So You Want To/Write Scheme and Scansion

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
How-To Guide

/wiki/So You Want Towork

Poetry is a great way to express one's creativity. It can be imaginative and express a variety of complex ideas. Writing poetry, however, requires proper scheme and scansion.

English poems use a variety of schemes. A common one is the sonnet: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. It was popularized by William Shakespeare. Here is a list of schemes:

Scansion is more complex. Poets use syllables and emphasis to create the flow of their works. English poems, usually, use multiples of four syllables and iambic. Iambic emphasises every second syllable. It was, also, popularized by Shakespeare.

Needs a Better Description and specific scansions.

Feet[edit | hide | hide all]

In poetry, a foot is a measure used when two or more beats get together in a recognizable pattern. Here are some of the most common:

  • Iamb: one-two
  • Trochee: one-two
  • Anapest: one-two-three
  • Dactyl: one-two-three
  • Spondee: one-two

There's a little poem I learned to remember the first four:

The iamb saunters through my book
Trochees rush and tumble
While the anapest runs like a hurrying brook
Dactyls are stately and classical

It takes a little more work to use a spondee, since you have to choose words that can't be unaccented in a line. For example, the phrase "dead weight," which generally can't be shortcutted to deadweight or deadweight but will be read dead... weight.

Meters[edit | hide]

The one everyone knows the name of is Iambic Pentameter. Since "penta" means "five," this means "a line with five iambic feet." William Shakespeare was known for using this one in English free verse, which means the rhythm stayed pretty steady but there were few to no specific rhymes.

Bear in mind, too, that just because you set out to write Iambic Pentameter (or any other meter) doesn't mean that you have to use an iamb as every single foot. Shakespeare certainly didn't! You can substitute a trochee at times, or a spondee for emphasis; you might even add some syllables to make one of the longer feet. The number of stressed beats per line, and the major pattern staying iambic, that's what makes Iambic Pentameter. But what you're aiming for is a line that sounds as if someone were actually talking - nothing forced or unnatural about it.

That's what's really great about Iambic Pentameter: It sounds a lot like just regular ol' English.

Now, as far as other meters: Just pick the number of feet you want. There are names for each (Tetrameter - four; Hexameter - six), but you don't need to worry about the names too much. Now, as far as common usage, a couple good ones are:

  • Four feet per line
  • Four feet the first line, three feet the next line
    • This one forms the basis of many hymns
  • Six feet per line
  • Six feet the first line, five feet the next line

Specific Poems[edit | hide]

Limerick[edit | hide]

Let's start with the well-known Limerick. This is constructed primarily with Anapests, and uses lines of 3, 3, 2, 2, 3, with only two rhymes:

A man who was dining in Crewe
Found a rather large mouse in his stew
Said the waiter, Don't shout
And wave it about
Or the rest will be wanting one, too!

As with any poetic, you can have fun by breaking people's expectations:

A decrepit old gas man named Peter,
While hunting around for the meter,
Touched a leak with his light,
He arose out of sight,
And, as anyone can see by reading this, it also destroyed the meter.

Rondel[edit | hide]

Now that we're moving into longer forms, it'll be harder to stick with just two rhymes. But that's what's required for the Rondel. However, it helps a bit that the Rondel sets up two lines that get repeated as a refrain. We'll use capital letters for the repeated lines:

  • Verse 1: ABba
  • Verse 2: abAB
  • Verse 3: abbaA

...anyway, hope someone continues from where I've left off here!