Text STEVE to 484848 (USA) or 393939 (Canada) to get show updates
The Column

Feeding the Meter

Trying to use this column to teach anything may come off as dorky. But someone needs to take a stand against bad poetry before the cancer spreads any further.

Universally criticizing non-rhyming poetry is difficult. One person's terrible poem is another person's Gertrude Stein. So for the purposes of this article I will only discuss rhyming poems. Rhyming, non-metered poems.

I'm going to be mean in this column. I'm going to be picky. But I'm also going to provide you with fodder for when your aunt sends you a card that says something like, "I wanted to wish you a happy birthday. Which is not Earthday." That's a real card sent to a real friend of mine, who had a real hard time patching up things with his aunt after she overheard him mockingly suggest she should submit her work to the fine folks at Hallmark.

Meter is a part of rhyme. It is the structure that makes rhyme catchy; it is the foundation of a good rhyming poem. And it's insanely easy to figure out, unless you're either deaf or the vast majority of people who write rhyming poetry.

Meter is the rhythm of the words. Do you notice that words "rhyme" and "rhythm" are pretty close to being the same thing? That should be your first clue that rhyming poems need meter. Your second clue should be this following excerpt from Kay. She was kind enough to post her poem on the internet, where people like me could make fun of it.

As I sit here in class,
I observe my friends
And look forward to the year
Coming to an end.

Meter is created when there is an equal number of syllables and pattern of stress throughout corresponding lines of a poem. That is not what happened here. What happened here was Kay observing her friends instead of paying attention in class. Had she, she'd have learned how to count. Continue, dear Kay.

I remember the day
When I came back
To be with my friends
And get on the right track.

This, aside from lacking meter again, makes little sense in the plot of the poem. This was Kay trying to continue writing, coming up with nothing, and saying, "Screw it! I'm writing this anyway!"

We had so many moments;
Some bad, most great.
I'll always remember the love
And erase the hate.

Erase the hate? I swear I once got chain mail like this. It said if I forwarded it to ten of my friends, the society for punctuation would donate money to research errant semi-colons.

Kay later ends with the stunning conclusion that she doesn't want the year to end after all, because she will miss all of her classmates with whom she's totally BFF. Couldn't see that one coming.

Even if Kay's poem didn't take five stanzas to explain a feeling that could have been summed up in seven words, it would still grate on my nerves. Because it reminds me of every bad poem ever written. When I write a poem, I do not choose rhyming words despite their meanings, and I do not compromise the flow of the poem to say something that doesn't fit. I choose the medium of poetry only when I think that whatever it is I'm writing can benefit from the addition of rhyme and meter. Not because I thought of two words that happened to rhyme and decided to write four more stanzas hoping more would come to me.

If you must express your feelings in rhyme (and for some odd reason, a few people must), do it correctly. Pay attention to stress. Don't get bored halfway through and stop rhyming, only to start again when you can think of an easy one. Don't use imperfect rhymes, like "end" and "friends" (I'm looking at you, Kay). And for the love of Ogden Nash, don't rhyme good and food. The words may look similar, but they are pronounced differently. Despite the internet, poems are not meant to be appreciated silently.

Kay is now old enough to be a freshman in college, where I hope she's learned a bit more about poetry, or stopped writing it altogether. And if neither scenario is true, perhaps she, my friend's aunt, and maybe even you, can benefit from the following stanzas.

A sense of humor's certainly commended
When work you've done is lampooned to instruct.
I hope Kay understands no harm intended.
I only used her poem because it sucked.

I hope, if feelings hurt, they are now mended.
Despite her being laughed at by a dork.
I'm glad her poem eventually ended.
If not, I'd gouge my eye out with a fork.

"Spork" would have also been an adequate end to that last line.

