There are four major rhythms that can be heard in the lines of poetry.
They are: the iamb (da DUM), the trochee (DUM da), the anapest (da da DUM), and the dactyl (DUM da da).
Let's explore each and their affects on poetry.
The Iamb The iamb is composed of one unstressed syllable and one stressed (da DUM).
The words "betray", "subdue" and "allow" are iambic.
Take a look at the following line: She lit a candle in the hall.
It is iambic in rhythm.
If I show you the stressed and unstressed syllables like this, she LIT a CAN-dle IN the HALL you will see the rhythm of the line.
Experts say that the English language is mostly iambic, so many poems tend to naturally take on this rhythm.
Read the following poem and see if you can hear the iambic rhythm.
Woodland Cabin The sun beat down one afternoon upon the cabin roof, the musty air inside lay thick and still.
A summer breeze blew fragrances of honeysuckle rose that wafted lazily from off the hill.
The woodland creatures roamed that day around the trees and bush, the air made light the branches of the trees.
But stillness pained this summer time that brought a chilling touch and deafening silence, hallowed by the breeze.
A rocking chair stood on the porch, a pipe lay to one side upon a tree stump cursed with blackening rot.
Collapsing steps and peeling paint and beams in ill-repair had marked this woodland home that time forgot.
And there within the belly of this dark and lonely hut, amid the dust from summers gone before, engulfed in foul-smelling air, the shrivelled mound of flesh of Hermit Joe lay rotting on the floor.
The sun beat down that afternoon upon his lonely grave, o'er which no sorrowing eyes had bowed and cried.
It gently heated up the dust and age-old rotting flesh that housed and fed the worms that bred inside.
The Trochee The trochee is composed of one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable (DUM da).
The words "harbour", "fatal" and "drastic" are example of the trochee rhythm.
Take a look at the following line from one of my poems: Now amid two bodies' yearning This is written in the trochaic rhythm.
Can you see it? Ok, I'll show you.
NOW a-MID two BOD-ies YEARN-ing See, I told you, this line follows the DUM da rhythm of the trochee, just like in my poem Internet Lovers.
Internet Lovers Now amid two bodies' yearning, Lonely hearts are longing deep.
Sharp sensations threaten burning, Trapped inside the thoughts they keep.
Fingers dance the words of wanting, Breathing deepens through the air.
From a distance each is taunting With the silent words they share.
There, his body swells with pleasure; Here, her skin is tingling sweet.
Whispered words bring hearts together, Miles apart, their bodies meet.
The Anapest The anapest is a three-syllable rhythm composed of two unstressed beats followed by one stressed beat (da da DUM).
Many times poems employing this rhythm also bare lines that end with added syllables, possibly iambs or trochees.
But a poem is considered anapestic if the majority of its lines are written in the anapest rhythm.
Consider the following lines: There's a heat that is swelling inside, Pushing hard against sanity, then Were you able to pick out the anapestic rhythm (da da DUM)? Let's look at is like this: There's a HEAT that is SWELL-ing in-SIDE, Pushing HARD against SAN-ity THEN Now can you see the da da DUM rhythm of the anapest? Here's a poem that demonstrates this rhythm.
The Urge To Surrender It's a test of her strength and her courage, Each new love that goes sauntering past.
So she hides in the dark of the shadows, Knowing well that the pleasure won't last.
And she quietly swallows the blankness That the harrowing shadows now cast.
For she dares not hang onto the safety, Knowing well the protection won't last.
And while tickled by words that he gives her Though the thrill of them fades all too fast, She deliberately ceases from yielding, Knowing well his attentions won't last.
Now alone, she is desperately silent, And the chasm inside her is vast.
Though she yearns for a deep fervid moment, She knows well that the passion won't last.
The Dactyl The dactyl is the final rhythm to be introduced here.
The dactyl is a three syllable rhythm that consists of one stressed beat followed by two unstressed beats: DUM da da.
This rhythm sounds very much like a waltz with its lilting "ONE two three, ONE two three" - DUM da da / DUM da da.
The following lines are examples of the dactylic rhythm: Out of the loneliness, into the night, Fingers come desperately creeping.
Here they are mapped out for you, just in case you didn't hear the rhythm: OUT of the LONE-liness, IN-to the NIGHT, FING-ers come DES-perately CREEP-ing Notice the second line ends with a trochee.
A poem written this way is still considered dactylic, because the lines are composed mostly of the dactyl rhythm.
My poem " Grave Yard " is dactylic in rhythm.
These are by far not the only rhythms used in poetry (one I've yet to write in is the choriamb - DUM da da DUM), but these are the best to start with if you are just beginning to write poems of your own or analyze the poems of others.
And know this, poems that don't rhyme can also have rhythm.