Meter and Flow

iambic pentameter drawn

Sometimes I’m too quick to make a judgement.

Up until recently, I have been quite biased and worming my way out of ignorance when it comes to the function of rhyming in poetry. If I had to put a finger on it, I think it might have something to do with ease and lack of complexity. Writing poetry that rhymes somehow seems easy and quaint, a crime story that neatly wraps up in an hour segment like CSI.

Where is the drama of the undeterred line? Where too, the building anticipation of how and where the poem is going to end up? Part of this long-held bias is I have an uncanny knack for guessing end words in songs. It’s not hard: think of something that fits the context and rhymes. Done. I’m working my way out of this particular ignorance and nose-snubbing for one main reason-

Beck and I have begun tackling songwriting as a couple.

When we first started dating, part of his wooing ritual included a guitar and songs written for me. He didn’t know it was part of the wooing exactly, (okay maybe he knew), but music is one of my favorite languages- one my dad began teaching me in my earliest days. I joke that even before my gift of gab, I sang. I look to music as a balm and catalyst. Some wounds exist that only music can massage.

As our wedding date neared, Beck and I met for band practice. He played this incredibly melodic music full of minor keys and driving rhythms. A pallor veiled his face, a moodiness entered his eyes and I found him as beguiling and bewitching as ever. One evening, he casually asked me if I could help him write lyrics. I vehemently responded, “No way- I’m a poet, not a songwriter…”

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

On any given day away from our working selves, Beck sits in the living room strumming out new riffs in old-to-us now songs. Other times, I am baking or cooking as he sits and plays in the kitchen. One such occasion, I hummed a playful line of words mirroring each other in a nonsensical way. And it stuck.

I have begun rethinking the art of meter, of rhyming and flow. A good off-rhyme in a poem clinches my interest; a good story in a song cocks my head. This challenge makes me rethink the error of my thoughts- poetry is music and music is poetry set to song, but there is more to it than that. My original work tends to be lyrical, but the thought of setting it to music leaves me stumped.

Over a month ago, I enrolled myself in a new b-course using “Rhyme & Reason” as textbook. To help with listening and rhythm, I’m supplementing with Gerard Manley Hopkins. He is the king of consonance and makes me want to rhyme my lines, to delve deeper into the way sound and word position influence the ear.

And friends, it is slow going.

I’m diving into scansion – listening to English as if for the first time, trying to weasel my pronunciations into iambic pentameter and coming up short. I’m plying my writing group, Tayve, Dee, Steven and Terry for tips on writing in rhyme and form. But here’s where all of this gutting of self and opinion is so very right: I am awakening the wonder – becoming ever more smitten *and sometimes admittedly frustrated* with language.

I am measuring and weighing my words in meter and flow.

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