Written for: dVerse Poets – Meeting The Bar: Common Meter (posted by Frank Hubeny)
A popular form used for poems, songs, nursery rhymes and ballads is common meter. It subdivides into many variations depending on where one puts the line breaks or end-rhymes and how one combines lines into stanzas, but its most basic structure is the repetition of seven pairs of unaccented-accented syllables which form an iambic, rhythmic pattern that is familiar and pleasurable to many listeners.
An example of common meter is Sarah Josepha Hale’s nursery rhyme about Mary and her lamb. I have highlighted the accented syllables and split multi-syllabic words with hyphens to illustrate the rhythmic pattern in the first stanza. Additional stanzas and a more traditional formatting may be viewed at the Poetry Foundation website:
MA-ry HAD a LIT-tle LAMB, its FLEECE was WHITE as SNOW;
and E-very-WHERE that MA-ry WENT the LAMB was SURE to GO.
Write a poem using common meter as its core structure. Think of it as a poem that will be heard rather than seen.
If I could sing a bluesy tune inside a small café,
my choice would be to sing in style of Billie Holiday.
A melody of love and loss would cause their eyes to tear.
Alas, it’s just a dream, because I have that old tin ear.