Walk, run, use a hammer, a pen, a shovel, a pair of oars, a garden fork. Heartbeat, breathing, being alive. That’s where rhythm comes from. The language that poets use takes its rhythm from the way we live and move. Poets today are also influenced by three main English language sources.
1) The oldest is the ballad, or working song. Ballads usually rhyme. Often they use a stressed 4/3 beat, with 4 thumps in the first line, 3 in the second, like this:
‘I married a man from County Roscommon
And I live at the back of beyond
With a field of cows and a yard of hens
And six white geese on the pond.’
(‘Overheard in County Sligo’. GC)
2) Next came Shakespeare. He didn’t invent the 5 beats of iambic pentameter that he used in his poems and plays:
‘It was the nightingale and not the lark’.
(Romeo and Juliet). He heard it and spoke it. Even today we still often use this speech rhythm: ‘Come on, a cup of tea will do you good.’ ‘Get out of bed and do a bit of work!’
3) Then came the way we think and speak. The rhythms of natural speech are natural as breathing and are the drums that beat in the poetry of today. These, and something unique in each one of us, create that special thing, the poet’s voice.
You will find all these influences in my poetry, and in the work of most poets writing today.