Rhythm and Meter

Each word contains what known as syllables, a feint break in the word’s pronunciation where we say one syllable with more stress than another. Some words may only have one syllable and that is, of course, the stressed one. Take the following words:

  • ant: ant
  • banana: buh-nan-uh
  • aardvark: ahrd-vahrk
  • contraction: kuhn-trak-shuhn

The emboldened phrase in each of the pronunciations is where we place the emphasis. We naturally do this in speech and have learned throughout our lives how to do this without concentrating on it. The goal of the poet is to take advantage of this natural meter in the word and use them to their advantage. Poets didn’t invent the sounds and accents of language, but can employ them to set the pace of our poems.

Rhythm is the recurrence of stressed syllables within a poem. It is the beat and pace of a poem created by the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line or a verse. We measure rhythm in metrical feet and one metrical foot usually contains one stressed and one or two unstressed syllables. Use rhythm to generate mood or tone that will affect the reader in either positive or negative ways.

Since we theorize that there is a link between rhythm and the human heartbeat, it is only natural that the reader can become excited, slowed down, or stopped completely with a wonderful poem. There is also, allegedly, a link between evolution and rhythm, and emotion and rhythm so the natural rhythms of life have always effected humans.

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