• Amy Shannon

Poem Showcase: Iambic Pentameter by Abdiel Leroy

Iambic Pentameter written for my students when teaching English in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China

I'm speaking now to you in poetry, The form of it known as "iambic" verse. Think of "iambic" as "I am" repeated. "I am I am I am I am I am." It is the human heartbeat put in words, The form most used by Shakespeare in his plays And by John Milton in his masterpiece Paradise Lost. You'll hear ten syllables In every line, occasion'lly eleven, In which the foll'wing rhythm dominates: Da-duh da-duh da-duh da-duh da-duh, Or, when the verse line has a fem'nine ending: Da-duh da-duh da-duh da-duh da-duh-da (As in the third line of this very poem). So stressed beats follow unstressed ones, you see. When there are five such heartbeats in a line, It's called "pentameter." Also observe I have, in places, to maintain the rhythm, Shortened some words, like "following" Becomes foll'wing and "feminine" fem'nine. Of course, when you write your own poetry, No strict adherence to rhythm's required And words may deviate from the stressing pattern (For "deviate" I suggest two syllables). Yet be aware how oft the form is used Throughout the great works of the English language And even in speech patterns of we Brits. I wonder if Adam, the first of men, Before he died in eating from the tree (That cursed us with knowledge of Good and Evil), Spoke thus while praying, or caressing Eve, In which case let us resurrect his model. For now, dear students, comes your homework drill Which I, by rhyming couplet would instill. For next week, darlings, all you have to do Is learn this lesson I've laid out for you!

Copyright @2017 Abdiel Leroy

---- A Note from the poet: Abdiel began teaching English at a Chinese university in 2005, and wrote this poem as a teaching aid.

A poem from the book: Well Versed: To Shakespeare, Poets, and the Performing Arts (2017)