What Is the Meter of a Poem?

The arrangement of poetry includes a very deliberate choice made by the poet. Things such as rhythm and meter help to create the best poem possible. Understanding meter can help you to better understand poetry.


The meter of a poem contains a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. A stressed syllable provides more vocal emphasis, whereas unstressed has little emphasis when spoken.


Meters are broken into feet. A foot describes a pair of unstressed and stressed syllables in a line of poetry.

Feet Explanation

The five types of feet in poetry include the iamb or unstressed then stressed syllables, the trochee; stressed then unstressed syllables, the spondee which includes stressed and stressed syllables, the anapest; unstressed, unstressed, then stressed syllables and the dactyl; made up of stressed syllables followed by two unstressed syllables.

Line Length

Line lengths are also important. Lines can range from one foot, known as monometer, to eight feet, known as octameter and above.

Style Differences

Poetry meters can include any combination of counts. Shakespeare was famed for writing iambic pentameter, while Robert Frost tended to scatter different meter counts throughout his poetry.

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