Anapaestic Tetrameter

Dr Suess

Theodore Suess Geisel (Dr Suess)

After James McComb alerted me to the definition of anapaestic meter I looked at my poems and discovered the majority were written in slide rhythm, or 4 triplets to the bar. There are various categories of triplet rhythm in poetry: Dactylic - where the line starts on the beat, Amphibrach - where the line starts with one off-beat triplet, and Anapaestic - where it starts with 2. As I did with the Sonnet, I felt compelled to write an analysis of this meter IN this meter.

I'm sure most of us have a great love for this form deep down, but because it is so often used for humourous or childish verse it tends to be looked down on by writers of more "serious", (usually boring), poetry. Professors are welcome to invite whosoever they like into their miserable little circle of snobs, but I insist that their "poetry" is no match for the charming, inventive and evergreen master-works of Dr Suess, who's command of anapaestic tetrameter remains unsurpassed. Consider a typical example from "The Cat in the Hat":

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!
It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how.
I can hold up the cup and the milk and the cake!
I can hold up these books and the fish on the rake!

Absolute Gold! Equal that oh ye poetry snobs!
Yes, I grew up with "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" and all the rest. Thanks for the joy Theodore Geisel.

Why do my poems go higgledy piggledy,
Bibbety bobbety boo?
There must be some reason they follow this form,
It seems like the right thing to do.

Anapaestic Tetrameter's what it is called,
It comes from the Greek don't you see.
But if you convert this to musical form,
It means there are 4 beats of 3.

In fact, for the pedant, that's not strictly true,
"It's where's the first stress", they proclaim.
But Dactylic, Amphibrach or Anapaest,
To the muso amount to the same.

Next thing you will tell me is each other line,
Is composed of 3 beats, not fours.
But I tell you that 4th beat remaineth there still,
I've just left some space for a pause.

In folk music I deem that my favourite feel,
Is that rhythm known best as the jig.
It's wild and strong, like a galloping horse,
Though the snobs find its charm infra dig.

When there's four to the bar, it's a slide or a shuffle,
In Jazz they just say it is "swung".
But it's highly infectious like old Dr Suess,
Who's rhymes slip like gold off the tongue.

So condemn me for using the form that's most fun,
And categorize me as "light".
But it isn't so easy to get it to flow,
And make all the words come out right.

Warren Mars - July 2009