How to Identify Meter in Poetry

Updated March 23, 2017

Step 1

Learn the meaning of meter. Meter is a recurring pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry. These patterns are placed in sets throughout the poetry and each set is called a foot. A set of two syllables beginning with an unstressed syllable and ending with a stressed is called iamb or iambic; a spondee is two stressed syllables. Anapest is a three syllable foot consisting of unstressed, unstressed, stressed syllables. There are many different feet. Learning their names and the stress patterns is necessary for identifying meter in poetry.

Step 2

Read any poem and determine the line length. There are many line lengths, including mono meter, dimeter, trimeter, pentameter and octameter. These line lengths are determined by the number of feet per line. A poem of five feet is pentameter; a poem with eight feet is octameter; trimeter is a poem with three feet.

Step 3

Combine type of foot pattern with the number of feet to determine a poem's metrical pattern. An iamb foot pattern combined with a line of five feet would be an iambic pentameter. A poem with a trochee foot (stressed, unstressed pattern) and a trimeter (three feet) combined would give the poem a trochaic tetrameter pattern.

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  • Purchase a book on how to write or read poetry, check one out from the library or find the same information online.

About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.