Glossary

Term: Iambic Pentameter


Description

Iambic pentameter is the name given to a line of verse that consists of five iambs (an iamb being one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed, such as "before"). It has been a fundamental building block of poetry in English, used in many poems by many poets from the English Renaissance to the present day.

As with any metre, it is not necessary that every line should be entirely slavish in following the rhythm; in fact, being so could make the poem sound dull. Swapping, dropping or adding stressed and unstressed syllables will lend variety to a line without changing the underlying rhythm.

Poems in iambic pentameter may or may not rhyme. Those that are written in continuous lines of unrhymed iambic pentameter are said to be in blank verse, while rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter may be called "heroic couplets", particularly when each couplet closes a thought or sentence on its second line.

How to use this term

Iambic pentameter is versatile enough to be used for the 'Ruins of a Great House' in Derek Walcott's poem, and for the terraces that are left behind by the family that Douglas Dunn describes in 'A Removal from Terry Street'.

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Related Poems

Choosing a Name

Holy The Heart On Which We Hang Our Hope

Reading Stevens in the Bath

Translation Workshop: Grit and Blood

A Rose for Janet

A Subaltern's Love Song

For This

Geography Lesson

Miller's End

The Ride

The Yellow Palm

Ode to Didcot Power Station

Ave Atque Vale

Prelude to a New Fin-de-Siècle

Painting of a Bedroom with Cats

For Me

The Ice-Cream Man

Coming Home

Walking Wounded

Four Morbid Songs - an extract

Machines

Piano

Belfast Confetti

The Boneyard Rap

Corpse

Song of the Death-Watch Beetle

Urban Lyric

Enemies

Fundamentals

Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley

Between Hovers

For Meg

Sonnet for Dick

Don't Ask Me, Love, for That First Love

Marigolds

Sigma

On Going Deaf

The Living End

Life Is a Walk Across a Field

The Texas Swing Boys' Dadaist Manifesto

Mayflies

The Mulberry Tree

The Romans in Britain

Timothy Winters

Variation on an Old Rhyme

Granny Is

Holy The Heart On Which We Hang Our Hope

A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London

Bloodlines - an extract

Don't Ask Me, Love, for That First Love

The Lost Woman

Hypnopaedia

Sea Wind

Shantung

You Were Wearing Blue

You're Beautiful

Cracks

What Is Poetry

Ghazal

Razor

Strugnell's Haiku

A Removal from Terry Street

Ruins of a Great House

Simple Poem

A Supermarket in California

In praise of vodka

Leaving the Tate

Seashell

The Elwood Organic Fruit and Vegetable Shop

A Rose for Janet

Art Class

The Moon Upoon the Waters

Bluebottle

Dad

Mum [Polly Peters]

Waterslain: Diz, Shuck, Beachcomber

Three Limericks

A Given Grace

Belfast Confetti

Fox

Simple Poem

The Yellow Palm

Catmint Tea

Dad

Life Is a Walk Across a Field

The Elwood Organic Fruit and Vegetable Shop

Time

Veteran

Nine to Five

The Annals of Sheer

The Grain of Things

A Minute's Silence

Half-light

Simple Poem

America

At the Grave of Asa Benveniste

Ode to Didcot Power Station

Bats' Ultrasound

On the Ning Nang Nong

The Charge of the Heavy Brigade - an extract

Sniper

For Me

Strugnell's Haiku

The Passionate Pupil Declaring Love

Don't Ask Me, Love, for That First Love

Geography Lesson

Sonnet for Dick

Thief

Fundamentals

Monologue in the Valley of the Kings

Preston North End

Self Employed

Siren Song

Strugnell's Haiku

For John Clare

In The Colonie (an extract: 34)

Use Your Rains

Apologia pro vita sua

In Paris with You

Lord Neptune

The Uncut Stone

You're Beautiful

At the British War Cemetery, Bayeux

Marriage - an extract

Oxygen

Perfection Isn't Like A Perfect Story

Preston North End

The River

Well, Francis, Where's the Sun?

Bloodlines - an extract

Crapshoot

Jessica Learned to Kiss

Dreaming in the Shanghai Restaurant

Incident on a Holiday

The Conjuror

Two Lorries

Fork

Machines

Slow Reader

Thief

Catmint Tea

My Mammogram

Overblown Roses

Sonnet

Sonnet for Dick

The Happy Grass

Window

Hyena

Leaving the Tate

Prayer Before Birth

Reading Leaves

Parliament Hill Fields

The Articles of Prayer

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Considering the Snail

Incident on a Holiday

A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London

Beyond Decoration

For This

A Barred Owl

A blade of grass

The Happy Grass

The Master of the Cast Shadow - an extract from the sequence Consequences

Missing Dates

Villanelle for the Middle of the Way

Daljit Nagra

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