Good evening, and welcome to dVerse Poets’ Pub: the top destination for poets worldwide to meet and share their work!
Back in December of last year, I had the privilege of attending the ‘Wordsworths read Wordsworth’ event at Rydal Mount in the Lake District. At this very special event, I got to hear the Wordsworth family read poems by their ancestor, the poet William Wordsworth. Visitors were also given a tour of the house and gardens, which were landscaped by Wordsworth himself. During the tour, the curator explained to us how Wordsworth was accustomed to compose: “He never wrote his poetry down,” he explained, “but would rather pace the garden terrace repeating the lines out loud to himself until he had them word-perfect.” Later on, his sister Dorothy and other female members of his household would write the poetry down to be preserved for posterity, and made into fair-copies which would become the manuscripts of his work.
When I consider Wordsworth’s chosen method of composing, it makes perfect sense, particularly if you want to compose to a walking rhythm such as iambic pentameter: five beats, or ‘footsteps’ to a line ‘da-dun, da-dun, da-dun, da-dun, da-dun.’ Iambic pentameter also sounds like a heartbeat to me. Who could forget this timeless scene from the movie ‘Dirty Dancing:’
As with dance, so with poetry: the underlying rhythm is a heartbeat which, if done seamlessly, should flow without feeling mechanical or stilted.
So, this week, I challenge you to write a poem in iambic pentameter. You can choose either blank verse (in which the pentameter is unrhymed) or a form such as a sonnet or villanelle. Ideally, you will take a walk as you work out the lines: either around your living room, in your garden, or perhaps out in nature. Pound the pavements and pathways until you get the sound you want, and don’t worry too much about writing it down until you’re happy with the result. Here are some examples of iambic pentameter for inspiration:
Blank Verse: The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at Its Commencement, by William Wordsworth
Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!—Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights,
When most intent on making of herself
A prime Enchantress—to assist the work
Which then was going forward in her name!
Not favoured spots alone, but the whole earth,
The beauty wore of promise, that which sets
(As at some moment might not be unfelt
Among the bowers of paradise itself )
The budding rose above the rose full blown.
What temper at the prospect did not wake
To happiness unthought of? The inert
Were roused, and lively natures rapt away!
They who had fed their childhood upon dreams,
The playfellows of fancy, who had made
All powers of swiftness, subtilty, and strength
Their ministers,—who in lordly wise had stirred
Among the grandest objects of the sense,
And dealt with whatsoever they found there
As if they had within some lurking right
To wield it;—they, too, who, of gentle mood,
Had watched all gentle motions, and to these
Had fitted their own thoughts, schemers more wild,
And in the region of their peaceful selves;—
Now was it that both found, the meek and lofty
Did both find, helpers to their heart’s desire,
And stuff at hand, plastic as they could wish;
Were called upon to exercise their skill,
Not in Utopia, subterranean fields,
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us,—the place where in the end
We find our happiness, or not at all!
Sonnet 24: Mine Eye Hath Play’d The Painter and Hath Steel’d by William Shakespeare
Mine eye hath play’d the painter and hath steel’d,
Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein ’tis held,
And perspective it is best painter’s art.
For through the painter must you see his skill,
To find where your true image pictur’d lies,
Which in my bosom’s shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes.
Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done:
Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee;
Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art,
They draw but what they see, know not the heart.
For an example of a Villanelle written in iambic pentameter (and probably the best-known example of the form), read Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas.
Once you have written your poem, follow these rules to take part:
- Post your poem on your blog or website.
- Click on Mr. Linky below to add your name and enter the direct URL to your poem
- On your blog, please provide a link back to dVerse. This enables others to enjoy our prompts, increases our readership and thus increases the responses to everyone’s poems.
- If you promote your poem on social media, use the tag #dverse poets
- And most importantly, please do read some of the other responses to the prompt and add a short comment or reaction. Everyone likes to be appreciated! The prompt is “live” for several days – as you’ll notice by the comments you’ll receive – so do stop by another day and read a few of the latecomers too!