How to write a poem like ‘The Raven’

What is “The Raven?”

On a night quite unenchanting, when the rain was downward slanting,
I awakened to the ranting of the man I catch mice for.
Tipsy and a bit unshaven, in a tone I found quite craven,
Poe was talking to a raven perched above the chamber door.”

How to write a poem like “The Raven”

1. The structure of “The Raven”

“I pretend to no originality in either the rhythm or metre of the ‘Raven.’ The former is trochaic — the latter is octameter acatalectic, alternating with heptameter catalectic repeated in the refrain of the fifth verse, and terminating with tetrameter catalectic. Less pedantically — the feet employed throughout (trochees) consist of a long syllable followed by a short: the first line of the stanza consists of eight of these feet — the second of seven and a half (in effect two-thirds) — the third of eight — the fourth of seven and a half — the fifth the same — the sixth three and a half.”

LINE 1: Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
LINE 2: Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore-
LINE 3: While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
LINE 4: As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
LINE 5: “‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-
LINE 6: Only this and nothing more.”

2. Understanding the rhyme scheme

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore-
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door-
Only this and nothing more.”

Stanza 1: A-UBER-C-UBER-UBER-UBER
Stanza 2: D-UBER-E-UBER-UBER-UBER
Stanza 3: F-UBER-G-UBER-UBER-UBER
And so forth

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, [internal A rhyme]
Over many a quaint and
curious volume of forgotten lore — [no internal rhyme]
While I nodded, nearly
napping, suddenly there came a tapping, [internal C rhyme]
As of someone gently
rapping, rapping at my chamber door. [internal C rhyme]
“‘Tis some visitor,” I
muttered, “tapping at my chamber door- [no internal rhyme]
Only this and nothing
more.” [internal/external UBER rhyme]

3. Now the fun begins!

4. Write the end first

5. Add poetic details

6. Having trouble?

The Man Inside the Mirror
In my chamber hung a mirror, shining brightly, shining clearer
Than the stars in heaven’s faultless vault on trails of silver ride.
Then one day a grave inception: this, my image, my conception
Twisted to a vague deception. Here, within my silver-eyed
Looking glass, my former double peering back with eyes that lied.
For it wasn’t me inside!

Vainly gazed I, sensing danger-yet my image grew yet stranger!
Days and days I passed in silence, staring, staring, and I tried
To conceive how it could be this man I saw could possibly
Share my soul and share my mind, but not my face-I could not hide
My raw dismay…yet share it, show it, never he! That face that lied,
It concealed its thoughts inside!

Gradually my mirror image started to deform and grimace;
Day by day and weekly, monthly, warped until at last I cried:
“Monster, demon tell me truly, beast, who are you? Why torment
me?”
Back at me my doppelganger stared, and hope within me died.
With a smile like icy crystal, coldly, cruelly he replied:
“I am you. I’m you
inside!”

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