Un-der-stand-ing Syl-la-bles Sat-ur-day

I must alert you…there is a Poetry Notebook

Thief on the loose!

One of our RhyPiBoMo Notebooks has been stolen!

RhyPiBoMo Notebook

Last week I mailed one of our coveted RhyPiBoMo Notebooks to Kristen Spina Foote, a Rhyming Party winner. She sadly informed me today that she received an empty package from the USPS! Empty! Apparently, a Rhyming-Poetry Thief stole the notebook! I knew I should have insured that notebook for more money! So, be warned, if you display anything with the words RhyPiBoMo on it, there is a chance it may be stolen, so…guard it with your life! LOL


Kristen, watch for another one coming to you soon! I’ll put it in a box this time!




RhyPiBoMo Rhyming Party

Our Next Rhyming Party will be this Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Central Time!

(That’s Chicago Time)

What is a Rhyming party? It’s a one hour rhyming fun challenge in our Facebook Group! First, you must be a registered RhyPiBoMoer, next you must only comment in rhyme during the entire hour and finally, bring your fast fingers because I ask lots of quiz-type questions about the previous week’s blog posts and the fastest one to answer gets their name thrown into a hat for a prize.  As I hadn’t figured out how to fund the prizes for this year, they are very  limited. I will give away another RhyPiBoMo notebook and a manuscript critique by me, this Sunday…

So be there or be square!



I was fortunate enough to meet today’s guest blogger at a Regional SCBWI Conference last spring in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I listened her keynote address to hundreds of eager writers, in a beautiful ball room, surrounded by other well-known, yet equally as enthralled authors. The room stood still as Jane took the podium, sharing stories of her past, demanding the absolute best from each and every one of us sitting there and uttering her famous “Butt in Chair” phrase” as the crowd smiled and clapped. She’s a rock star! Yes, I asked her to autograph several of her books for me that day. I was impressed at how genuine and down to earth she was…and how smart! I was honored to meet her!



So, without further ado, I’m honored to present today’s

Golden Quill Guest Blogger

Jane Yolen!


       Rhypibomo Guest Blogger Badge    Jane Yolen 1



Poems are coded messages of fact and emotion. Did you know that poems were actually used in World War II as the base for the SOE, Special Ops Executive codes that the Underground used in France and elsewhere. Agents’ ciphers hinged on poems, and one of the most famous was written by Leo Marks for his fiancée who died in a plane crash. When Marks was in SOE, he gave this poem to the beautiful French agent Violette Szabo to use as her cipher before she was dropped into occupied France in 1944

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.


The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.


A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.


For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and your and yours.



Poets are code masters, and especially when we write poems for children. Our poems—whether funny or serious, short or long, nonsense or full of sense—change the course of a child’s growing as thoroughly as the Leonard Markses of World War II changed the course of history.

But just as Marks’ poem is rhymed on the slant (yours and pause and years are not perfect rhymes but remind the reader that I have resonance, kissing cousins as it were.


I sometimes worry that we children’s book poets forget that the family of poetry is very wide. Not just the immediate mother/father/sister/brother, those perfectly rhymed and scanned lines. Sometimes we need to break away from the jingle and go into the jungle of terrifying poetry.
Do you know J. Patrick Lewis’ poem that begins:

From Pat Lewis
The Rules of History

The fatter the king, the thinner the serf.
The longer the reign, the duller the pain.
The stronger the crown, the weaker the law.
The fainter the dream, the slimmer the hope.
And after two more wonderful, heart-pounding, forced-march verses ends this way:


The weaker the foe, the shriller the cry.
The louder the lie, the further the truth.
The madder the war, the sadder the foes.
The wiser the peace, the wider the peace.


Now there are no end rhymes in it, but some internal rhyming both true rhymes, like madder/sadder and slant rhyme reminders wiser/wider of what he is writing about.


But if he’d written this in jingle form—and he’s very good at rhymed poems as well—he might have come up with something like this:


The weaker the foe, the shriller the cry.
The further the truth, the louder the lie
The madder the war, the sadder the foes.
For that is the way the world often goes.


But look what we have lost in this poem: the pounding footsteps of the advancing army, the last line bashing in your head with a homily. This way, the verse could be put on Burma Shave signs, those placards of one line after another of a jingle that was the invention of a shaving cream ad campaign. But the way Lewis writes it, it will be put in the child reader’s heart.


I’m not saying do away with rhyme. I am saying make the rhyme fit what the poem is about. Be clever, be deep, be sensual with your word choices. Don’t let the rhyme dictate the poem but the poem dictate the word and line choices.

Be coded message, not an ad campaign.


