Poetry For Dummies
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The ballad is a traditional form of poetry that conveys romantic or even lurid stories. Ballads are narrative poems with roots in the thirteenth century. They are still are being written today, especially in the form of popular songs.


Ballads take many forms. A popular one is the four-line stanza in which the first and third lines are written in iambic tetrameter (four iambs) and the second and fourth are written in iambic trimeter (three iambs), with a rhyme scheme of ABXB (the third line, X, need not rhyme or may rhyme with A).

Here's what two such stanzas may sound like:

The winter moon had tipped and spilled
Its shadows on the lawn
When Farmer Owen woke to find
His only daughter gone;
She'd taken all the clothes she had
Against the biting cold,
nd in a note to him she wrote,
"I've taken all your gold."

Stick to this stanza type and write a ghost story, mystery, suspense tale, news event, or heroic story (stories of the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood were written in this form). Make the story and the language as modern as you can. You'll see that this sturdy little form is excellent for carrying a tale.

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The Poetry Center in San Francisco sponsors readings and awards and houses a renowned poetry archive. John Timpane, Ph.D., is the author of It Could Be Verse: Anybody's Guide to Poetry. Maureen Watts is a writer and longtime poetry activist who serves on the board of the National Poetry Association

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