Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Poetic Forms Week 5: Back to Basics

I have to say I felt quite overwhelmed by the prospect of finding a poetic form that would suit The Purple Treehouse this month. It is not so much that there are too few poetry forms to chose from, rather that no matter how you twist and turn this topic you will find it hard to make poetry form funny!

Poetry form is, by definition, meant to guide us in our creative process and many of the various forms out there were perhaps considered humorous when they were conceived (some even a little risqué), but in today's poetry climate where most everything goes and following rules has gone out of style in many ways, I would dare anyone to argue that finding something called a funny poetry form is not easy. So where to begin?

I wanted to dive in and dazzle you all with talk of Dr Seuss and anapestic trimeter, but quickly realised that there was just too much explaining to be done in one post and therefore I would like to talk about syllables today, the basic building block of most poetry forms.

The word syllable comes from Greek, and is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as 'a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or parts of a word'.

A 'Dummie's guide to counting syllables' would look something like this (copied from The Gooseberry Garden):

1. Look for the vowels in the word.

2. Subtract any silent vowels (like the 'e' at the end of the 'Fore!' shouted by golfers).

3. If you have two vowels together, creating a diphthong, count only one of the vowels (for example the word 'you' is only one syllable).

4. Compound words, words that consist of two other words but is written together (likehouseboat), along with words using prefixes (like prefix) and suffixes (like farmer) should be divided into their component words to count syllables.

5. Divide words between the two middle consonants (like bas/ket) to count the syllables.

6. Usually divide words into syllables before a single consonant (like e/vil or re/port).

7. The '-le' at the end of a word usually forms its' own syllable (like a/ble, or indeed syl/la/ble.

Some helpful poets have also suggested clapping out the word to get the syllable count or even to count heartbeats, which I personally find to be a very effective strategy.

Now, how can we practise counting syllables? There are several poetry forms that are based on the number of syllables to a line or to the poem as a whole, and we will be examining these more over the months to come, but for now, how about we just try to count the number of syllables used in a poem?

To share your poetry with use, please use the Linkz thingy below (if I can get it to work) and feel free to let us know how many syllables you've used.

I am CC Champagne of A Glass of Bubbly (and The Gooseberry Garden) and I will be back again in a month to look at more poetry forms.



  1. linkz won't open until 1:30p, very interesting form,

    I got to learn it, girl.

  2. Thanks for everything, everyone.

    It is a tough challenge, but try as best as you can, smiles.

  3. Halfway through the path there was a stonethere was a stone halfway through the paththere was a stonehalfway through the path there was a stone.I will never forget that eventin the life of my so weary retinae.I will never forget that halfway through the paththere was a stonethere was a stone halfway through the pathhalfway through the path there was a stone.

  4. birds can fly,

    owls are smart, they can survive anything and everything.

    Thanks for joining us, supportive poets.

  5. have fun.

    i am thrilled to see two birds hanging near a tree, stay nimble,

    great prompt.

  6. Fresh and fun the way you handled this syllabic-lesson!

  7. Hello to you all, I am a haiku poet so I write haiku (a Japanese poem with counted sentence, three sentences which count 5-7-5 syllables).
    I however write haiku in the so called Kanshicho-style in this style the syllables count can be different to the classical haiku.
    In this contribution (for the Sensational Haiku Wednesday) I have used the classical haiku count, so it's back to basic. Have fun and please visit and give your comments.


    Chevrefeuille (pseudonym of Kristjaan Panneman)

    back to basic 'ku'
    writing haiku as Basho
    in the classic way

  8. Mine has 17 syllables. Gotta love haiku!

  9. i put up Orion's Armament, which is written in a very interesting form

  10. Each line of mine has eleven syllables (except for a few lines which are obviously not what you'd expect which have twelve)

  11. Thanks for your interesting post. I've found this site useful for help in counting syllables when I'm just not sure:

  12. lovely prompt, submitted my haiku.

  13. simply shared one more,

    sorry for being lazy in commenting.