Listening Page



By Josie Whitehead


Anapaestic metre (diddy DUM diddy DUM) has a nice walking rhythm and I love to use this rhythm in my poetry more than any other almost.  Tetrameter = four steady beats (feet) on each line, with rhyming aabb aabb.  


If you have been using some of my poems over the year, you will have seen I have used this particular rhythm for many of my poems.  Yes, it can be used for comic verse, but I chose this partcular rhythm for my poem Queen of the Night - The Leopard because if you listen to the rhythm it has a walking rhythm and in the poem there is the movement of the animal walking through the grass.  The rhythm goes titty TUM titty TUM four times each line.  CHILDREN:  Clap this rhythm as you go along, or tap your fingers on your desk as I do.


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.


Sometimes I use one beat less to start the first line, or often come in on a heavy beat to emphasize the subject, so I could have started:


The QUEEN of the NIGHT walks with STEALTH and with CARE

And she STOPS by a CLEARing and SNIFFS the night AIR.


Note that I have come in with just one light beat instead of two.  That is quite OK.  Sometimes an extra beat can be added to the last line as a winding down of the poem - well, I think so and other poets do also.


Here is a good example of Anapaestic tetrameter from MOLLY THE MEERKAT 


On a BRIGHT sunny MORNing - the MIDdle of MAY,

When the SUN'S rays shone BRIGHTly upON this hot DAY,

   A small MEERkat, called MOLly, gazed OVer the PLAIN,

   Looking LEFT, and then RIGHT and then LEFT once aGAIN.


Another good poem for this metre is "The Elves and the Shoemaker".


A SHOEmaker WORKED hard by DAY and by NIGHT,

    But make MONey? Oh NO, he did NOT!

If he EARNED any MONey it SEEMED that he SPENT

    Every PENny that HE ever GOT.


Note that, especially when the main subject of the poem is in the first line, you often skip the first beat (foot) of the poem to put emphasis on the subject and we have done this here.  Sometimes you even start on the heavy beat to emphasize the subject:




AUTumn is WEARing her BRIGHT golden CROWN

For this MORning she's COMing to VISit our TOWN

    And WIND, her best FRIEND, will be JOINing her TOO.

    Will they HAVE a nice DAY and just WHAT will they DO?


Walk your fingers over your table as you read the words in capitals to discover the four beats (feet) on each line.  Then try writing some sentences using this metre yourself.  I will start you off:


In my KITchen is LYing a DOG in her BED

In the GARden are WAITing four DUCKS for their BREAD

On the HILLtop is GRAZing a SHEEP with black HORNS

When the POSTman arRIVES with a PARcel for ME

In the MIDST of the TRAFfic is MUM in her CAR

A black CAT on the ROAD is a SIGN of bad LUCK


Each of your lines could be the start of your next poem, and you then need to develop your story.


In the meantime here is Dr Seuss's first verse of Yertle the Turtle, but my turtle was called Myrtle the Turtle - do you remember her?


            On the far-away Island of Sala-ma-Sond,

            Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.

            A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.

            The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.

            The turtles had everything turtles might need.

            And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.


You will see that he didn't always start his lines with two light beats - but it doesn't really matter does it?  If you want to read the rest of this poem your teacher can easily find it via Google - or you can.


My Myrtle the Turtle also strolled along to the same beat:


               A TURtle called MYRtle was CROSsing the ROAD

                    In a STATE of seVERE trepiDAtion,

               She WANTed some PETrol to FILL up her TANK,

                      And had SPOTted, of COURSE, the Shell STAtion.


I had other characters in this poem:  Brian the Lion, Tony the Pony.  Make some names up yourself now for fun.  


Keep up your daily practice.  Concentrate on one thing each week and do a little each day and soon your poetry writing will improve.  POTENTIALLY POETICAL




Anapaests;  With head in the Clouds;  Queen of the Night; Molly the Meerkat;  Bluebottle Bane;


The Legend of the Blue Bonnets;  The Legend of Gelert;  The Legend of Cutty Sark;  In the Wash;


The Importance of Noses;  Mrs Meddle's Muddle;  I Like;  Metre Gives Verse . . .;  Doing the Shopping;


A Chitter A Chatter;  The Fish That Swallowed Granny's Teeth;  Had a Nice Weekend? It's a Quacking Shame


And there are many many more for you to discover, especially my legends, and story poems.  Oh, how dull to give children poetry in flat dull free verse with just a few words on a page.  I wrote these poems in this style at the request of children in my local schools who wanted  "stories in rhyme and rhythm".  They were so disappointed with what they'd just had in their class, and so was I.  Josie




Children will benefit greatly by LISTENING TO A POEM A DAY.  You won't have difficulty in teaching children about anapaests, iambs or any other meters if they are used to listening and perhaps clapping to the metre within a poem.  I never did.  We were never taught about metre and yet, if you look at the poem I wrote for the school magazine aged 11 (and an 11 plus failure), you'll see the metre is perfect.  My Garden.  It is the only poem I ever wrote until I was well into retirement.


Please do tell your friends about these websites which represent 11 years of hard work in my retirement from teaching.   Josie  

This is anapaestic HEPtameter, ie 7 anapaests spread over 2 lines.

This is anapaestic tetrameter, ie 4 iambic feet on each line

Anapaestic tetrameter -

4 anapaestic feet per line

Poem: What is an Iamb?

ANAPAESTIC HEPTAMETER, ie 7 feet over 2 lines

Articles for teachers Look at Our World Anapaestic tetrameter