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!
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