Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!
Theodor Seuss Geisel, writer and illustrator of many of my favorite stories, was born March 2, 1904. Even as an adult, I enjoy reading Seuss books (and can quote verbatim from several)!
Most of Seuss’ books are composed of rhyming couplets of simple words, making them easy for children to read, and learn to read. But they’re fun, too, which makes them all the better. Many times, Seuss made up his own words to make the rhymes fit.
(In fact, Dr. Suess created the word nerd, though with a different meaning than we think of it today. The word’s first known existence is in his book, “If I Ran the Zoo,” in 1950.)
The couplets Seuss wrote are the type “anapestic tetrameter,” which is often used in comic verse.
A few definitions:
meter: the rhythm of a line of poetry, composed of feet
foot: a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables
anapestic foot: a pattern of three syllables, of the form: unstressed / unstressed / stressed
Since “tetra” means four, each line of anapestic tetrameter verse contains four instances of an anapestic foot (or twelve syllables total).
A good example of anapestic tetrameter is from Dr. Seuss’ Yertle the Turtle:
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
The turtles had everything turtles might need.
And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.
You know what your prompt’s going to be, right? Below I’m going to tell you to go write some anapestic tetrameter.
I know some folks might feel intimidated by the challenge. So, I offer the following advice:
If you don’t think you can write anapestic tetrameter on your own, take a line from Seuss and change all the nouns and verbs.
For instance, instead of the first couplets above, you could write:
An egg-frying ghost, gave me a terrible fright.
Transparent, and shimmery, and nearly not there
He flipped the eggs with one hand while munching a pear.
He read from, “On Writing,” by the great Stephen King
And had just turned the page when I heard the toast ding.
Here’s Your Prompt:
- Write a poem in anapestic tetrameter. Don’t feel constrained to make it silly. Try a horror poem, or romance, or science fiction.
- I you’re feeling ambitious, write an epic poem — or short story — in anapestic tetrameter.
- If the words don’t flow, draw a whimsical picture like Seuss might have done. Remember: it doesn’t have to be silly! Seuss drew ‘scary’ pictures, too, like those “pale green pants, with no one inside them!”