Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Poetry and Such
Cyberstones got me thinking more about poetry this morning. I say "more" about poetry because it's really always on my mind.

Lately, I've been working on a new children's book manuscript, and have been pondering all the things that rhyme with "-ing." Now you might say: Julie, there are a million words that rhyme with "-ing": following, saying, thinking, writing, flying, etc. And those are all gerunds; think of all the millions of others. And what about all the nouns? Anything, everything, nothing, etc.

But here's the problem, and this is why the poetry post over at Cyberstones got me thinking. The challenge of writing good verse (poetry that rhymes) is that the meter has to be perfect. So, say I want to rhyme the word "sting" with "anything." Well, if "sting" is an endrhyme, then it gets the emphasis, being a one-syllable word. But with almost any gerund, the stress is not on the "ing" but on the first syllable of the word, so then the meter gets thrown off.

The other consideration to keep in mind constantly is the number of syllables per line. For the piece I'm working on right now, I'm using a 4-line stanza with 7, 5, 7, 5 syllables per line. In order to make the rhyme work, make the meter work, and stay within the number of syllables per line, everything has to align perfectly.

That's why, as one who attempts to write poetry, I am always so in awe of Shakespeare or any of the great poets. The complexity of a sonnet, for example, is incredible. Complicated rhymes, very fussy meter, all sorts of crazy limits to syllables, etc. I mean it's like these poets like to see how many hoops they can force the English langugae through in order to get their thought out.

And that's what makes poetry great. And really, really hard to write well.

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