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How to understand poetry structure have no idea about rhyme metre

I have no idea on how to understand poetry for English literature aqa, don't know anything about iambic pantemeter rhyme scheme any of that don't get how to figure out about the structure I need help I'm studying aqa love through the ages rn. Please help, my end of year exams for year 12 are coming up soon.
(edited 1 year ago)
Hi, Year 13 here. For Love Through The Ages, those are skills for the unseen and the love anthology. I do the pre-1900s anthology but this is fairly applicable to both. For the anthology, if you feel like you don't 'get it', the best thing to do is revise. Memorise the kind of structure each poem has, their rhyme scheme, the metre/changes in metre if significant and WHAT THESE THINGS MEAN. E.g. for Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the cyclical structure highlights the obsessive nature of the knight's love as well as its futility since he can never obtain this woman. I don't know the post-1900s anthology but I know a common point about modern form is that they're not very rigid or strict and they break away from traditional conventions of form to highlight the complexity of life. That's a very generalised point but you see what I mean. It will all be stuff you have done in class when studying the poems, so make use of that material and memorise it well.

For unseen, have a mental list of stuff to look for and what they (probably) mean. E.g. count lines to see if they're sonnets (typical form used to express male love), look for rhyming couplets (shows unity+ desire to bond, so it links well to love), look for repetition (used for emphasis or desperation), enjambment (can be lack of control over feelings or continuation- feeling is not contained or finished, it keeps going) and caesura (pauses are often used for emphasis).
Also you'll probably get one modern poet and one older poet, so for the modern poets it's also good to look for atypicalities, so like things that aren't conventional which can then mean like a criticism of a certain convention. When you first read a poem, try to figure out who is speaking to who, about what and when (so look at the dates of each poem to see which is modern and which is older). Also see if it feels like a positive or a negative poem, and look for hyperbole and understatement (exaggeration e.g. of a feeling vs not making it sound as dramatic, can be used to show how the feeling is great through shock value by talking about the mundane in the face of a great feeling like grief or even criticise the traditional dramatization of this feeling.

You can also learn a little about different forms e.g. ballad, lyric, villanelle, elegy, epitaph, aubade (just google them) and keep them in mind for unseen. Metre is a little trickier because it can take some time to figure out (also the best way to do it is to read it out loud which you obviously can't do in a exam) but I would advise counting syllables. To learn the theory it's really best if you use a video but for iambic pentameter for example, it's five unstressed syllables and five stressed ones, and they alternate. Like so:
da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM
try to read this line aloud stressing it like that:
'When I do count the clock that tells the time' (Shakespeare, Sonnet 12- this is literally all just from wikipedia)
now try this one:
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house' (Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit From St Nicholas)
See? that one just doesn't sound good because it's not an iamb, it's an anapaest. Also it's tetrameter because there's only four sets of it (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anapaest for more detail) whereas the other line has five sets, hence the pentameter. Recommend getting to grips with tri-, tetra-, penta- and hexa- (3,4,5,6 respectively) since they're the most common. Also be aware that free verse exists, which has no strict metre pattern. Metre is not a massive thing though, if you don't feel confident don't mention it. You're rewarded for what you include, not penalised for what you don't so if you're unsure then just talk about something else that's in the poem.

Good luck!
Reply 2
Original post by dippedinfolly
Hi, Year 13 here. For Love Through The Ages, those are skills for the unseen and the love anthology. I do the pre-1900s anthology but this is fairly applicable to both. For the anthology, if you feel like you don't 'get it', the best thing to do is revise. Memorise the kind of structure each poem has, their rhyme scheme, the metre/changes in metre if significant and WHAT THESE THINGS MEAN. E.g. for Keats' La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the cyclical structure highlights the obsessive nature of the knight's love as well as its futility since he can never obtain this woman. I don't know the post-1900s anthology but I know a common point about modern form is that they're not very rigid or strict and they break away from traditional conventions of form to highlight the complexity of life. That's a very generalised point but you see what I mean. It will all be stuff you have done in class when studying the poems, so make use of that material and memorise it well.

For unseen, have a mental list of stuff to look for and what they (probably) mean. E.g. count lines to see if they're sonnets (typical form used to express male love), look for rhyming couplets (shows unity+ desire to bond, so it links well to love), look for repetition (used for emphasis or desperation), enjambment (can be lack of control over feelings or continuation- feeling is not contained or finished, it keeps going) and caesura (pauses are often used for emphasis).
Also you'll probably get one modern poet and one older poet, so for the modern poets it's also good to look for atypicalities, so like things that aren't conventional which can then mean like a criticism of a certain convention. When you first read a poem, try to figure out who is speaking to who, about what and when (so look at the dates of each poem to see which is modern and which is older). Also see if it feels like a positive or a negative poem, and look for hyperbole and understatement (exaggeration e.g. of a feeling vs not making it sound as dramatic, can be used to show how the feeling is great through shock value by talking about the mundane in the face of a great feeling like grief or even criticise the traditional dramatization of this feeling.

You can also learn a little about different forms e.g. ballad, lyric, villanelle, elegy, epitaph, aubade (just google them) and keep them in mind for unseen. Metre is a little trickier because it can take some time to figure out (also the best way to do it is to read it out loud which you obviously can't do in a exam) but I would advise counting syllables. To learn the theory it's really best if you use a video but for iambic pentameter for example, it's five unstressed syllables and five stressed ones, and they alternate. Like so:
da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM
try to read this line aloud stressing it like that:
'When I do count the clock that tells the time' (Shakespeare, Sonnet 12- this is literally all just from wikipedia)
now try this one:
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house' (Clement Clarke Moore, A Visit From St Nicholas)
See? that one just doesn't sound good because it's not an iamb, it's an anapaest. Also it's tetrameter because there's only four sets of it (see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anapaest for more detail) whereas the other line has five sets, hence the pentameter. Recommend getting to grips with tri-, tetra-, penta- and hexa- (3,4,5,6 respectively) since they're the most common. Also be aware that free verse exists, which has no strict metre pattern. Metre is not a massive thing though, if you don't feel confident don't mention it. You're rewarded for what you include, not penalised for what you don't so if you're unsure then just talk about something else that's in the poem.

Good luck!

Thanks but I'm also doing love through the ages pre 1900
the unseen stuff you will probably need next year but it does still apply to the pre-1900 anthology, it's just general poetry advice at the end of the day. Old poems are great because they tend to have a lot more devices as well as a strict metre. Go through each poem and look for those things. Try to find a (plausible) reason why they link to/help emphasise the type of love in the poem. E.g. caesura= partings, finality, futile love.

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