Poetry · rhythm · stress · Writing

I can’t STRESS this enough…

A discussion on facebook this morning gave me the idea for this blog.

Have you ever been singing along to a song to have someone point out that you are singing the wrong words? How does this happen? The words sound right, they fit, they might not make complete sense but who are we to question the motives of a song writer?

The song I remember singing incorrectly is the one by Johnny Diesel – ‘Tip of my Tongue’. For years I sang the chorus as…Ride on the temperamental – when I should have been singing – Right on the tip of my tongue. Obviously, at the time, I was unaware of the song’s title. That would have been a big clue. However I thought the words I was singing made perfect sense and besides they fit the music perfectly.

So how can this be? Well – it’s the position of the stresses. Even though the words are different the stresses on the individual syllables fall in the same place. Let me show you…

Ride on the temperamental


Right on the tip of my tongue

In theory then any seven syllable word/phrase with the same stress pattern should fit this rhythm. Let’s see…

Do have a Merry Christmas

Ride on the dromedary

Fall off the bucking bronco

Get the picture?

Writing in rhyme is only half the story.

A good exercise is to find a poem that you know – ‘The Man from Snowy River’ is a good one, and rewrite it sticking strictly to the rhythm but changing the words. Here I’ll start you off…

There was whingeing in the classroom

as the test was passed around

Okay – off you go…

If you’d like to leave your efforts in the comments section that would be great (don’t make them as long as ‘The Man from Snow River’ though!! Just a few verses to exercise your rhythm muscles.

4 thoughts on “I can’t STRESS this enough…

  1. Here’s another classroom one, Jackie – these famous aussie poems just seem to lend themselves to the school settings!

    I love an empty classroom,
    A room of stacked-up chairs,
    Of vacant shelves and cupboards,
    Of no more cranky glares,
    I love the lined-up desks,
    All clean and paper-free,
    The stillness and the silence,
    The summer break for me!

    1. Perfect Trudie – and of course you are using the meter (rhythm) from ‘My Country’ by Dorothea Mackellar… which incidentally has just been published in picturebook form by Omnibus Books (an imprint of Scholastic Australia Pty Ltd)

      ‘I love a sunburnt country,
      A land of sweeping plains,
      Of ragged mountain ranges,
      Of droughts and flooding rains.’

  2. Hi Jackie
    Thanks – what an interesting idea. I’ve been using Henry Lawson’s poetry as a guide to rhythm and rhyme to help in my efforts at kids’ poetry (not ready to share here yet), but it’s great to see an example that someone has ‘prepared earlier’.
    I’m also very glad you know that it’s ‘ragged’ mountain ranges – so many people think it’s ‘rugged’. Well done you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s