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The Rudiments of Poetry by Hetty Nassau-Austen

This submission is a link with Les Stephenson's November column: Split Infinitives.
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The Rudiments of Poetry


by Hetty Nassau-Austen*



Hope this helps and won't offend, perhaps a more experienced friend.

It's really for the starting crew, who write with heart but have no clue
about the use of a poetry tool - and are prepared to go to school!  So here you sit with pen in hand, trying your best to understand.

Release that block, for here you'll see the Rudiments of Poetry! Don't be afraid to walk away from work that fills you with dismay.  Accept what others can reveal. Don't write about what you can't feel.  Make the Opening Line so strong, it pulls the reader in and along  and Ending Lines should summarize, philosophize or just - surprise!

The layout's crucial and in time, you'll learn to place a single line:-

Traditional : Couplet Tercet Quatrain1 is used in Trad. poems again and again.

Free Verse : is a form
of release -
and flows
down in a

Prose : is a strange and wondrous prop, for writing long sentences
(but you need to know where to stop.)

There are many poetic forms; in poetry, there are no 'norms'
Sonnet2 ballad3 ode4 and haiku5 - You'll find your strength, styles to suit you.
You must write with flourished passion! (keep an eye on poetry fashion)
Choose any form, pick a layout, but poems won't be good without:-

The Rules:-

Similes and Metaphors, touched with Personification
are tools that unlock many doors, to lyrical elevation.

simile : is like a grin, that beams a light and draws you in;
evokes an image, penned in ink. Comparisons make readers think.

Metaphors : are seas of motion - (try a noun before emotion.)
Buckets of hope, bricks of despair - add an intense lyrical flair.

Personification : is the breath, fills themes with life and gives them depth.
An old tin can's an old tin can - but what you if name the can, 'Tim?'
What if it mirrors thoughts within? Use empathy and poems win.

Alliteration : apt, agile. Softly sows a sibilant style.
Mastering a malleable mind, forces flurries of words to find.

Assonance : is the vowel sound and wows the masses who've now found
words used with the vowel being the same are swords to wield now and again.

Consonance : is the close repeat of consonants! Like 'soot' and 'feet'
as a near rhyme, is also
known and mown by some; a much-loved lawn
(When read aloud may sound absurd, but silently word rhymes with word)

Onomatapeia : This, is aural sound like clang and hiss
The sound reflects the written word, the definition read AND heard.
(Bend an ear, I'll give you a tip. There are oral Os zzzzzzzip!)

Meterage : the defined amount

beats per line, stressed words to count

(These lines will show you, I am sure, that each one has a count of 4.

Meterage is the rhythm and beat that guides a poem till complete
You can vary it line by line - 1st 4, then 9, then 4, then 9
but keep consistent in the verse or it sounds rough, stilted or worse.
If starting as a raw recruit, a regular meterage will suit
structure that proves easy to make, yet think your passionate prose is fake.
If you write the other way round; explosive thoughts, deep and profound
you may find this tricky to do, or feel it conceals the real you.

Syl-la-bles : are the next to view.
Can af-fect flow and rhyth-m too.
If you count stresses in each word, 8 and 8 is what you'd have heard.
Just keep-ing watch-ful war-y eyes on syl-la-ble counts is ver-y wise
(because otherwise your tongue will trip over your teeth to keep to the rhythm.)

Iambic : is the 2nd stress - "I felt her touch, her calm caress"
Unstressed, then stressed Iambic beat is used in any count of feet.

Trochaic : is this way around - "Hope my heart will soon be found"

Spondaic : hope you clearly see in "Me! Me! Me! count One! Two! Three!"

I find 3rd words stressed in lines are, the hardest task to do by far:
pest is the third stress in line you will see
This is a Dactyl (first stress of the three)

Now we come to the final round ("Thank God for that!" I hear you sound)
Footage can be a tricky fiend, but understood, is a good friend.
These names above, in metered rhyme, are stresses named within a line
and now below in rhyming beat, I'll give the titles of those feet:-

Monometer : is rare to find -
"Plate of
springs to my mind
(1 foot this line, one stressed, one not, a monometer hits the spot)

Dimeter? the feet are two
Here is one
prove to you
how smooth
can be done

Trimeter has a foot of three
do you get the picture?
Yes I think we see

Tetrameter expands the floor
(the footage, for this term, is four)
gives you room to do much more"

With Pen
tameter, a poem lightly penned
beats, are stressed per line from start to end.
Shakespeare's favourite beat Iambic prose
years, this was the beat the poets chose

A final note: it's really good, that punctuation's understood
A full stop. Question? Clap; applause - this tool helps flow, or puts a pause,
on words that may need reeling in. Can highlight words. To feel. Within.
Grammar poor? - don't worry your head. With grace, be prepared to be led
by others' strengths and gifts, be glad - bad grammar won't make your work bad.

Oh dear me, has the structure slipped, as through the rules you've quickly skipped?
It doesn't matter, that's okay - come back to it another day!
Don't let yourself be too surprised, if you find the piece needs to be revised.
Rewrites, rewrites, always the curse, of those who show their hearts in verse.



1.  A couplet is a 2 line stanza, a tercet, a 3 liner, a quatrain 4.
2. Sonnet - is a poem written in a particular format, usually 14 lines

3. Ballad - the traditional ballad stanza has four lines, alternating between four iambic beats

4. Ode - another format poem written in 10 line stanzas and usually rhymin.
5. Haiku - is an oriental poem of three lines with syllables 5-7-5. The last line should, ideally, sum up the first two or philosophize.


* Hetty Nassau-Austen is from the United Kingdom. She was born and raised in Hampstead in London and moved to the country when she was 22. Her father's death in 2001 acted as a catalyst for poetry and she has been writing poems ever since. She has performed some of them at the Hastings International Poetry Festival and has also had a number of them published in magazines and periodicals. She writes in as many styles as she can find, from haikus to epic-length ballads and feels that she will continue to learn her craft until her last breath!

~November 2005 Contents~
After Twilight - What is Horror **NEW COLUMN**
Editors - Christina Barber and Cindy Bergquist
Editor - Ann Durand
Mother Hen's Bin - The Very Beginning
Editor - Lea Schizas
Editor - Susan Stephenson
Editor - Michelle Bailey Webster
Editor - Robert Redmon
World's Apart - Tools and Technology
Editor - Charles Mossop
Write Right - Dividing The Time
Editor - Shane Roe
Write Stuff - The Family Plot
Editor - Chick Lang
Up From Down Under - Split Infinitive
Editor - Les Stephenson
Readers Contributions:
The Rudiments of Poetry -Contributing for Up From Down Under
By Hetty Nassau-Austen