Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress

Connections

A Hypertext Resource for Literature

back one section Section back one page Page    Page 1.4.1    Page forward one page Section forward one section

Scansion

Scansion involves marking the rhythms of a poem to make the writer's technique visible. Some methods of scansion attempt to mark out complex distinctions among sounds and stresses using musical notation or even graphs of sounds waves. When people speak of scanning poems, however, they usually refer to graphic scansion, which involves marking poetry's stresses, feet, and rhythmic breaks in a relatively simple way.

Scansion helps us recover a sense of how poets play with meter and rhythm to create meaning. Like all other tools of criticism, scansion will produce dull results when used badly or mechanically. Used with care and enthusiasm, however, scansion can help us unpack the technique poets use to create rhythmic effects, and it can sometimes help us see layers of meaning that we could not see or hear without scansion.

back one section Section back one page Page    Page 1.4.1    Page forward one page Section forward one section