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Rhythm and How it Affects Poetry

Poems usually begin with words or phrase which appeal more because of their sound than their meaning, and the movement and phrasing of a poem. Every poem has a texture of sound, which is at least as important as the meaning behind the poem. Rhythm, being the regular recurrence of sound, is at the heart of all natural phenomena: the beating of a heart, the lapping of waves against the shore, the croaking of frogs on a summer’s night, the whisper of wheat swaying in the wind. Rhythm and sound and arrangement –the formal properties of words—allow the poet to get beyond, or beneath the surface of a poem. Both of Charles Roberts poems "The Herring Weir" and "The Skater" emphasize poetic sound to express their themes.

Assonance—the repetition of the same or similar vowel sound, especially in stressed syllables—can also enrich a poem. Assonance can be used to unify a poem as in Roberts' poem in which it emphasizes the thematic connection among words and unifies the poem’s ideas of the humanoid and nature. Roberts indirectly links certain words and by connecting these words, he calls attention to the imagery that helps communicate the poems theme of how different mother nature and humans can be. In addition to alliteration and assonance, poets create sound patterns with rhyme. The conventional way to describe a poem’s rhyme scheme is to chart rhyming words that appear at the ends of lines. Naturally, rhyme does not have to be subtle to enrich a poem. Rhyme can also be classified according to the position of the rhyming syllables in a line of verse. Poets, too, create rhyme by using repeated words and phrases. “The red flats are uncovered, mile on mile" (31). Meter, the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that govern a poem’s lines, largely creates poetic rhythm. This gives readers the “beat” of the poem and approximates the sound of spoken language. A way of varying meter is to introduce a pause in the rhythm often created by a caesura--a “cutting” within a line. Both Brooks and Bradstreet use caesuras to complete individual thought and to add to the beat of the poem.

Although the end of a line may mark the end of a metrical unit, it does not always coincide with the end of a sentence. Poets may choose to indicate a pause at this point, or they may continue, without...

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