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the art of poetry - the classes

Class 3 - Form your Poem

posted Aug 28, 2011, 6:37 AM by Peppy Bristlebrush   [ updated Aug 28, 2011, 6:39 AM by Bovso Oakengates ]

Welcome the third and final poetry lesson!
This will hopefully be the easiest of the lessons.
What you will learn about will contain a lot of flexibility for you to go and do your own thing.
But I do hope it will give you a good grounding, and give you plenty to ponder.

LESSON 3

In this lesson we will be learning about poetic forms.
By form I mean the number of lines in each verse of your poem, which lines rhyme, the length of each line, and sometimes the number of verses.
There are many, many different forms for poems, and many  have fancy names.
Some are quite open, and allow you vary the length and number of lines, but some are fixed though, and have strict rules to follow.

Firstly, we shall learn about very simple forms.

#I say to you#
#Good things come in two#

This is known as a rhyming couplet. It consists of two lines that rhyme.
Of course, you may not often write poems with two line verses. More likely, you will build up verses from couplets.

#It wasn't me who ate the cake#
#Coincidence my belly aches#
#I surely didn't lick the cream#
#I say it's not all as it seems#

I used this for the "It wasn't me" poem, amongst others.
In this case, I just wrote down a lot of couplets, and then picked-and-chose which ones to put together to form a verse.
That made it very easy to write the poem.

There is particular style of rhyming couplet that deserves a special mention.

#When trouble comes, the folk will call in need#
#The bravest hobbits riding noble steeds#

This is known as a Herioc Couplet, and verses that use the couplet are called Heroic Verses.
What it makes it heroic is the fact the rhythm of each line is nearly always "da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum"

#When TROU-ble COMES, the FOLK will CALL in NEED#
#The BRAV-est HOB-bits RID-ing NOB-le STEEDS#

The good thing is that your verses can be of any length, so it is quite easy to use.
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Exercise 1

Try writing your very own heroic couplet!
Remember to use the "da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum" rhythm.

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The fun really starts when you get to four lines!
Listen to this:

#Hobbits like cheering#
#Hobbits like singing#
#Hobbits like hearing#
#The sound of bells ringing#

If you noticed, alternate lines were rhyming. This is known as cross-rhyming.
When describing what lines rhyme, it is very common to use letters.
In this case, we would describe the rhyming scheme as "abab"
So, there first and third lines rhyme. As do the second and fourth lines

But before we proceed, it is worth mentioning something about the last poem.
Listen to the last two lines again

#Hobbits like hearing#
#The sound of bells ringing#

If you were speaking this, you would probably say it as just one sentence.

Hobbits like hearing the sounds of bells ringing

But to keep the form of my poem, I have had to spread it over two lines.
This is quite acceptable!
If the form of the poem is important, you can have your words run over into the next line.
Or you can even end them mid-line, and start a new one mid-line too!

Anyway, to proceed with other rhyming schemes, another possible way for rhymes is "abba"
Here is an example:

#It's cold outside the door#
#The ground is under snow#
#And cold the wind does blow#
#You long for sun once more#

This is known as envelope rhyming.
Two rhyming lines "Envelope" two other rhyming lines!

If you are feeling braver, here is another way to rhyme four lines

#Now the pantry is bare#
#There's no biscuits in there#
#And so gently you sob#
#And then turn and despair#

Here, the rhyming schema is "aaba", which involves three lines that rhyme.
You might consider this a bit trickier though, because you will need to find three rhyming words for each set of four lines.
Don't forget about Partial Rhymes then!

One thing to consider is that if you use one of these schemes, it doesn't necessary mean your verses all need to be four lines long.
You could, for example, join two sets of four lines to form a verse of eight lines.
It is also not unknown to use one of the rhyming schemes I have just mentioned, but end each verse with a rhyming couplet.
So, for example, your verse may have the scheme of "ababcc"

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Exercise 2

Try writing our some four verse poems, using a number of different rhyming schemes.
Try with "abab", "abba" and "aaba"

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One particular form of poem, which is usually built up of four lines is the "Ballad"
Ballads usually tell a story, and often amusing, but can be serious too.

