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Marking Up A Poem



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Aley says...



Marking Up A Poem


When you're analyzing a poem, you may want to know if it has a certain structure or not. Knowing the structure can give you a better understanding of what the author was trying to accomplish with what they wrote before you start to review. A good place to start is by determining whether the poem rhymes, and to see if it has a certain meter.

When you're attempting to determine the rhyme scheme, or the name of the poetic meter, then you're going to want to do something known as marking up a poem. There are three parts to marking up a poem: identifying the rhyme scheme, how many syllables are in a line, and what the stresses of those syllables are.

Index
Rhyme Scheme
Syllables per Line
Naming Meter and Type

  





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Aley says...



Rhyme Scheme

Rhyme is quick. Read the last word of every line, and assign an alphabet letter to each word, if it rhymes with a previous word, then it gets the same letter as the previous word. Put in a space for each stanza break.

Example One:

    The girl in the hat - a
    struck a rainbow with a bat - a
    and she sailed to her motherland. - b

    She gave the pot of gold to her cat - a
    who loved to lay in the sand - b
    and was famous for what she canned. - b

This poem would have the rhyme scheme of aab abb.

If it is the exact same line/word as the previous line/word, then it gets a capital letter, if it is a different word that rhymes, then it gets a lower case letter.

Example Two:

    She sailed like a ghost - A
    of the wicked white, and most - a
    terrifying thing to ever be seen. - b

    She sailed on the scene - b
    they screamed "Ghost, Ghost!" - A
    but all they ended up with was cream - b

This poem would have a rhyme scheme of Aab bAb

If you have more than one refrain that rhymes with another refrain, you can add numbers. One example of a form with a rhyming refrain is the villanelle which is written in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme of A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2. The next example is a villanelle to show this.

Example Three:

    Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
    Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

    Do not go gentle into that good night, - A1
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day; - b
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - A2

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right, - a
    Because their words had forked no lightning they - b
    Do not go gentle into that good night, - A1

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright - a
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, - b
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - A2

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, - a
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, - b
    Do not go gentle into that good night, - A1

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight - a
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, - b
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - A2

    And you, my father, there on the sad height, - a
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. - b
    Do not go gentle into that good night, - A1
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - A2

The use of capital letters isn't always true for some websites, so if you're trying to write in a certain format, reading the description is the best way to see if the the form calls for refrains or not.

I'll be using the following short poem to walk you through the process of marking up:

    Contented John is now - a
    to see you dancing with - b
    the summer sun and give - c
    the loudest laugh, my kid. - d[/c]

"Give" "with" and "kid" are slant rhymes because of the "i" sound in the two words, but because nothing else rhymes in this poem, I'm going to say that this poem does not have a rhyme scheme.

  





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Aley says...



Syllables per Line

Next we have to break it up into syllables per line. To do this, break each line apart based on how you hear the syllables. Check out Syllable Counting, if you can't 'hear' the syllables.

If you're still having problems breaking words down into syllables, you can always look in a dictionary since most dictionaries list the syllable breakdown as part of the pronunciation information.

    Con-ten-ted John is now - 6
    to see you dan-cing with - 6
    the sum-mer sun and give - 6
    the loud-est laugh, my kid. - 6

After breaking up the syllables like this, you can see how many syllables are in each line. You can make a note of the syllable counts as you go, or you may choose just to count after you finish breaking the entire poem down into syllables. Either way works.

The last part of marking up is syllable stress.

Stresses of Syllables

Read the words and listen for what sounds the loudest/hardest/longest. If you're having a hard time hearing this, you can always look in a dictionary since most dictionaries also denote the stresses of syllables as part of the pronunciation information.

    "con-TEN-ted JOHN is NOW
    to SEE you DAN-cing with
    the SUM-mer SUN and GIVE
    the LOUD-est LAUGH, my KID"

This shows us how the poem is marked up. As you can see, I just built this into the poem and dropped the rhyme scheme off after discovering that there is no rhyme scheme. This poem is marked up well enough we can name it.

  





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Naming Meter and Type

The final goal of marking up is to actually identify the type of poem. In this case, I already know that I didn't write our poem with the intent to make it a type of form poem. Looking at a list of the different types of poetic forms, however, our example poem comes closest to a ballad which is a rhymed iambic trimeter or tetrameter poem.

To understand how I got to iambic trimeter, look at the stresses we marked out. It is unstressed, stressed. If you look up a list of poetic feet (such as the one in Secret Treasures in Poetic Devices), you'll see that the pattern of stresses matches up with iambic.

We know it's not a three-syllable foot because the xXx amphibrachius pattern doesn't repeat, and there's not enough room for xXxX to repeat twice, so it's not a diiamb either. That means it's iambic, with three repeats per line, and thus iambic trimeter, also known as Iambic tetrameter.

Our poem is unrhymed, so it doesn't quite fit the ballad bill, but I can still say that this is an unrhymed iambic trimeter poem. If I wanted to write another one of these, I would just have to write another iambic trimeter poem which was unrhymed.

For a look at all of the different possible styles you might find and all their variations, I like to use Shadow Poetry, but I also have compiled a list with all the different variations of structured poetry which you can view here.

  








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Almost all absurdity of conduct rises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.
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