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Be a Better Writer--MASTERING METER

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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glorybee
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MASTERING METER

Postby glorybee » Sat May 14, 2016 7:45 am

First of all, it's fine to reply, even to old posts. I get notifications for every reply, and I'm happy to answer.

For 1-syllable words like 'once,' the stress is determined by how the word is pronounced within the context of the words around it. For example, take this sentence written entirely in 1-syllable words:

I love to eat bread and cheese.

If I write it out, emphasizing the natural pattern of the spoken words, I'd write

i LOVE to eat BREAD and CHEESE.

And to further illustrate, here's what it might sound like if I stressed it on the 'wrong' syllables:

i love TO eat bread AND cheese.

Do you hear that this version just sounds wrong?

Within poetry or music, stress of 1-syllable words is also determined by the rhythm of the measures, and to some extent, the notes. So some 1-syllable words are 'neutral'--they can be stressed or unstressed, depending on where they fall in the line. Others really NEED to be stressed for meaning. Try singing a children's song like 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' to the tune of some other song, like 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and you'll hear that not only do the words not exactly fit, but sometimes you have to stress one in the wrong place, so that it just sounds 'off.'

I hope this helps. If you have follow-up questions, feel free to post them here.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MASTERING METER

Postby Rivermusic » Sun May 15, 2016 5:18 pm

Thank you, glorybee, for the reply! :) I'm glad to hear that I can ask some more questions and I appreciate the help.

You said the stress is determined by how the word is pronounced within the context of the words around it. The context being the number of syllables for those other words?

For your example: 'I love to eat bread and cheese' I can see how 'TO' and 'AND' definitely sounds wrong to stress. And I can see/hear how 'LOVE' and 'BREAD' would be stressed, however, when I put my fingers to my throat (like someone suggested) I feel my throat extend/vibrate more for words like 'eat' and 'CHEESE,' so that they feel/sound more stressed to me than 'LOVE' and 'BREAD.'

Also, if I were to put 'once' at the beginning of a poem like:

Once upon a time
In a far off land
Was a kingdom sublime
A kingdom grand

'Once' feels/sounds like it would not be stressed because the iconic phrase 'once upon a time' has a certain flow to it that (to me) makes you want to stress 'time' much more than 'once.' So I guess if I were to put the stresses in, I'd do it like this (but I may be wrong):

once UPON a TIME
in a FAR off LAND
was a KINGDOM SUBLIME
a KINGDOM GRAND

You said that in music and poetry the stress of 1-syllable words is also determined by the rhythm of the measures, and to some extent, the notes. Going back to 'Amazing Grace' it's definitely easy to hear (upon re-singing it) when and what words are stressed because we know the song so well and the rhythm, notes, and tune really helps and tells us. Singing 'Twinkle, Twinkle, little star' to the tune of 'Row, row, row your boat,' definitely sounds disjointed and off. But how do we determine the rhythm, measures, and notes of a poem? And in poetry, what are those exactly?

Are songs and poetry exactly the same? Or are there some differences?

I've been writing poetry for a while (unpublished and as a personal hobby), but I'm just learning the terminology, structure, and techniques of the craft. Some things in poetry, I've done right and well instinctively without really knowing it or what it's called :lol:. (I've mostly learned from simply reading great poets, but never had any teaching/education about it until now.)

Thank you very much for the fascinating teaching and information. :) It's helping and I hope to learn some more.
"None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us."
Romans 8:37-39 (MSG) :superhappy

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Re: Be a Better Writer--MASTERING METER

Postby glorybee » Sun May 15, 2016 6:58 pm

Rivermusic wrote:
You said the stress is determined by how the word is pronounced within the context of the words around it. The context being the number of syllables for those other words?


No, the context is the sentence itself, and how it is normally spoken aloud.

Rivermusic wrote: For your example: 'I love to eat bread and cheese' I can see how 'TO' and 'AND' definitely sounds wrong to stress. And I can see/hear how 'LOVE' and 'BREAD' would be stressed, however, when I put my fingers to my throat (like someone suggested) I feel my throat extend/vibrate more for words like 'eat' and 'CHEESE,' so that they feel/sound more stressed to me than 'LOVE' and 'BREAD.'


I'm not sure of the value of putting one's fingers to one's throat to determine stress. Certain sounds (like lone 'eeee,' as you've discovered) will vibrate more than others, independent of whether or not they're stressed.

Rivermusic wrote: Also, if I were to put 'once' at the beginning of a poem like:

Once upon a time
In a far off land
Was a kingdom sublime
A kingdom grand

'Once' feels/sounds like it would not be stressed because the iconic phrase 'once upon a time' has a certain flow to it that (to me) makes you want to stress 'time' much more than 'once.' So I guess if I were to put the stresses in, I'd do it like this (but I may be wrong):

once UPON a TIME
in a FAR off LAND
was a KINGDOM SUBLIME
a KINGDOM GRAND


I'd do it a bit differently, which points to the fact that 'hearing' meter isn't an exact science. I'd write it this way:

ONCE up on a TIME
in a FAR off LAND
was a KING dom sub LIME
a KING dom GRAND

Quite close to the way you wrote it, but not exact.