–Jane Yolen, author of Emily Sonnets



Emily Sonnets


Word for PB Writers




Jane Yolen 5



Jane Yolen, often called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America,” admits to actually being the Hans Jewish Andersen of America. She is the author of 350 books, ranging from picture books and baby board books, through middle grade fiction, poetry collections, nonfiction, novels, graphic novels, and story collections . Her books and stories have won many awards, including two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, the Golden Kite, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, nomination for the National Book Award, and Jewish Book Award. She has two collections of adult poetry and a gadzillion books of children’s poetry. She also won the Kerlan Award and the Catholic Library’s Regina Medal. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates.


 Jane Yolen 2


Thank you Jane Yolen!


RhyPiBoMo Daily Lesson: Saturday, April 12th
By Angie Karcher © 2014
Lesson 14

Consider this a bit of Saturday review…


Perhaps we should start by asking how many syllables are in the word poem?
I pronounce it “Po-em” with 2 syllables but some people pronounce it “Poem” with one syllable. The official word based on 3 syllable dictionaries is that poem has 2 syllables. This brings us to such an important lesson about how critical it is to know your words. Choose them wisely and maybe even leave out words that could be controversial in the pronunciation.

A Syllable – is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds and is an uninterrupted segment of speech. A syllable is the smallest conceivable expression of sound.(write this down)


For example:
Dog has 1 syllable
Kit-ten has 2 syllables
Syl-la-ble has 3 syllables
A-vi-a-tion has 4 syllables
Dis-a-gree-a-ble has 5 syllables



A syllable is a unit of pronunciation uttered without interruption, loosely, a single sound. All words are made from at least one syllable. (write this down)

Vowels – A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y
Consonants – B-C-D-F- G- H- J- K- L- M- N- P- Q- R- S- T- V- X- Z -W-Y:
Note that the combination of consonants can create a singular sound as well
For example:
TH – SH- CH – GR – DR



Monosyllables have only one vowel sound (write this down)

Polysyllables have more than one. (write this down)

If a syllable ends with a consonant, it is called a closed syllable.
If a syllable ends with a vowel, it is called an open syllable.


Thanks to Mandy Yates, a Reading Specialist, for a better explanation of the different types of syllables!

Here are the 6 different types of syllables:(write this down)

1) Closed– CVC or just VC (cat or if) a consonant closes the vowel sound making it a short vowel)

2) Open– CV or just V (there is no consonant closing it off so it’s a long vowel sound and there is just one vowel= to, go, no or just I or a.)

3) Vce- words with the silent e= like, bake, cake, note

4) R-Controlled or Vowel R– words with ar/ur/or/er/ir- these appear to be closed, but in order to be closed the vowel would be short. These make a whole new sound.

5) Vowel Teams or Vowel Pairs– two vowels side by side. Can create a long sound = ai/ea/ay sometimes a short sound like /ea/ in bread or a whole new sound= ou/ow/oi

6)  Final Stable Syllables– these are non-phonetic patterns (meaning you can’t sound them out) that go on the end of a word: tion/tian/cian/ etc…or all of the consonant le patterns (ble/tle/ple.)




There is a tendency in English when a word with a
stressed final syllable is followed by another word without a pause,
the stress moves forward: “kangaROO”, but “KANGaroo court”;
“afterNOON”, but “AFTernoon nap”; “above BOARD”, but “an aBOVEboard



An interesting link to several maps showing regional difference in specific words:



Why must we have a concrete understanding of syllables?

The best way to improve your rhythm and meter is to get used to counting syllables. This is obviously not the only factor nor should it be your main focus, just the place to begin. This should become second nature to you.

I was a dedicated syllable counter before researching the daily lessons here but now I have a whole bag of tricks to use when writing poetry…not just counting syllables! That said, it is still important that your lines stay consistent in syllable count. I think there is a tiny bit of wiggle room in rhyming picture books but not much…just an extra syllable here or there…This should be the very limited exception to the rule!


The best poems to practice this with would be with Haiku, Tanka and Cinquain. We discussed Haiku and Cinquain the first week so this will be good practice.

