what he's doing, calling the monster fearsome, a devil, etc.)

  6. #6
    Well, well, well. This is a really good poem, Dictarium. Thank you for sharing this.
    "Boku wa yandere desu ka?! More like, Ich kann der geh! Jah?"

  7. #7

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Dictarium View Post
    Thank you both for your advice. The poem itself was due last week and, for some reason, like half an hour after making this thread, I got an ear for iambic pentameter. I can now read any line and tell if it's iambic pentameter, and the whole "walking it out" as well as tricks like the words ending in -ing are the kinds of things I did use to help.

    I got an A+ on it, too. FWIW:

    When Man was walking through a Forest green
    He found a Monster standing in his path.
    The Monster looked a terrible old thing, and mean.
    He drew His sword and bravely stood to face the Monster's fearsome wrath.

    The Monster, threatened, lashed at Man with claws.
    He dodge the blow and readied His attack.
    And for a moment, Man took time to pause.
    But then He drove His sword in Monster's back.

    The sun now shone on Monster's face and he
    Did now look upon the Monster's face and laughed.
    He'd conquered Beast, the Devil, now unliving, He was free
    To go on down the thick green Forest Path.

    But then, just yards from where the Knight did stand.
    There little Devils came to mourn their Mother; hold Her hand.

    (We had to break meter at poetically significant locations to get a high A, so I broke it every time there's a misconception made: the man thinking he's brave for what he's doing, calling the monster fearsome, a devil, etc.)
    Can I just say that this is brilliant? Not just for the creation of the poem, but for the way you consciously and knowingly broke the rhythm. I have to say that I am quite the mechanical reader and would have found this easier had the meter been maintained throughout; but to know that the meter was broken knowingly is almost a shared guilty secret, for which I'd genuinely like to thank you!

    Your A+ is deserved. Now give us more, with the constraints set only by you.
    "Ideas may seem like gold nuggets, but they're more like seeds. You have to plant them, water them, weed them, nurture them, and watch them grow. Every seed will turn out differently depending on whose garden it lands in." Nickleby, 14/6/2013

  9. #9
    So The Sonnet which is the mark as the apex to English poetry has you stumped.

    The most important aspect of all poetry in all languages is its music. And meter, like iambic pentameter, is the music of the English language. In fact you probably talk it all day long. Then suddenly you have to write it on the page without your slips and slides and pauses and it becomes difficult. Why is that? Voice isn't constrained by the poetic music when we are speaking but it is when it written on the page. The page rules in the case of the sonnet because form is content and a unified field. It is a score to the sound of the poem as an exactness.

    two approaches
    1. write the lyrics to the music. — Classical
    2. write the music to the lyrics. — Jazz

    Which is better? Neither actually. A good musician will tell you songs can be written either way. It takes precise understanding to do either. Write Metric poems for awhile and then go back to free verse and you'll find that your free verse has improved, I know I did. Why do you suppose that is? It's about getting that sound written onto the page within the words themselves. There are no accidentals in metric verse. And free Verse should be the same. With no accidentals free verse improves. What happened suddenly you are listening to the deeper music in the poem cause by all the musical devices. So after writing a few metric poems suddenly your free verse is without accidentals. Your hearing has changed. And you did it to yourself because you took the time to write a poetic form/content that was extremely precise as music on the page using nothing but words. And throw in the rhymes and the you just doubled the music count and melodic factor by 10 shifting content into melody as well. This too can be done with free verse, interestingly however it is not as easy to write free verse rhyming and pull it off well. This where some get stuck moving back to free verse thinking metric is better. Well it isn't at all. That's why it is so important to learn both well as the 2 approaches to the poem's melody and music.

    So poets are really musicians. And as musicians they should be learning to do both in my opinion. Stop thinking you are being controlled or harnessed into doing something; instead start thinking you're going to figure out how to put a constant beat into the lines that is a score for a drummer to play while you read. Then try it with a real drummer and watch what happens. You'll be amazed. And do realize that metric feet are not limited to Iambic or pentameter.

    Iambic is the foot and Pentameter is the number of feet per line. (does it sound anything like musical notes and measures) Gee I wonder why that is?

    At any rate you could write a jazz riff into a line form with metrics if you wanted to do that. For the feet are numerous and the length of line has a range as well. just like certain musical interments have a range of sound. And once you count syllables you arrange the rhyme on an certain beat as well as inside the line as outside the line at the head and the foot of the line. Voice as rhythm. Here are some things that add music it the poem.


    =================================
    STANZA FORMS
    --------------------------------------------------------
    1 line — monostich
    2 lines — couplet or distich
    3 lines — tercet
    4 lines — quatrain
    5 lines — cinquain or quintilla or pentastich
    6 lines — sestet or sixain
    7 lines — septet
    8 lines — octave
    10 lines — decinelle

    =================================
    TYPES OF METRIC FEET
    --------------------------------------------------------
    iambic ............ - +
    trochaic .......... + -
    anapestic ........ - - +
    dactylic .......... + - -
    amphibrach ..... - + -
    spondaic ......... + +
    pyrrhic ............ - -
    amphimacer .... + - + ....or cretic
    moldssus ........ + + +
    bacchic ........... - + +
    antibacchic ...... + + -
    tribrach ........... - - -

    caesura ....the pause mid line *
    (can act as an unaccented syllable.)

    1st paeon .... + - - -
    2nd paeon ... - + - -
    3rd paeo ..... - - + -
    4th paeon ... - - - +

    KEY
    + = stressed or accented
    - = unstressed or unaccented

    =================================
    ACCENTUAL SYLLABIC / LINE
    --------------------------------------------------------
    Monometer ......... 1 foot/verse
    Dimeter .............. 2 feet/verse
    Trimeter ............. 3 feet/verse
    tetrameter ...........4 feet/verse
    Pentrameter ....... 5 feet/verse
    Hexameter ......... 6 feet/verse
    Heptameter ........ 7 feet/verse
    Octameter .......... 8 feet/verse
    Decimeter ..........10 feet/verse

    =================================

    Enjoy the music and many will enjoy the poetry.
    DON'T GET RESTRAINED; INSTEAD GET LIBERATED. WRITE MORE THAN JUST IAMBS. TRY SOME OTHER FEET AS WELL.

  10. #10
    How's this for free verse.
    A poet friend
    RH Peat


    The Shadow bird

    The bird has
    a shadow
    that sings; it
    is flying
    away to
    find sunsets
    that gleam with
    intenseness.

    The bird has
    a shadow
    that lifts on
    flapped wing to
    displace sky
    apart from
    whatís given
    in plainsong.

    The bird has
    a shadow
    thatís chained to
    a cloudy
    ascent through
    the pulsing
    embrace as
    the garment.

    The bird has
    a shadow
    that ripples.


    © R.H.Peat ó 9/20/98 ó 11:21 PM
    Form/ 4 stanzas/ 27 lines
    Amphibrachtic monometer

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