Elements of Poetry - Overview

How to classify the lines of a poem.

Poems can be categorized by studying the individual lines or groupings of lines (stanzas). Line length can be defined by the number of syllables, or by the number of metrical feet. The type of meter determines the rhythm or beat of the poem.

The term "scansion" refers to the process of analysing the lines of a poem and identifying syllable accents in order to determine the rhythm (or meter) of the poem.
Systems and notations for identifying scansion. [Wikipedia]

Key Points

  1. Syllables are identified.
  2. Accents are placed on the syllables.
  3. Groupings of syllables (accented and nonaccented) are identified. Please note the groupings are not set in stone.
  4. The metrical foot is determined by the pattern of accents and non-accents in each grouping.
  5. A line can contain:
    • repeated sequences (length variable) of the same type of metrical foot.
    • sequences of mixed type metrical feet.