Poetic Metre

By Josie Whitehead



ANAPAESTS:  In a nutshell:  Two light beats followed by a heavy one, ie di di DUM - an a PEST


ANAPAESTIC METRE example:  Try "An Autumn Visit " remembering the heavy

first beat because it is my subject.  My poem "Queen of the Night" is also a good example:  


On four SOFT padded PAWS walks the QUEEN of the NIGHT.

Though her MOVEments are AGile her FOOTsteps are LIGHT.

    But this SOLitary FEline has NOTHing to FEAR

    And is DRIVen by HUNGer to SEARCH out the DEER.


SO, LET'S PRACTISE as I know the children have to write some lines in this unit:  I'll do some, you try some (teachers) and let the children see what they can do.


When I HEARD a loud KNOCKing I THOUGHT it was DAD.

I am EIGHTeen foot TALL from my TOES to my HEAD.

Through the DOOR of the CARavan CAME a strange DOG.

In the MIDdle of NIGHT came an ALien from SPACE.

All the LIons and TIgers and ELephants TOO.

Did you SEE what I SAW when it FLEW through the SKY?

I'd no SOONer reTURNED when I HEARD a strange SOUND.

Pass the BUTter and JAM and some NICE crusty BREAD.       


Often you need to start the first line of anapaestic metre with just ONE single heavy beat/foot or or perhaps one light beat because you want to emphasize the subject.  You'll see this quite often.  Don't worry, it's quite normal and you want your speech in poetry to sound "normal" don't you?


This is where you will see the pattern in poetry.  Take the children to the children's corner on here where there is some practice, but writing a few sentences each day as I've done is exactly the best way to improve your poetry writing and theirs also, and go through the Stephen Fry book.  It's well worth it.   If you're teaching children about metre, you need to have it clear in your own mind, and then you will see that I have done my best with my poems, but I am not one of the great poets of the past who would have studied metre night and day for years to get it correct.  Now - more . . . .





Dactyls:  See:  The Children of Fairies;  My Favourite Wot Nots and It's Harvest Thanksgiving;  Not Just and  Embracing the World 


DACTYLS:  Think of "tum titty tum titty" .

Think:  "Waltz".  ie DAC tyl ic - - - Go to this music:  Oom pah pah


From one who's tried, it is much more difficult to write dactylic metre for how often do we end our sentences on two light beats?  Not often.    So you'll see it written quite often ending on just a single light beat as in many poems.  However, here is my example, but you try to find some yourself.


CLIMBing up HIGH on a BEAUTiful MOUNTainside.

TRYing to WRITE a good POem that's BEAUtiful.

MAKing the MOST of a GOOD opporTUNity.

DOing my HOMEwork and FINDing it DIFFicult.




NOTE:  For all types of metre you will have the choice of the following usually:


(a)  Tetrameter:  There are four strong beats (feet) in each line with aabb rhyming, and

(b)  Heptameter:  There are seven strong beats but because this makes for an incredibly long line, it is often split after the fourth beat and the last three go on the indented rhyming line which follows, making it abab rhyming.  Watch out for this in most of my poems.



Send the children back to this page to do some homework:  Read these sentences again and compose some of your own using the two rhythms.  Then they might like to An Autumn Visit as a performance poem and if it is excellent, we could link a recording from your school website to the poem on mine, or you could do a real performance, wearing costumes, and get it filmed and link via You Tube???  Other children might like to see it.  



Another game is to start the week with one anapestic word pinned on your classroom wall, and ask the children to add their own.  Just a word, eg:  jenn i FER; el e PHANT etc. di di DUM


Then the following week do dactylic words:  GRASS hop per;  MIC ro scope etc. DUM di di etc


Have lots of fun with your weekly noticeboards and then move them on to doing sentences. I think the children will enjoy this so much and make them word sound conscious, (ie develop their phonological awareness which is great for literacy).  




Main Poetry Index The Coloured Umbrella Pattern and Rhyme Web Index With Head in the Clouds Endangered Species See: Bluebottle Bane Try: Down Town Also see: The Elves and the Shoemaker