Study Guide

good times Form and Meter

By Lucille Clifton

Form and Meter

Free Verse With Refrain

"good times" is pretty much as free as it gets when it comes to, well, everything. But that's not to say Clifton doesn't throw in a conventional literary device now and then.

First there's the refrain, which we see at the end of each stanza. Not only does the phrase, "good times," keep us reminded of what the poem's about, it also has a nice effortless rhythm to it, kind of like the poem itself. So this refrain isn't your ordinary chorus that's just about making sure the poem's main idea sticks with us. It's also a way to keep the whole thing sounding catchy too. It gives the poem form and shape.

Then, if we take a look at the poem's overall structure, we notice that the speaker uses similar syntax for a lot of the lines. For example, lines 12-14 look almost identical when we swap "singing" for "dancing." All of that anaphora makes for an even more rhythmic sound. You could even argue that the anaphora gives the poem a visual structure, too. Those repeated phrases really jump off the page.

Why Loosey Goosey?

Who needs those fancy meters and structures anyway when we're talking about "good times" from a child's perspective? Kids don't usually compose super intricate sonnets about life, so if the speaker were to have opted for a more complicated meter, we might not feel the poem's honesty. Plus, Clifton makes it clear that she's not looking to capture the sound of a super formal or elitist group of people. She's focused instead on an experience that's familiar and down to earth. Free verse is definitely the best fit here.

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