Haiku – 3 line poem
line one has five syllables
line two has seven syllables
line three has five syllables


For example:
Sparrows circle high (5 syllables)
Sunny rays stream through gray skies (7 syllables)
Water drips from leaves (5 syllables)



Tanka – 5 line poem
line one has five syllables
line two has seven syllables
line three has five syllables
line four has seven syllables
line five has seven syllables


For example:
Snow drifts by my glass (5 syllables)
Spiders of ice form a branch (7 syllables)
Dancing on a breeze (5 syllables)
Small white dots move back and forth (7 syllables)
Sway to Mother Nature’s call (7 syllables)



Cinquain – 5 line poem
line one has two syllables
line two has four syllables
line three has six syllables
line four has eight syllables
line five has two syllables


For example:
Puppies (2 syllables)
Ornery fun (4 syllables)
Playing, barking, sleeping (6 syllables)
Favorite little loving friends (8 syllables)
Playful (2 syllables)



Look what I found…a few syllable dictionaries! These could certainly help with those words that are pronounced differently in different regions.

Syllable Dictionary
Syllable and Word Count Calculator
Syllable Counter


Poetry Terms and Forms



As Jane Yolen is our guest blogger, I had to share something

I found on her website that will be very helpful.

Five Tips On Writing A Poem
By Jane Yolen

1. Look at the world through metaphor,
seeing one tree in terms of another.

2. Let two words bump up against another
Or seesaw on a single line.

3. Tell the truth inside out
Or on the slant.

4. Remember that grammar can be a good friend
And a mean neighbor.

5. Let the poem rhyme in the heart,
Though not always on the page.



Writing Prompt: Write a Tanka today, as this is not one we have tried yet.



Okay, now do everything else on the pledge for today and don’t forget to comment on today’s blog post!

RhyPiBoMo Pledge

RhyPiBoMo PledgeRhyPiBoMo Pledge
Please comment ONLY ONE TIME below for a chance to win today’s prize!
Prizes will be drawn by Random.com next Sunday for the previous week.
To be eligible for a prize you must be a registered participant and
comment after each days lessons.


80 thoughts on “Un-der-stand-ing Syl-la-bles Sat-ur-day

  1. Hi Angie- What an amazing and educating session today!!!! Thank you:)

    Boy, I am a newbie at this blog thing. I thought I had registered as a participant this month but now I’m not sure. I realized I hadn’t been getting the blogs until this week. I also wanted to join the FB group. Could you help me confirm?

    Thanks so much, Aimee

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Wrote a tanka! what a cute name. Thanks Angie for all the lessons. I know I will reread, and reread them to weld them into my mind.

  3. A syllables dictionary…who knew? I’ll have to check that out.

    I love tanka. I was a winner in a tanka contest about two years ago. I must ad that both haiku and tanka are more than just syllable counts (and in fact modern haiku/tanka do not follow the 5-7-5 rules. Instead they use short/long/short and short/long/shor/long/long.) They should be a connection to nature and tanka should have a shift in the last two lines.

    Off to write my tanka!

  4. Loving it Loving it. I have to go blog hopping before I start my writing marathon but did a quick poem or two. Thank you Jane Yolen and Angie.

  5. Jane Yolen is amazing! I’ve read several of her books this week and find myself pondering what makes my half-rhymes imperfect and hers the perfect rhyming on the slant. What a challenge–to break away from the jingle and go into the jungle of terrifying poetry!

  6. Terrific guest post! And seriously, all the links you have unearthed and are providing are invaluable. Thank you.

  7. I spent an hour exploring Jane’s website…. a well-spent hour…. what a woman! I could relate to many things that she said. (like having complete silence while I write) I’d love to have her in my writing group.

  8. Thank you to host Angie & mentor, Jane.
    Here there be so much meat, to eat.
    Most of us will not have known our poetry history regarding the coded WWII love poetry of the Markeses, Leo & Violette. Makes me wonder where they had met? Want to look them up & find their fates. Hope they had many many more dates.
    J. Patrick Lewis I’ve just run & pulled from my shelves. Most of us will not have known the peace lines/dictator lines in his poem “The Rules of History.” (I have fun & lovely THE SNOWFLAKE SISTERS, GOOD MOUSEKEEPING & DOODLE DANDIES, handy.) I will look for the anthology or JPL stand-alone title that “Rules” are in. Saluting him!

    Thank you some more for this compilation, workshop, master class from the incomparable Golden Quill Guest Blogger Jane Yolen.

    Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty sent me here & I am loathe to leave but note the Jane Yolen URL with the poetry page, so this is, to be continued…

  9. Thanks so much, Jane, for the reminder that rhyme should not dictate the poem, but rather the poem dictate the word & line choices! Angie, can’t wait to work on my Tanka!

  10. Happy Saturday, Angie! Great to spend another rhyming weekend with you all. Worrying to hear that, should I ever get the honour of winning a RhyPiBoMo notebook then it might get stolen before I ever see it!
    I’d thankfully already found a syllable counter, and am trying to combine it with a speaking dictionary on my iPad, which has US and UK options I can compare when trying to critique US Manuscripts. It helps me work out different stresses to some extent.
    As always, all your links and advice are brilliant!

