Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Writing Prompt – Anapestic Tetrameter: A Tribute to Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss' NerdHappy 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:


On the far-away Island of Sala-ma-Sond,
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:


In a kitchen fantastic, in the dead of night
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.


Dr. Seuss' Green Pants With No One Inside Them

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!”

8 comments to Writing Prompt – Anapestic Tetrameter: A Tribute to Dr. Seuss

  • In Fricke-ka-zoom, a place Steven called home,
    He moped ‘cause he just couldn’t think of a poem.
    But think one he must, because Kelly had said,
    That Friday night’s prompt was not prose, but instead,
    A poem of an’pestic tetram’ter (or worse),
    But think though he might, Steve just couldn’t write verse.
    He sat up all night with his poor-rhyming woes,
    “I’m no poet,” he said. “I’ll just stick with my prose!”

  • Have you read John Bellairs’ THE FACE IN THE FROST? The wizards in that use anapestic tetrameter in their spells and it gives them a lovely and funny feel.

    • Hi Cat! I remember reading that book a long time ago. It’s wonderful! Funny you should mention it because I just picked up a copy of it two weeks ago at an estate sale. It’s on my TBR pile…but I think I’ll be moving it to the top of the stack now!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  • AnaPestic tetrameter’s something I love
    The rhythm just suits me, it fits like a glove
    Iambic is never a meter I use
    By maybe I’ve just read on much Dr Seuss.

  • P.s. I hate autocorrect, Mayr was meant to be maybe. Not sure how that happened 🙁

  • Christine Harman

    Great information. Lucky me I recently found your site by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book marked it for later!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>