Learning Poetry: Exercise 4

It has been over a year since I last ventured into the world of poetry on this blog as I slowly make my way through The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry. In each entry, I have posted my attempts at the exercises in the book and today, we'll look at Exercise 4 (Exercise 5 in the book).

If you are interested in the previous posts in this series, please check them out below:

I am not reiterating the content of the book here, merely the exercise, my attempt at it, and perhaps some notes. You may want to get your own copy of the book to follow along in more detail1.

The Exercise

Write your own verse of shorter measure. Give yourself forty-five minutes.

  • Two quatrains2 of standard, eight-syllable iambic pentameter.

  • Two quatrains of alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter.

  • Two quatrains of trochaic tetrameter: one in 'pure troche' and one with docked weak endings in the second and fourth lines

 The Result

This morning we are flying home-
Detroit awaits our restless feet.
The cats await our fuss and food,
Perhaps a tasty little treat.

Some sleep would also be quite nice
to rest my weary head and dream.
An hour or two, that would suffice
between the sheets, the sandman's seam.

Tomorrow must I work all day?
I hope that I must not.
If I could only have my way
I'd dream away the lot.

Alas, I have to go to work
and concentrate on code.
Keep focused, calm, not go berserk
Till I can hit the road.

Taking flight; Atlanta's waiting,
Soon we will be landing safely,
Stepping off the plane and skating
Off to catch the next one, waiting.

Home awaits me bed and bathroom,
Nothing could mean more right now.
First, we have to drive the vroom vroom,
If I can remember how.

The Score

Unlike previous exercises, there is no scoring. However, I think I did well at this exercise. The verses seem less forced and meet the requirements laid out in the instructions.

As implied in the words, I wrote these verses while journeying back to Michigan from a vacation somewhere. I cannot recall the exact trip at all, but I think the words conjure up the hope and fatigue of travelling. What do you think? Have you tried this exercise? Post your attempts in the comments, if you'd like.


  1. Try Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor 

  2. a stanza of four lines, especially one having alternate rhymes 

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