Poetry – Some basics

What is Poetry?

Our lesson this week covered some of the basic facts about poetry.  Poetry is rhythm and rhyme both seen and heard.

Where did it first originate?

Many years ago when story telling began, one of the reasons poetry was developed was as an aid to help the story teller remember what he was going to tell:


What should a poem physically look like?

The answer is that it depends on what you’re writing.  There are lots of different forms of poetry.  For example, it can be four lines with a break in between followed by another four lines and so on.  Or, it could start with the first verse being two lines long and then each consequential verse be increased by an extra line.  There is nothing to stop it spreading across your page, be irregular in shape or even form a picture etc.

 How is the sound of a poem shaped?

A poem is shaped by beats and syllables.

Out of interest take a look at Haiku poetry:


Some poets write everything in syllables and rhyme.  Some poems are set up to rhyme in expectation.

A syllable is:   http://www.thefreedictionary.com/syllable

The word syllable contains 3 syllables: 1) syl 2) la 3)ble.

A beat is the stress sound on a word.  The stress sound on the word apple would be on the letter a.  The stress sound on the word until would be on the letter t.  The beat is the rhythm of a poem when it’s being read.  Just like songs have a rhythm.

Around the turn of the 1900’s people started to turn to modern art and poetry.  They moved away from what some would call dull poetry and adopted the new exciting free verse:


Poetry is physical; it has heartbeat and physical energy because of its patterns.  Sometimes when we hear poetry being read to us there is no need to see it written down on a page; for example when we listen to rapping.

A very visual form of poetry is a concrete poem:


You can see some of the lovely images here:


In fact the shapes of these types of poems can be more interesting than the poems themselves.

Look at these old fashioned greetings cards from the early 1900’s in comparison:




Sometimes the ear is better than using the eye and vice-versa to enjoy the poem.

A poem with definite rhythm can replicate the sounds of something familiar like the sea perhaps.  Replicating sounds can be cleverly done by the use of rhyming couplets:


Poets use rhyming couplets instinctively when creating their poetry.  Rhymes help the poems flow.  Long lines in a poem can help you slow the pace and they can make you pay tribute to each and every word.  Poems can develop in layers and give dual meanings depending on what the reader wants to think and feel, for example in the poem:


The poem is about the sea and it could be about life too.

Other forms of poems contain alliteration which gives the richness of sound patterns; it is not fashionable to use alliteration today:


Repeated sounds and sound patterns are fun, invoking your senses.  When we hear a word rhyming, it stands proud in our thoughts.

Verses and stanzas are useful in poems; they help give them shape and are used as convenient stopping places.  A verse is a sequence of words arranged metrically according to some system of design; a single line of poetry.  A stanza is a group of lines of verse forming one of the divisions of a poem or song. It is typically made of four or more lines of verse and typically has a regular pattern in the number of lines and the arrangement of meter (basic rhythmic structure) and rhyme.

If you’ve never tried writing a poem before why not find some examples and give it a go?

I hope that you have found this article useful, please feel free to comment and share.

Thank you

Lee. 🙂


2 thoughts on “Poetry – Some basics

  1. Halloween Poem
    Glenn Willis
    There was an old house,
    Near the foot of a hill,
    In the shade of a huge old tree.
    It’s windows were broken,
    The door hung wide open,
    One last shutter banged often in glee.

    Six boys on a dare,
    Crept up in the dusk,
    To prove they had hair,
    (you know where).
    They brought along snacks,
    And a couple six packs,
    Two candles, three lights, and a flare.

    A broken old rocker,
    Was knocked apart proper,
    The pieces then stacked for a fire.
    In spreading their bedding,
    They made the dust fly,
    So choking they unscrewed a top,
    Toasted, awhile the sparks did pop,
    Sipping to the lines of each lie.

    “Why, I remember the time,
    When I fought with a lion,
    And beat him to death with a book.”

    “Hah, I spent some time,
    On a Louisiana chain gang,
    And beat out twenty years,”
    (He was drinking those beers.)
    “With the help of a man with a hook!”

    The third one chimed in,
    “You guys don’t know sin!
    I’ll tell you a tale from my past.
    Once on a long sail,
    With a whaler named Snail,
    We ran out of wind,
    The sheets hung so thin;
    We got stuck in an ocean,,, stuck fast.

    “The breeze would not come,
    Then we ran out of rum,
    Crackers and Spam were the last thing to go.
    The two of us lazed,
    In the sun, ’bout half crazed,
    (I dream’t ‘bout ham, glazed),
    So I called out to Snail, don’t you know?

    “But he wouldn’t answer,
    Though I called, and I searched.
    So I looked in the fridge for my mate.
    It was filled with prime rib,
    Leg bones and a gizzard,
    And I ate like a man from a plate.

    “Snail never showed up,
    But a wind in a gust,
    Gave me hope, to get back to harbor.
    It was after awhile,
    I put rib and neck bones together,
    And figured where I got my larder.”

    The fourth boy Jumped on,
    The stories they’d started,
    And spoke of a bear he had slain with a rake.
    Then claimed he had wore,
    The skin with it’s fur,
    To a king’s coronation, on a lake.

    The fifth boy was more tame,
    The bravest he’d been,
    Per his story was to cheat on a test.
    So the last boy was strapped,
    And made up a yarn,
    In a bid to outdo all the rest.

    He blew a smoke ring,
    Then opened one more,
    And took a long pull to get wet.
    Five attentions went rapt,
    As he gathered his breath,
    For a tale to someday repeat.

    “Walking home late one night,
    In cloud speckled moonlight,
    A groan stopped me fast in my track.
    The trees rustled silver,
    In a breeze hustled shiver,
    That chilled, thrilled all the bones in my back.

    “I peered through the edge,
    Of a forest unchecked,
    Overgrown and hanging with vines,
    My blood turned to Ice,
    I screamed out, “NO!” twice!
    As a red wolf lept into my face!

    “His lunge knocked me down,
    Hot breath flushed my face.
    Growls bared fangs sharp as thorns.
    In cascade, between teeth,
    His drool flooded my cheek,
    Wide eyes glowed yellow with scorn.

    “I knew I was dead,
    My arms and face bled.
    Though I fought like a demon,
    He would not dissuade.”

    The boy’s eyes flashed bigger,
    As his movements came faster,
    His fingers did swagger to the words of his tale.
    The listeners enthralled,
    Did not notice his jaws,
    Stretch out while teeth grew and glistened.
    Wild screams rent the night,
    And with the come of daylight,
    Only one boy walked home from their mission.

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