Poetry essay: the pros and cons of using meter in poetry

Today’s poetry essay is about using meter in poetry.  This essay won’t describe meter is specifics, but rather, will look at the pros and cons of using it in poetry.

Pros

Meter is the beat of a poem.  Because of this, if a poem has meter, it can have more of a song quality to it.  The poem can have better flow, all else being equal, than a poem without meter.

Additionally, once a person gets used to working with meter, it can sometimes make poetry easier to write.  Because of the beat, the poet might be able to hear the type of sound that should come next, and this can help inspire words for the poem.

In a contrast to this, but still as a benefit, because of its restrictive quality, meter can inspire creativity as a poet tries to conform to it.

Another benefit of meter is that it pairs well with rhyme.  Beat and rhyming sounds can go together.  The pairing can work well for formal poetry, poems meant to be sung, or for children’s poetry.

Lastly, meter can sound good to a reader.  When a reader reads a poem with meter, they can sometimes subconsciously pick up on the beat, and it can help with the flow of the poem.

Cons

One con of meter, is that at first, it can be hard for a poet to learn.  When looking at multisyllabic words or one syllable words in series, it can sometimes be hard at first to know where the stresses are.

Another con, which is the other side of a benefit, is that meter can be restrictive for a poet.  A poet who chooses to conform to it doesn’t have the freedom to say exactly what they want.

Another downside that can come from meter, is when a poet uses it through most, but not all, of a poem.  This can happen sometimes when a poet cannot fit the idea and words they want to use to the meter they are using and they stay with the idea and words rather than thinking of something else to fit the meter.  While this might be expressive, it can cause the sound of the poem to change.  This can sound distorted to a reader of the poem whose mind has gotten used to the beat.  It can sound like a mistake.

Another downside of meter is that it can bring a formality to poetry.  While this can be a benefit in some cases, it can be perceived negatively in others.  There are some readers who prefer free verse poetry or unstructured experimental poetry, and they might find metered poetry to be too formal or old fashioned for their tastes.

Lastly, if a certain meter is worked with for some time by a poet, a downside can occur when the poet tries to write without meter or in a different one.  If a meter is used over a period of time, it can sometimes stick in a poet’s thought process.  They might find that they start to naturally write in the meter and that they have difficulty if they try to switch to another one.  An analogy might be playing a certain beat on a drum for a while and then trying to switch to another.  The first drum beat might “stick” and make it hard to use the new one.

 

Like any other form element, when a poet decides whether or not to use meter in a poem (and if they do, which meter to use) they should make sure it fits their situation.

A poet should try to find a meter that fits the idea, expression and tone that they want.  They should have those things first and then find a meter to fit.  If a meter, or any meter, doesn’t fit their circumstance, they shouldn’t use it.

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