MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS PART II: More about poetry and rhythm

How does a poet maintain the rhyme and rhythm of a poem?  This has always baffled me.  Basically, he/she uses repetition, the repetition of stressed and unstressed syllable patterns partially, maybe primarily, but also the repetition of words and phrases.  Shifts in pace are important also, and serve to set off or mark important passages, but the changes of pace must be right psychologically.  Changes in pace or rhythmical patterns indicate the psychological mind-set of the poet.  It also allows the reader to think in the same thought patterns of the poet.  Good rhythms reflect natural breath units.  Just as one teaches a child to read in thought groups as opposed to word calling, the poet must allow the reader to assimilate the poem in rhythms that follow natural thought groups in order to transmit the desired meaning.

The poet extends the rhythm of the poem with line length. He can vary the line widely, stretching it out in a lulling fashion or bring it to an abrupt stop for emphasis.  Often toward the end of the poem, a poet will wind down to shorter and shorter lines.

The poet who writes in free verse seems to me to have a greater obligation to keep in touch with the meaning of what is being said, for the rhythms are not dictated but spontaneous, and it must be imaginatively “right” or it doesn’t work.  Perhaps it is partially rhythm that permits poetry to extend from the conscious to the unconscious and to recapture what has been lost in prose.  Rhythm in poetry is perhaps as Robert Frost wrote about poetry in general, “…that part that can’t be translated.”


Author: Rae Longest

This year marks my fiftieth year in AAUW (American Association of University Women). The Alvin chapter was begun in 1947, and as a new, green teacher to Alvin Independent School District, I joined in 1968. In the 80's we began a book group to share our love of reading, books,and fellowship with other women and girls who loved the same. We resurrected the group on-line in September of 2015. Eventually Powerful Women Readers folded as an on-line book club, but I kept the title and turned it into a blog. (See "Introduction,"first blog). This is my first experience at blogging or publishing anything and is becomes more fun with each blog posted. I am currently teaching as an adjunct at The University of Houston Clear Lake. This makes my 28th year there after three years at Alvin Community College and an almost-twenty year career as a classroom teacher with Alvin Independent School District. Reading and writing are "in my blood" just like teaching is. I hope you enjoy the blog.

3 thoughts on “MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS PART II: More about poetry and rhythm”

  1. We talked about rhyme in our group of judges who are trying to pick the best fiction picture book of the year. I told the group that sing-song rhyme puts me off and that surprised another judge. Some people apparently think that rhyme is a necessary component of a picture book. It can be tedious to read a whole book of predictable rhymes.

    Liked by 1 person

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