The most common rhyming scheme used in ballads is "abcb"
So, only the second and fourth lines have to rhyme, which makes it very straight-forward to use.
But you can also use "abab" too.

But there is more to it than the rhmying scheme.
Ballads usually are written using the "da-Dum" rhythm.
Usually, the first and third lines have the rhythm "da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum"
And the second and fourth lines have the shorter rhythm  "da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum"

An example would help!

#And there the ancient hobbit sits#
#With many gathered round#
#Much silence in the Inn that night#
#There hardly was a sound#

Do you hear the "da-Dum" rhythm through-out?
And do you see how the second and fourth lines are shorter than the first and third.

I also used the form in my ballad about the  "Merry Hobbit"

#There lived a merry Hobbit Lad#
#He kept a merry hole#
#And every day he liked to go#
#For merry little strolls#

Although this is the traditional structure of the ballad, you can vary this quite a lot.
Maybe you want all your lines the same length.
Or maybe you want six lines instead of four!

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Exercise 3

Imagine you have been asked to write a ballad about Bullroarer.
Try and write the first two or three verses.

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So, far we looked at simple rhyming schemes, which lead to very open forms.
But there are some forms of poems which are very strict.
They have rules on the number of lines, what lines rhyme and even how long each line is.
There are many such "closed" forms, too many to mention, and often with fancy names!
I am going to look at just two types.
Feel free to go up and read about other closed forms available.

Firstly, a form you should all be familiar with.
It's called a "Limerick"

#There once was an old man of Scary#
#Whose feet were especially hairy#
#He took great delight#
#In giving folk frights#
#And scaring a young lass called Mary#

It's got five lines, and the rhyming scheme is "aabba".
Also notice how the third and fourth lines are shorter than the other three.
In fact, some folk say the lines should have a repeated "da-dum-da" rhythm, or a "da-da-dum" rhythm.
But you will hear many that don't, so don't worry too much!

The next sort of "closed" form is a bit longer, and is called a "Sonnet"
Lankyshanks use this to write romantic poems a lot.
It has a total of fourteen lines!
It consists of of three lots of 'cross-rhymed' lines, followed by a couplet
Or if you like... "abab cdcd efef gg"

Here is a sonnet, which I will read quiet quickly.

#To grow as tall and fine as mighty trees#
#That spread their roots so far across the land#
#With leaves that rustle gently on the breeze#
#And twigs on branches that reach out like hands#
#The oak, the beech, the elm the sycamore#
#So proudly standing tall throughout the years#
#With Springtime blooms and Summer fruits for all#
#And then Autumnal leaves do fall like tears#
#To see those trees that grow in fields alone#
#Those mighty kings surveying all they see#
#How proud they stand, yet standing on their own#
#Much better to live their with company#
#Sometimes I dream and wish that we all could#
#Just come together now, as trees in woods#

Another thing that is important in a sonnet is that all lines must have a rhythm of "da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum".
Five lots of "da-Dums"!
So, they are quite tricky to write, but ideal should you want to go an woo your favourite lad or lass!

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Exercise 4

Try writing your own limerick!

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As I mentioned before, there are so many forms of poetry out there.
Every time you hear or read a poem, keep an ear for what form it takes!
But not only that, there is a lot of scope to come up with your own too!
So, just get writing!

And that concludes the class!

Class 2 - It's Time to Rhyme

posted Aug 23, 2011, 7:13 AM by Peppy Bristlebrush   [ updated Aug 23, 2011, 7:15 AM by Bovso Oakengates ]

Welcome to part two of the poetry classes.

As with the previous lesson, you don't have to follow anything you learn here. You can go away and write your poems however you like.
However, I hope it provides a good starting point for you, and gives you plenty to think about.

LESSON 2

Most folk will be familar with words that rhyme, and having poems that rhyme is very common indeed. Of course, not all poems will have rhymes, but in this lesson will be concentrating on ones that do.

Given a word, it is usually fairly straight-forward to think of words that sound the same

For example "Tree"

Bee
Key
See
Me
Free
Bree

There are lots!

Some words have fewer rhymes, however.

For example,  Pig

Dig
Twig
Big

Without further ado, let's have an easy exercise!

