Putting Poetry Into Practice

Last week we delved into the realm of iambic tetrameter. After we review a bit, I’m going to give some examples. Remember that an iamb is a metrical foot consisting of one short, or unstressed, syllable followed by a long, or stressed, syllable. Tetrameter means there are four beats per line. The unit is counted in syllables that are unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, and stressed. Maybe an easier way to feel this is to say duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH. Either way, the point is simple. Four beats, unstressed, stressed, and a whole lot of rhythmic emotion. Another reason I used it for Beowulf: The Midgard Epic stems from the natural feeling accommodated by reading it aloud.

But when I say unstressed, stressed, or duh-Duh, how does that apply to actual words? Let’s take a look.

A maiden fair came round the way

A is unstressed … the duh.
Maiden has two syllables. Mai gets the stressed accent, and den gets the unstressed. Wr are now at duh-DUH-duh.
Fair is stressed. DUH. (Feels very valley girl, right?)
Came, unstressed, round, stressed, the, unstressed, way, stressed.

A maiden fair came round the way
duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH

And there it is! Let’s do another.

Above the castle keep to play

Above has two syllables. duh-DUH.
The, duh, castle, DUH-duh.
Keep, stressed, to, unstressed, play, stressed.

Above the castle keep to play.
duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duh-DUH

Now it’s time to practice what I preach!

A maiden fair came round the way
Above the castle keep to play
Rapunzel, letting down her hair
Unto the prince who met her there
And climbed atop the tower wall
As she would loose her locks to fall
And all was fine in love and life
Until the witch came with a knife
Removing all the hair in length
Appearing to deplete the strength
Of what the two in love had shared
Rapunzel cried; how she despaired
But came the prince in secret path
And lo, the witch felt all his wrath
Disposed of, falling to her death
As down below, her final breath
Escaped her lips as shadows draped
Rapunzel and her prince escaped
Departing in the setting sun
Another happy ending won …

There you have it! A brief retelling of Rapunzel in iambic tetrameter. Feel free to try one yourself and leave it in my comments below. Until next time, happy writing!image

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Author: jamesmatthewbyers

James Matthew Byers resides in Wellington, Alabama with his wife, kids, a dog named after an elf, and two tortoises. He has been published in poetry journals and through Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL, where he received his Master's in 2010. His next epic poem, Beowulf: The Midgard Epic, will be published by Stitched Smile Publications, LLC in late 2017.

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