02 July 2012

Our Lost Jungle Poetry Form Challenge: Challenge #1 --- Meter

Welcome to the first challenge of the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge! We’re going to start slow and keep building momentum through the months of July and August. Good luck! (For guidelines, check out this post)

The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #1: Meter

In high school and undergrad, I remember being exceptionally frustrated with poetic meter. I remember wondering what the point was. Why were syllable counts and beats so stinking important in poems?! It wasn’t until I heard a professor read a poem beat by beat, syllable by syllable, that I started to hear the subtle shifts in sound and momentum that meter allows.

Defining it

Meter, in poetry, is simply a way of arranging a line of poetry to create a rhythm. When we work with meter in poetry, we’re simply playing with syllables to make them soft or sharp. When we talk about meter, we usually talk in terms of stressed and unstressed beats; in the word “about”, for example, the “a” is unstressed while the “bout” is stressed.

There are many different forms of meter, but the most common is probably iambic. Iambic meters are broken down into a “foot” of two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed (like the word “about”).

A line of iambic pentameter would have five feet of iambic meter (basically, five iambs). Read just about any line of Shakespeare’s sonnets and you’ll be reading lines of iambic pentameter. A line of iambic tetrameter has an iambic stress pattern with four feet. Here’s a visual of syllabic scansion for a line of iambic heptameter (with seven feet):

A sample line of iambic heptameter (from Arthur Golding's translation of Ovid's "Metamorphoses")
Doing it

For the first challenge, I’d like you to play with at least TWO of the following meters:

iambic dimeter
iambic trimeter
iambic tetrameter*
iambic pentameter*
iambic hexameter
iambic heptameter

The two with asterisks are the most common meters; you can only use one of these forms!

Fun it up!

Share your attempts in the comments below (or email them to ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com)!


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  1. and you said you were starting easy? lol.

    1. Hey, all I asked you to do was play! ;-)

  2. I'm game.

    "Summer 2012"

    A day of woe, a day of heat. a day to sear all men.
    A force of God, of sweat and fire, a homage paid again.

    Iambic heptameter


    The glory of a pearl abounds
    with simple strapless bridal gowns.
    On skin of silk and something old
    to match the diamond dressed in gold.

    Iambic tetrameter

    1. Both lovely --- thank you for joining in, Janice! :)

  3. Well, I varied things up a little, but you can recognize it as iambic (I hope)

    1. Oh, a journey submission! I loved the enchanting, riveting language and imagery you incorporate into this poem (a comment I've also shared on your site!)

  4. Here you go. This was fun. I don’t know if I’ll do all the prompts. I’d like to but my schedule is booked.
    Thanks for the challenge.

    Iambic tetrameter
    Odysseus, the man of guile,
    Could not begin to spin a smile
    Without a wink, a nod, and that
    killer style with the archer’s bow;
    He shot the ring and made it sing,
    Perfect bulls-eye, a suitor’s goad.

    Iambic heptametric
    Now take your seat on the train to hell, do anything you wish,
    Enjoy the blue of the sky above before the coachman’s rounds;
    He’ll punch your card and then you’ll see the under gloom below
    where tortured souls with outstretched arms shout praise of misery.

    1. Thanks, Kris, for participating! I hope you can continue to share and take part; I'd love to see you in the "jungle!" :)


Thank you so much for your comments! Please feel free to share your thoughts here; I look forward to engaging in conversation with you!

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