Rivermusic wrote: You said that in music and poetry the stress of 1-syllable words is also determined by the rhythm of the measures, and to some extent, the notes. Going back to 'Amazing Grace' it's definitely easy to hear (upon re-singing it) when and what words are stressed because we know the song so well and the rhythm, notes, and tune really helps and tells us. Singing 'Twinkle, Twinkle, little star' to the tune of 'Row, row, row your boat,' definitely sounds disjointed and off. But how do we determine the rhythm, measures, and notes of a poem? And in poetry, what are those exactly?

Are songs and poetry exactly the same? Or are there some differences?


I'm not sure exactly what you're asking here, beyond things I've already said: stress is determined by natural speech, although it can be tweaked a bit within a poem, to fit a desired meter. A person with an ear for meter and rhythm will be able to 'hear' when that tweaking has crossed a line into awkwardness.

I've found, over the years, that some people are natural at 'getting' meter, and some will never get it. People who are musical are more likely to get it, but that doesn't mean that non-musical people won't get it. It just seems to be an innate abiliity, just as the ability to draw is.

Songs and poetry aren't exactly the same; they're first cousins, though.

Rivermusic wrote: I've been writing poetry for a while (unpublished and as a personal hobby), but I'm just learning the terminology, structure, and techniques of the craft. Some things in poetry, I've done right and well instinctively without really knowing it or what it's called :lol:. (I've mostly learned from simply reading great poets, but never had any teaching/education about it until now.)

Thank you very much for the fascinating teaching and information. :) It's helping and I hope to learn some more.


I feel as if I've let you down here, by not understanding your specific questions and by answering in generalities. Maybe if you have follow-up questions, you can include more specific examples. I can be a bit dense sometimes; if you ask me something two or three times, I'll eventually figure out what you're asking. :oops:
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Re: Be a Better Writer--MASTERING METER

Postby hwnj » Fri May 20, 2016 3:47 pm

Hi, Jan,

Since this thread happened to pop to the top, I couldn't resist. It makes me feel old to say that I started writing poetry forty years ago, but it has really been that long. I have always had a reasonable ear for meter, but have definitely gotten more fanatical about it over the years. While the content is often beautiful, I cringe at some of the meter that ends up in ECs occasionally.

I do get stuck using the same meters, and should branch out more...

This is the first stanza of my recent entry for the "north" challenge.

The world view war did not begin as Sumpter's dawn attack.
Indeed, its early skirmishes are clearest looking back.
The battlegrounds were legislatures, classrooms and the courts.
No uniforms were worn, no weapons borne as are in forts.

This is the 8-6-8-6, disguised in fourteen syllable lines. Looking more closely, though, you will note that it would be awkward to split the third and fourth lines, which is one reason I blend the lines, besides, I think, making for an easier flow for reading.

In "Ballad of Ones Beloved,"
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=52492
I used 9-8-9-8,
with stresses mainly on 2, 5, and 8, though some of the 9th syllables seem to have almost even stresses with the 8th. I also noticed, in terms of illustrating how one reads it, that I used "void" twice, once as two syllables, and once as one. Also, I used "Memories" as two, but had not replaced the O with an apostrophe. I think the rhythm here may have kept the tone a little lighter than iambic would have, but that may just be me. Also, I think there are spots that may illustrate how single syllable words seem to find their own stresses along the way.

Because I am passionate about poetry, I may go fish up a couple of more. :D
Holly

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Re: Be a Better Writer--MASTERING METER

Postby hwnj » Fri May 20, 2016 5:08 pm

Jan, thanks for the trip down memory lane. Perhaps I should go through and collect them... This is it, promise. :D

In "All Things New,"
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=52342
I went with the formality of iambic pentameter because it was intended to be repeating sonnets(you'll noticed I messed that up,) with the couplets serving as a shifting refrain/theme.

In "Maligned,"
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=50291
I used 12-9-12-9, with stresses mainly on 3-6-9-12. I feel like it gives it a rollicking, fun rhythm, even though there is some seriousness in it.

I feel that consistency is key. Even if it is not a standard meter, internal consistency will help keep the reader on an even keel.
Holly

"There are two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it." Edith Wharton

'It is better to be liked for the true you, than to be loved for who people think you are.'

"In order to realize the worth of the anchor, one needs to feel the stress of the storm." Daily Encouragement Net (Stephen & Brooksyne Weber)

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Re: Be a Better Writer--MASTERING METER

Postby glorybee » Fri May 20, 2016 8:22 pm

Holly, your meter is masterful, and I'm so glad you've gone fishing for some of your poems with exemplary rhythms.

I may ask you to write a lesson on meter that's sort of a part 2 to this one--yours to be aimed more at people who are ready to move beyond basics. Would you be willing to do that at some point? I've been doing these lessons for so long that I tend to run out of ideas, and more and more I'm relying on the expertise of others.

Think about it, please?

p.s. Nice to be in touch again.
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