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Exercise 1

There is a fine bard in Michel Delving. Suppose you are going to write a poem about her.
Think of some words that rhyme with "Bard"

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Now, here is a very short poem about a bard.

#There lived a very clever bard#
#The tunes she played were very hard#

Now listen listen to this slightly different version.

#There was a bard, whose tunes were hard#
#For she was very clever#

You see, were often think rhymes should go at the end of lines of poems. This is called End Rhyming.
But this in not always the case, sometimes the rhymes can go inside the line!
This is called Internal Rhyming.

End Rhyming is the most common way to rhyme, but feel free to use this Internal Rhyming too.

In both cases, the main challenge is picking words that rhyme.

Sometimes though, you may start working on a poem, and end a line with a word with few rhymes.
And then, you may end up picking a rather strange word, or having to alter the meaning of your line, to get it to rhyme.

#The hobbit's belly did give a rumble#
#He saw a bee that was a bumble#

This is best to be avoided!
Remember the lesson about rhythms? Your poem should sound natural.
If a word or line stands out just becasue you picked it to rhyme, you should consider changing it.

But don't panic! There are some tricks you can use.

For example,  what rhymes with "Bun"?

Fun
Sun
Won

Now, does "Bug" rhyme with "Bun"?

No?

In fact, the answer is Yes!

This is a technique known as a "Partial Rhyme". 
The middle "u" sound matches in both cases, but the very last bit of the sounds, "n" and "g", does not.

You could also have words like these:

Bud
Mud
Mum

Slightly differently, the following words are also Partial Rhymes

Can
Tin

In these cases, the very last "n" sound matches, but the middle sounds, "a" and "i", doesn't match the "u" sound.

An even better partial rhyme could be "Bin", because the first part of the word matches too.

Bun
Bin

By allowing Partial Rhymes, this gives you more flexibility in your rhyming.
Remember, you don't want to pick unusual words, or have odd sounding line, just because they rhyme exactly.

Partial Rhymes can work better as Internal Rhymes, but using them as End Rhymes is perfectly good too!

Now, it's your turn to think of some!

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EXERCISE 2

Think of some Partial Rhymes for the word  "Hop" and "Mask"

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So, far we have looked at very simple words. But, of course, there are much longer words we may need to rhyme

For, example, what rhymes with "Merry"

Very
Berry
Cherry

What wouldn't be so good, was to try and rhyme with the words "A Tree", for example.

#The hobbit was merry#
#He danced by a tree#

Now, the end "ry" and "ree" sounds match, but it still doesn't sound quite right.
The reason is to do with the rhythm!

Merry has a rhythm of "Dum-da"
#MER-ry#

But when we say "a tree", this has a rhythm of "da-Dum"
#a TREE#

We are trying to rhyme the weaker "ry" sound, with the stronger "REE" sound.

The main point is that for longer words, you want the 'stressed' bits to rhyme.
So, here "TREE" does not rhyme at all with the "MER" sound.

Similarly, consider the word "Beating"

#The drum is beating#
#It's quite an old thing#

Here, "beating" has the rhythm "Dum-da", but "old thing" has a rhythm "da-Dum".

#BEAT-ing#
#old THING#

Really, to rhyme with "beating", we should be looking to rhyme with "Beat"

Meeting
Seating
Tweeting

#The drums are beating#
#The birds are tweeting#

And word can be even longer still!
For example, the word "Disaster", which has a "da-Dum-da" rhythm

Master
Plaster
Faster

Even though they are shorter, they all these could be used.
They all have "Dum-da" rhythm to match the end of the word "disaster"

#The hobbit ran faster#
#To thwart a disaster#

Now, yet another exercise!

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EXERCISE 3

Come up with a three line poem, with each line ending in a word that rhymes with "clapping"
You can use "clapping" as one of the words if you like!

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One final thing to consider, is something with a fancy name, called "alliteration".
It's maybe easier to call it "Head-Rhyming" though.
Listen to this:

#Simbo sighed at the sight of a pie#
#Lina licked her lips at the biscuit#

Here, it is the start of the words that sound similar, not the ends of the words.