  11. Love this line from Jane:
    Don’t let the rhyme dictate the poem but the poem dictate the word and line choices.

    I wrote a little bit about the tanka form (and a tanka) on my blog this week if anyone cares to read it:


    Most folks who write a lot of haiku and tanka do not go with the strict syllable count–but they are adhered to more in poetry for kids.

    • Thanks for the extra on TAnka’s and the 3rd line turn. Your poem left me with an image I would rather not see, so I guess it works great since I cannot get the image out of my head. Thanks, I think. 🙂

  12. *Horrors* A thief with a taste of RhymPiBoMo notebooks is on the loose. ACK!

    *Squee* Jane, so many thanks for this. WOW. And thanks to you, Angie. What a fantastic month this is. I’ve learned so much my brain might bust. I’ve written a poem or three where the rhyme dictated the poem. So I get that. Love the linkage too. Gotta do my homework now.

  13. Love this advice–” I am saying make the rhyme fit what the poem is about. Be clever, be deep, be sensual with your word choices. Don’t let the rhyme dictate the poem but the poem dictate the word and line choices.” Angie, another informative post to get my butt in gear in learning about poetry!

  14. If you wrote a Tanka on the side of a truck does that make it a Tanka truck? Seriously though, this slant ryhme vs. perfect ryhme thing drives me crazy. People keep saying that editors want perfect rhymes, but now slant rhyme is okay? I’m confused. There is so much information and advice. How do we know what to follow and what to waylay?

  15. Poems are coded messages of fact and emotion. The story of Leo Marks brought tears to my eyes. What a lovely post from the amazing Jane Yolen. And thank you for your post about syllables, Angie! Of to try a tanka! (Sounds like a dance, doesn’t it?)

  16. Loved Jane’s 10 words for rhyming picture books…will try to brand them in my mind and hold them in my heart as I write. 🙂 Wonderful post, Angie…lovely lessons from a lovely lady. 🙂

  17. The jingle is my safety zone but I may have to venture off into the jungle every once in awhile. Thanks Jane and Angie!

  18. Jane Yolen has been one of my favorite authors for decades, ever since I began to read her stories to my children when they were little. I have long wished to have her as a teacher, taking in the lessons of her beautiful work. Today I feel lucky to have had the benefit of her thoughtful words about the nature of poetry and what makes it work. Thanks, Angie, for this wonderful post.

  19. Jane Yolen is a poet at the very essence of her being. I love that she showed how we can give ourselves permission to revel in our poetic sensibilities. And Angie, you are a mentor as well. Sharing so generously the rules but ensuring, no demanding that we allow the creative process be our guide. Loving this rhythmic ride.

  20. My Tanka is done! Thank you Angie and Jane for another wonderful post. Now I’m off to read Jane’s book B. U. G. (Big Ugly Guy)

  21. If there is any identifying info on the missing RhyPiBoMo notebook, it may make it’s way back to you, Angie. 🙂 Crazier things have happened.

  22. Wow, 350 books seems impossible. What a tremendous amount of effort for poetry and kidslit. Need to hop over and work on syllable counting. My chore for the weekend. That and writing a TENKA which I am excited to get done. Hope the notebook shows up soon.

  23. Jane, thank you for your enlightening blog post. The idea of verse being put in a child’s heart is what we all strive to do. I appreciate you and your wonderful books.

    Angie, I guess we can’t blame that thief for wanting a part of RhyPiBoMo history. You have broken ground with this forceful event. I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Thank you for the lesson and great resources to help all of us on our way to understanding poetry.

  24. Every day there’s more to learn. Thanks for the great info. As for the number of syllables in “poem,” my son thought that the word was pronounced “Pome” but was spelled “Polm” with a silent L. I don’t know where he got that, but he’s written some wonderful ones. Thanks, Angie and Jane!

  25. I appreciate Jane’s words not to let the rhyme dictate the poem. In my house, we’ve read many of Jane’s words and will keep reading them and keep reading them. Angie – thanks for the Tanka prompt – I haven’t tried one of those before.

  26. Enjoyed today’s post. I learned more about syllables today, and I usually go to the trusty dictionary to see the syllables and stresses.

  27. Thank you Jane Yolen for sharing your wise words with us. Angie I appreciate all the wonderful info you have gathered and put into some great lessons. I will learn to jingle, then venture into the jungle and try not to bungle.

  28. Thank you Jane for the inspiration! Reading today’s post helped me to look into the art of poetry, not just the mechanics.

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