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Below is a 'lecture' written and given at a poetry forum by a good friend of mine. Larry's style varies from silly to serious and whatever the topic, always makes satisfying use of the 'meter' he discusses below.



I guess you could call this my lecture to you. Although I am not really sure of which part of writing traditional style poetry for children you are going to want to concentrate on, in my opinion it should be the rhythm and meter, so that's where I'll start. Anything else, please feel free to ask.

Kids are, and have been, entertained by the most inane drivel, and loved it. Why? Because it's easy to remember. Dozens of years later we still remember the poetry we learned for one reason or another as children. Class assignments, skipping chants from the schoolyard, "Fudge, fudge, tell the judge....." Television commercials even. Sometimes I think the whole rap music movement was caused by that ad,

"Have you got trouble
Wait don't run
This kind of trouble is
Lots of fun
Pops the dice
Pop a six
And you move twice."

Rhythm and rhyme make your writing easier to remember. This is not a new idea, it was known to all back in the days when oral histories were the only kind. The legends of the tribe were passed down in the form of poetry and each generation added a stanza. Ours might be:

"Then Clinton came with saxophone
He made the interns wail and moan."
So how do we learn rhythm? Slowly, with baby steps. With marching steps.
Be wise please avoid the theft
Or your mom will be bereft
Keep on going left, right, left.

That was a pretty simple rhythm and one that could be used in kids' writing. There are simpler ones.

I can't
You know
I go
Too slow
Has to be about the simplest. I have written rhythms so complicated that even I can only sort them out a few days out of the year. It goes without saying that these are not suitable for children's poetry.

A lot of poetry, mine included, uses two distinct, alternating patterns, one slightly longer than the other.

I went down to the little pond.......8 syllables
To see the children play.............6 syllables
Of watching them I am so fond........8 syllables
I can sit there all day..............6 syllables

You will notice that each line rhymes with the line two from it, pond-fond, play-day. I could have just as easily written,

I went down to the little pond.......8 syllables
Of watching children I am fond.......8 syllables
It thrills me when I see them play...8 syllables
I love to sit there all the day......8 syllables
In which the rhyming lines are together and the lines are all metrically the same length. I don't think I can stress enough that it doesn't initially matter what your line length, rhyming pattern, and meter are, as long as you keep it consistant through the piece.

Believe it or not, and quite unimportantly to you and I, all of these forms have huge pedantic sounding names that simply tell how the rhyme and meter go, because, as we know, those who can, do, and those who can't, study and teach. Those poor folks need handles for what doesn't come naturally.

What I see so many beginning writers do is start off like they know what they are doing, likely copying the style of something they just read at the start of their poem, then falling away. Copy on. Make the second stanza just like the first, the third a carbon copy as far as rhythm and meter is concerned, and so on.

Meter. I've said that three times now and had better talk about it a bit. Remember how I said that poetry may have started with the marching rhythm, the left/right, left/right, left/right beat? That's meter. It's no complicated thing on the beginning plane, just a simple

Left/ right, left/right, left/right, left/right
Left/right, left/right, left/right
No/I, won't/buy, that/pair, of/pants
I/thought, they/were, too/tight
I bought the ones that fit me best
I think they look quite fine
They only cost me fifty bucks
So honey don't you whine

You can write with different rhythms, different numbers, as long as you maintain your consistency.

I did it
I bought it
I found it
I got it
It's mine and
You can't have it back
Like birds of
A feather
It isn't
A thing that I lack
Remember to break it into feet (pairs of words) initially, to help you get the rhythm in the part that is different.

I will do a demonstration of inconsistency.

I want to catch a butterfly
And see it's pretty wing
Not like a nasty hornet that
Will hurt me with a sting
The butterfly lands in the tree
I try to climb up there
I can't get to the top
It really isn't fair
Except for the, "I can't get to the top" line it works but that one lack makes the whole thing wonky.

There isn't a whole lot new I can add on how I write children's traditional style poetry except that you have to come up with your own ideas, and your own style(s). Walk around and keep the beat going while you work, it helps, and just keep at it.
Good luck.


I really recommend a visit to Larry's website. It's full of wonderful poetry! Larry's  website

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