*Kings vs. Sports Illustrated
*Paris Hilton is No Mother Theresa
*Putting the "Fan" in "Fanatic"
*Thinking Man: Happy New Year
*I'm Listening
*Punky Brewster Scares Me
*Don't Get Smart With Me
*Checking Out a Check Up
*Yeah, Thanks
*Steve Hofstetter is Your Friend
*Post Halloween Wrap-Up
*My Letter to Me
*The Night the Heat Went Off
*Turn That Crap Off
*You Might Be a Redhead If
*To My Future Children
*Shine Your Shoes, Mista?
*Flying Forward
*DotCom Dating Dish
*Paging Paige Page
*Watch While You Eat
*You Have Got to Be Kidding Me
*Come Home, Rachel I. K'Benjamin
*Get Out Of My Bathroom
*Subway Going Under
*Driving Forces
*Singles Anonymous
*Know When to Fold Em
*The Mirth of America
*Also Known As
*Smooth Criminal
*What That Mass Email Really Said
*Dude, Where's Your Car?
*Thinking Man: Can't We All
*You Might Be a Redneck
*A Nice Hawaiian Punch
*100,000 Friends
*Mine is Bigger Than Yours
*Good Answer
*T Stands for Terrible
*I Love You Guys
*Mitch, All Gone
*Birth of a Hate Mail Archive
*Never Do Today What...Ooh, Shiny
*Can You Hear Me Now?
*Fast Food, Slow Digestion
*Homeland Security, Eh?
*Quality Training Purposes
*The Show Went On
*Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
*Putting My Foot Down
*Breaking the Chain Mail
*Happy Valmochrismaweenygiving
*Mr. Clean's Illegitimate Brother
*The Quest For 10,000 Friends
*Forgetting Paris
*Magnetically Challenged
*New Year's at the Barefoot Boogie
*Instant Carma's Gonna Get Me
*The Biggest Loser
*Steve vs. Kentucky
*Gone in a Flash
*How to Destroy Your Car
*Ghouls, Goblins, and Candidates
*My Freedom From Your Freedom
*Drive Unto Others
*Please Don't See This Movie
*I Love The Clip Shows
*Column of Atonement
*Happy Anniversary, Sugarhill
*Life, 9/11, and the Interstate
*Your Band Sucks
*Spending Wisely
*The Blind Dating the Blind
*Grilled Cheese With a Side of Hip Hop
*The Drive to 25
*Are You There Margaret? It's Me, God.
*Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House
*Seacrest! Out!
*Harder Than You Think
*Glad To Be Here
*Thought for Food
*Feeding the Meter
*She's Ready For Her Close Up
*Paging John Hughes
*Excusing America's Gas Problem
*Extra, Extra, Extra Long Time
*The Finals Countdown
*Your Friends and Mine
*The Future Mrs. Bueller
*Toasting Not Toasting
*A Tall Order
*Snaking Your Engine
*My Hair is the Color of Tomato Soup
*The Solace System
*You Say Potato
*It’s Getting Less Cold in Here
*This is Not a Virus
*Pitchers and Catchers
*Another Night Not at the Movies
*Higher and Higher
*To Write A Wrong
*They Call it Super for a Reason
*Imagine All the People
*Lost Wages, Nevada
*This Just In
*Why Are All My Stands Red?
*For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls
*Silent One Day Sale, Holy One Day Sale
*I Want To Be That Guy
*Felicity Doesn't Always Mean Happiness
*That Time of Year
*My Cranberry Sauce Looks like a Can
*The Legend of Fat Dead Steve
*Two Beldings in One Building
*Happy Halloween From Happy Valley
*Three Stations and Nothing On
*15 Shots of Nostalgia
*Here's To the Dancing Guy
*Teaching an Old Dog New Sticks
*If You Could Choose Just One Dumb Question...
*Obligatory Pun on The Word Tired
*I've Grown Accustomed to Your Wet Nose
*What Do You Want For Your Birthday?
*What a Long, Strange Trip
*Open Letter to My UPS Man
*That Better Be Your Foot
*The Abandoned Lot is Always Greener
*Putting Down the Pieces
*Take One Down, Pass It Around
*Here, You Throw This Away
*Being Green at the Box Office
*Who Wears Short Shorts?
*America is an Okay Place to Be
*You Can't Stop the Rain
*Don't Feed the Alpha Males
*Don’t Sweat It
*The Special Plate Blues
*You Deserve It
*The Return to Popcopy
*They're Real, and They're Spectacular
*Keeping Your Prom Misses
*Guerillas in Our Midst
*That Weird No Bread Holiday
*The Ballad of the Buttless
*Something About Being Twenty-Something
*Have You Seen My Cell Phone?
*War, Huh, Yeah, What Is It Good For?
*Leggo My Ego
*I'm a Spazz, You're a Spazz
*Can I Please Keep My Pants?
*Engaged in Conversation
*Welcome to PopCopy
*Hold Me Closer, Tiny Bathroom
*My Two-Bedroom Furbee
*All’s Fare in Love and Daytona
*Open? Shut Them
*I Am Everyday Pimple
*Here Comes the Judge Show
*When, Praytell, Were The Days of Auld Lang Syne?
*What Are You Up To This Weekend?
*The Waiting is the Hardest Part
*A Night Not at the Movies
*Funny, You Don’t Look Flu-ish
*Does This Baby Come With Airbags?
*When The Hogan Family Was Still Valerie
*Blue (Haired) Tuesday
*In Loco Parents
*Moving Is Like A Vaccuum: It Sucks
*Thou Shalt Not Save the World and Get the Girl
*Like Oil and Stuff That Hates Oil
*How to Get Hatemail
*Fungi, Octopi, What’s the Plural of Bus? (Part I
*Fungi, Octopi, What’s the Plural of Bus? (Part I
*It Happens to the Best of Us
*Talking To A Piece of Junk Mail
*When You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees
*ICFS Disorder and Celebrity Kid Growth
*Electricity and Other Things They Cut Off
*When Pigeons Fly
*Goodbye, New York, Goodbye
*La La La-la La La, Sing a Happy Song
*What To Do at Work Besides Work
*Why is This Column Different From All Others?