METRE MATTERS

In the English language, metre is measured in "feet" as against beats in music.  It is the little accentuations within our language which make the metre that we hear.

 

We may not realize it, but from the time we learn to talk and imitate our parents, we pick up on these little stresses and use them ourselves.  If you do not believe these, try these words and listen for where you stress parts of the word:

 

imPORtant; DEFinite; aSSURE;  reMEMber; ACcident; WEARing; AUtumn;

NECessary and so on.

 

You need to have a good awareness of the syllables within words and their stresses to be able to write metered poetry well, and I am lucky to have this ability for I was not only a 120 word per minute shorthand writer but also a teacher of Pitman's Shorthand for 30 years.  I was able to break down words into sounds at high speed and get these sounds onto paper.  It is this wonderful phonological awareness which also helps children so much with literacy, so I, and many other educationalists recommend that children from the earliest age have rhyming and rhythmic poetry read to them and encourage children  to learn the poems and join in.

 

METRE FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

 

The simplest metres for young children to understand are iambic metre and anapestic metre.  You will find that I have written much on this website to help you with both the understanding and the teaching of these two simple metres and other metres.

 

I'm not a great lover of getting young children to write poems, and especially not to tell them that just a sentence split into short lines can be a poem, but I do think that letting them hear lots of poetry is important and that teaching them a little about metre, following a good example of a metered poem is important - and let them try some simple sentences of writing metre in their classroom, or at home.

 

I was never taught about metre as a child, but I discovered the works of the great poets of my youth - Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Walter de la Mare - and so many others.  I spent hours reading their wonderful poems and so, when at the age of 11, we were asked to write something for our school magazine, I wrote a perfectly metered poem called "My Garden" which was published in 2010 along with other poems of mine, and which you can see on this website.  I was an 11 plus failure and, in a B stream of a secondary modern school in 1951, nobody saw any talent in this poem and so, without encouragement, my poetry never went beyond that stage.  It was only well into my retirement from teaching that children in my local primary school encouraged me to write for them.  

 

If you return to  my Web Index now, you will find many pages concerning metre and here are two which I can especially recommend you to try first of all with your children.  

Web Index Meet Josie Main Poetry Index

By Josie Whitehead

Potentially Poetical How to Write a Poem