#Si-mbo Si-ghed at the Si-ght of a pie#

This head-rhyming was used quite a lot in very old hobbit poetry.
Indeed, the head rhymes would often form the actual rhythm of the poem, and not the 'da-dums' we learnt about!

But it still can be good to use head-rhymes in poems, as they can add a bit of emphasis here and there.

#Deep in the depths of the dark forest#

One final set of rhyming words is worth mentioning, although you may not use them that often.
Indeed, some folk frown upon using them at all!
Listen to these lines.

#The hobbits gave out lots of sighs#
#When they saw the biscuit's size#

"Sighs" and "Size" both sound exactly the same, but are spelt differently!

Other such rhymes could include "Weight" and "Wait", or "Nose" and "Knows"

#The hobbit lad, he knows#
#A spot is on his nose#

Now, listen to these lines

#The Shirriff, who was dressed so fine#
#Made the rascal pay a fine!#

Two words, "fine" and "fine" that are sound the same, are spelt the same, but mean two different things!

Would you use such rhymes often?
Maybe not!
One place where you may hear them, is at the end of longer words

#The hobbits took delight#
#To dance by firelight#

So, although we are rhyming the word "light" twice, it is at the end of longer words, so maybe it doesn't sound so odd.

One final exercise to round things off

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EXERCISE 4

Think of a single line of poetry that features your name, and at least two "Head Rhymes" for you name.

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And that concludes the class!

Class 1 - Get into the Rhythm

posted Aug 14, 2011, 1:23 AM by Peppy Bristlebrush   [ updated Aug 15, 2011, 3:18 AM by Bovso Oakengates ]

Before I start teaching I need to say that anything you learn here you don't have to follow. There are no real rigid rules about what makes a poem a poem. There are techniques and guidelines you can follow, but you can decide not to the follow them in the end!

The main thing is, if you choose to not follow the rules, you really need to know and understand what the rules are in the first place. So, feel free to take your poems places where other poets have yet to tread!

LESSON 1

When you think of poems you probably think of things that rhyme?

Well, in this first lesson we shall not actually be learning about rhymes, but about rhythm.

But what is the rhythm of the poem?

It's the secret heart of a poem!

Think of it as a heart-beat. Or maybe a drum beat. Just like a drum beats out a regular rhythm, with some loud beats, and some soft beats. Then your poem with have 'soft' and 'loud' beats too.

You see, when we speak, certain parts of words are pronounced slightly more 'strongly' than other parts of words. We call this putting 'stress' on parts of words. It is this 'stressing' of parts of words that form the rhythm of a poem.

Here is an example:

#She plays the lute#

The rhythm here is "da-Dum-da-Dum"

#She PLAYS the LUTE#

So 'plays' and 'lute' and said slightly more forcefully than 'she' and 'the'

But it doesn't have to be whole words. Here is another example:

#A lovely tune#

If you listen closely, the word 'Lovely' has two parts to it.

#LOVE-ly#

And it is the first part that is stressed here.

So, although the word "Lovely" on its own has a rhythm "Dum-da", the whole line still has a rhythm of "da-Dum-da-Dum"

#a LOVE-ly TUNE#
#da-Dum-da-Dum#


So, the basic unit in the rhythm is "da-Dum", and it is very common to build up your lines using this rhythm.

#She PLAYS a TUNE#
#She PLAYS a LOVE-ly TUNE#
#She PLAYS a QUITE de-LIGHT-ful TUNE#


Just listen closely to the following verse from the Poem-em.

#The POE-em HAS a RHY-thm TOO#
#It's LIKE a BEAT-ing DRUM#
#A SIM-ple BEAT will WORK quite WELL#
#da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum#


The first and third lines are da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum.
And the second and third lines are da-Dum da-Dum da-Dum.

But the main thing is the use of 'da-Dum' through-out, to keep a nice regular rhythm to the poem.

Exercise 1

Come up with a two line poem.
It doesn't have to rhyme, but the rhythm of each line must consist of five lots of "da-Dum"s

#da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum#

Here is one I prepared earlier....

#In Little Delving lived a Hobbit lad#
#He liked to eat a cheese and mushroom pie#


Can you hear the "da-Dum" rhythm in that?

