Class 1 - Get into the Rhythm

Post date: Aug 14, 2011 8:23:56 AM

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!


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.


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#


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




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


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


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


#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?



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



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.


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"


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


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!