Wilson, Douglas, and Nathan D. Wilson. The Rhetoric Companion: A Student's Guide to Power in Persuasion. Moscow, Idaho: Canon, 2011.
Lesson 22, “The Rhythm of Words: 1.” pp. 107-114
In this lesson Wilson urges the reader to pay attention to the cadence and sounds of words, as well as their arrangement. He begins by seeking out a definition of poetry (Wilson 2011, 107). After quoting several authors, Wilson settles on “the metrical use of words and figures in imaginative and concentrated form” (Ibid., 108). To improve ability with words and rhythm, Wilson suggests studying poetic meters. He views writing poetry as a powerful exercise in learning to write prose.
English poetry is based primarily on stressed and unstressed syllables. A repetitive stress pattern creates a poetic “foot.” The poetic feet have various patterns which are named (ibid., 108). Wilson illustrates these patterns. using a _ for a stressed syllable and a . for an unstressed one, we can make these patterns (Ibid. 110).
Iambic ._ ._ ._ ._
Trochaic _. _. _. _.
Anapestic .._ .._ .._ .._
Dactylic _.. _.. _.. _..
Poetic lines are then identified by how many feet they have, such as a trochaic tetrameter _._._._.
Various arrangements of rhyme may also exist, with the last sounds of each line or every other line matching as the most common patterns. Wilson details the patterns found in sonnets and suggests practice with words and ideas via writing orderly poetry (Ibid., 112).