On the poem extract below I noticed the following technique and it sounded really familiar, reminding me of punk rock songs and some strong man speeches (I know this is super vague, if I remember any examples I'll link them in the comments). This technique consists of a metric progression of long verses to short verses culminating with a one or two syllable verse, which happens from verses 1 to 5 below, then this is followed by same metric length verses with Anaphoras, in this case it's an anaphora with "the". Does anyone know if this has a name?

1 Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

2 I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

3 But when I start to tell them,

4 They think I’m telling lies.

5 I say,

6 It’s in the reach of my arms,

7 The span of my hips,

8 The stride of my step,

-- "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou

1 Answer 1


This appears to be a Trochee, which is marked by a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable and repeating in this order and is a feature in some famous poetic works you might known including the prayer "Dies Irem" (aka The Latin Bit from the "Bells of Norte Dame" from Disney's "Hunchback of Notre Dame"... it's the sequence where Frollo is chasing Quasimodo's mother and concludes as he murders her and tries to murder the infant Quasimodo as well), Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" and the famous "Double Double, Toil and Trouble" from Shakespeare's MacBeth, although the Bard was much more famous for his use of Iambic Pentameter (Iambs are the opposite of Trochee as the pattern is unstressed followed by stressed syllables. A Pentameter means there are five consecutive Iambs per a single line.).

I say seems as I'm not the best with marking stress correctly and Trochees are very rare in the English Language (Iambs are much more common, especially Iambic Pentameter. Many are due to the Bard being important in English Lit). It's also will very depending on a speaker's placement of the Stresses. The famous line "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" can be either iambic or a trochee depending on how the speaker places the stress.

  • Thanks for spotting that plausible torchee, though I was looking more for a technique that dealt with metrics: the progression of long verses to short verses (until it reaches a single or double syllable verse) followed by a barrage of equal metric verses (possibly with anafora). Oct 19, 2019 at 17:48
  • @AndreaRowlatt In so far as I am aware, there is no name for the technique. Trochee and Iambs refer to repeated uses of stress and unstressed sylablles while a X-meter refers to the number of Trochees or Iambs per line, but I'm not poet enough to tell you if there is a diminishing line capacity.
    – hszmv
    Oct 21, 2019 at 13:24

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