Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The teaching of metrics

Can an ear be taught…? Can a voice be taught…? Can creativity be taught…? These are all key questions that face any teacher or student of creative writing. They also provoke endless argument and debate.

Can metrics be taught? Of course they can. No argument, no debate. Whether we like them or loathe them, metrics are the nuts and bolts of poetry, the mechanics that lie behind all the verse we write, a set of rules can be broken to greater conscious effect once they are understood.

Just as most top abstract artists are also exceptional realist painters, so a fundamental knowledge of metrics lies behind the writing of the majority of high-quality free verse. I’m fully aware there are examples of intuitive creative exceptions, but that is exactly what they remain: exceptions.

In the light of the above, why do so many poetry writing courses (again, I know there are certain exceptions) either ignore metrics or devote a few paltry sessions to them? Instead, metrics should be a point of departure, stimulating creativity, not stunting it.

Another option is simply to teach yourself, in which case I strongly recommend a frail book: Rhyme’s Reason by John Hollander.


  1. I also recommend "A Poet's Ear", by Annie Finch.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the recco. I'll check it out