Now, it's your turn!

End of Exercise 1

Now, are they any other rhythms you can use?
There are!

Very similar is a "Tum-ti" beat

#Tum-ti-Tum-Ti-Tum-ti#

For example...

#Cheese is nice for dinner#
#CHEESE is NICE for DIN-ner#


#Carrots, Peas and Onions#
#CAR-rots, PEAS and ON-ions#


I used this rhythm in a poem about fireworks

#SWIRLS of COL-ours FORM in VIEW#
#RAIN-bows DANC-ing WAY up HIGH#
#Forming patterns bright and new#
#Lighting up the evening sky#


Although, in this case, I dropped the very last 'ti' from the rhythm. his is a perfectably acceptabe thing to do, and I will explain more very soon!

But if you are feeling adventurous, how about this one?

#da-da-Dum!#
#da-da-Dum-da-da-Dum-da-da-Dum#


Although that is a bit trickier, to use it is a very nice flowing rhythm. A bit like the sound of pony hooves pounding on the ground.

For example, listen to the Biscuit Poem

#Now the PAN-try is BARE#
#There's no BIS-cuits in THERE#
#And so GENT-tly you SOB#
#And then TURN and de-SPAIR#


And similarly, there is this rhythm

#Tum-ti-ti#
#Tum-ti-ti-Tum-ti-ti-Tum-ti-ti#


For example....

#EAT all the PIES in the PAN-try now#
#DEEP in the FOR-est, the TREES are all WALK-ing there#


Exercise 2

Come up with two separate lines.
The first one should have a "Tum-ti-Tum-ti-Tum-ti" rhythm
The second one should have a "da-da-Dum-da-da-Dum" rhythm

#HOB-bits EAT-ing CAR-rots#
#They are EAT-ing the PIES#


End of Exercise 2

Just remember, although there different types of rhythm, like "da-Dum", "Tum-ti" and "da-da-Dum", it is usually better to stick with a consistent rhythm thoroughout your poem.

One thing to be careful of, is how you pick words to fit the rhythm.

Try to avoid picking unusual or fancy words just because you need one to fit. Your poem should sound natural. If a word stands out as different simply because you picked it for the rhythm, then you should really try changing things.

Also, be careful of using words where you have to stress part of words that normally wouldn't be stressed. So, for example, "Happy" is always a Tum-ti beat, and so you should not use it where you want a "da-Dum" beat.

#HAP-py#

But, don't panic!

There are some tricks you can use where you can a have slight variation in the rhythm. For example, listen to this line from the Poem-em again...

#The poem has a rhythm too#

This should have a "da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum" rhythm.

But actually, when you speak this line, the word 'has' is not really stressed.

#The PO-em has a RHY-thm TOO#

The rhythm is actually "da-Dum-da-da-da-Dum-da-Dum"

#da-Dum-da-da-da-Dum-da-Dum#

What I have done, is swapped a "da-Dum" for a "da-da"!

See, that is alright to do, for the overall rhythm still flows quite nicely. In this particular case, using a "da-da" instead of a "da-dum" works better near the end of the line.

Now, listen to this line, from the waterfall poem

#But in despair does all the water call#
#Like teardrops dripping sadly on the ground?#


Listen closely to the first line

#BUT in de-SPAIR does ALL the WA-ter CALL#

I've used a "Tum-ti" at the start instead of a "da-dum". Or maybe you can think of it like this

#Dum-da-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum#

Again, this is alright, especially at the very start of each line. It is the number of 'stressed' parts that is the most important thing here.

Exercise 3

Come up with two separate lines.
The first one should have a "da-Dum-da-Dum-da-da-da-Dum" rhythm
The second one should have a "Dum-da-da-Dum-da-Dum-da-Dum" rhythm

End of Exercise 3

And that concludes the lesson.

Don't worry if you can't take all of this in to start with. Just keep your ears out for all the rhythms of words you hear all around you!

OOC: When I started writing poems, I had no idea about what the rhythm of a poem was (More accurately known as the 'meter'). It is only in my later poems that you will start to see a more consistent use of rhythm in them, when I finally learnt about such things myself!

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