Friday, September 6, 2013

How to Play with Poetry (in a fun metrical way!)

I wonder what it was like to live in the days when writing poetry was something everyone did on a very regular basis and they were exchanged along with carefully crafted correspondence, read with great anticipation and a wide open heart rather than a cynical sneer.

You’ve seen the Jane Austen movies where the women gather around to hear the poetry and letters read aloud. All the cooing and eyelash fluttering – I admit it, I love it and not so secretly wish I was there with them. 

Back then, people practiced writing poetry both on paper and in their heads.

They read oodles of poetry on a daily basis, so the idea of musicality with words was as much a part of their lives as extravagant layers of undergarments. 

I’m not so much a fan of wearing a corset everyday – though occasionally it is fun – but I am living the life of reading poetry every day, oftentimes aloud with a British accent if you must know, in order to soak up the music of poetry: especially metrical verse that may seem dated by some of today’s poets and poetry lovers. 

I even believe there is a place for metrical verse in today’s literary canon. There is much to be learned from our forepoets who studied the sounds of poetry and rejoiced in the combinations of vowels and consonants, metaphor and engaging storytelling with tiny little secrets tucked away in the third stanza that only one or two might understand.

In fact, listening to hip hop poets may be very helpful to poets in other styles get the feeling for what metrical verse sometimes sounds like.

The other night I took my friend’s nine-year-old son to a comedy improv show and we started to discuss Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I realized the young man might not be familiar with Shakespeare so I asked if he knew of the Bard and he said, “Isn’t he a poetry guy or something?”

I loved this response. I said, “Oh, yes. He a poetic playwright.” I hope I piqued the interest of my young friend, just like I hope today I pique your interest. There was a time when I challenged myself to write Villanelle daily and then Rondolet daily and then other forms of metrical verse daily.

Do you know what this did? 

It allowed rhyme and rhythm and meter to flow into my veins. Later that season, when I was performing my monologue from Shakespeare’s Winter Tale I fumbled over some lines but was able – please, William Shakespeare, forgive me – to rhyme my way out of the mess I had made and go right back into the verse as written.

See? It is fun to play with metrical verse and it does pay off in unexpected ways!

~ Julie Jordan Scott

Some links/resources for more metrical poetry play:


  1. I never could understand meter so sonnets was out of question . But i always had fun with syllables and rhyming patterns.

    One of my aim this October would be to try those long poetry forms again ..

    1. When I first started playing with metrical verse, I didn't worry so much about the meter. As I continued, the meter sort of found me. :~)

      Long forms can be very fun, too. I started a book length poem once... but didn't follow through, unfortunately. It may be time to try again!

  2. I love rhyme and rhythm and metre. My favourite verse form to write and read is the sonnet, especially the Italian form. It is definitely very challenging, but I live for the challenge.

    1. I love the Rondolet and the Villanelle. I am not the world's biggest sonnet fan - and yet, I value learning it. Sometimes I just write lines and later string them together. I wonder if other poets do it that way.

  3. Thank you for this post, Julie. I cut my teeth on metered poetry. My mother read poems to me quite often when I was growing up. Some were from famous poets, but many were her own original creations. When I began writing my own poetry, I found myself drawn to the Villanelle. There's just something about that form that resonates with my own heartbeat.

  4. One of the things that I love is that the more fun I have with poetry the more I want to learn about it. Even though I don't like rules I am now discovering I love learning more and more about poetry and how it can be written and read. Thanks Julie!