Some aspects of poetic rhythm: An essay in cognitive metrics


  • Eva Lilja University of Göteborg



Rhythm should be regarded as a perceptional category rather than as a property of the work of art. Rhythm might be classified according to three principles, serial rhythm, sequential rhythm and dynamic rhythm, three basic sets of gestalt qualities that lay the foundation for versification systems.
Two schemas decide the rhythm of a poem: direction and balance. 'Direction' refers to rising and falling movements in the line. 'Balance' refers to repetitions in a play between symmetry and asymmetry as well as a moment of rest.
Rhythms produce meaning, probably due to the fact that rhythms activate internalized bodily experiences as well as conventional meaning patterns. This is demonstrated on the basis of a poem by Sylvia Plath.


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Author Biography

Eva Lilja, University of Göteborg

Professor Emerita. Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion. University of Göteborg




How to Cite

Lilja, E. (2012). Some aspects of poetic rhythm: An essay in cognitive metrics. Sign Systems Studies, 40(1/2), 52–64.