Tag: poetic form

Doggerel: Tools in the Toolbox

 

Colonel Brown, in formulating the Group Writing topic for this month, suggested various spurs for approaching the topic, including: “Tell us about your favorite or least favorite form of verse.” Poetic verse forms are tools. Every tool has its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, one can pound on things with a wrench, but it is better for turning nuts or bolts. One can also loosen a nut with a hammer, after a fashion, but the hammer is better as a tool to pound on things, such as nails. Poetic forms each have their uses, their strengths, and their weaknesses.

A haiku might be good for conveying an image, especially laden with a double or triple entendre or strong contrast. But it isn’t usually that good for conveying a long story. Sonnets are also great for contrasts, since a proper sonnet has a pivot or turn of thought. But being longer, it might have several images or even convey much more movement of thought and detail than a haiku could. As we look at the verse forms as tools, it is certainly possible for someone to say, “I like this one best.” But the question always lingers, “Best for what purpose?”

A Day Late and a Doggerel Short: Rap and Henry VIII’s Tutor

 

I have spoken before of the fact that some “modern” developments in poetry are nothing new. For instance, rap battles are just an example of a much older practice known as “flyting” or “the dozens” or by any number of other names. Well, brothers and sisters, I am here to tell you that nothing about rap is new. As is said in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

There is a relatively recent movie called Quartet about an elderly group of opera singers. One of the elderly gentlemen teaches a class about opera to kids. To get the kids interested and excited in opera, he first does research on what kids these days are listening to. In his lesson, he compares opera to rap and tells the youngsters that in rap, you bust a cap in a dude and shake out some rhymes, but in opera, you stick a knife in his back and sing an aria about it.

Poetry Forms, No.13: Sestina

 

General Description and Requirements

The sestina is one of the more difficult forms to master. There are at least two reasons for this. The first is the length of the poem. One might write a few sonnets per day. The sonnet only has 140 syllables when using the English Heroic Line of iambic pentameter. A sestina using the same line is 390 syllables long, almost three times the size. More difficult than the length, though, is the requirement for the use of end words. In a sonnet, such as the English sonnet, one should have fourteen different words that rhyme in pairs, so seven pairs of rhymed words. In the sestina’s thirty-nine lines, there are exactly six words. That is not saying six sets of rhymed words. There are only six words that end the thirty-nine lines.

Whereas rhymed poetry tends to have a rhyming pattern, such as the English sonnet’s ababcdcdefefgg pattern; the sestina instead uses a folding pattern. All stanzas are six lines, and the order of the end words in the first stanza determines the order in subsequent stanzas as such:
Stanza 1: 123456
Stanza 2: 615243
Stanza 3: 364125
Stanza 4: 532614
Stanza 5: 451362
Stanza 6: 246531.

The Truck Driver

 

The trucker who lives next door is seldom home.

He’s a long-haul trucker, he’s over-the-road. He earns good money and does not spend. There’s something ascetic about him. He’s forty-five. His hair is long. He wears jeans and combat boots. Sallow and haggard, his face is handsome nevertheless. His willowy wife does not ride with him but stays at home. They have no children. The wife is solitary, long-legged and tan. She has a ponytail of sandy-brown. She smokes Marlboros. They do not rent but own. The wife spends hours in her garden, or she reads in her backyard. Her eyes are pensive. She waves to us but rarely speaks.

The trucker who lives next door arrives at unexpected hours, on unexpected days. Emerging from his rig, he has the leanness of a desert prophet about him. I imagine him eating very little while he’s out on the road. He transports the goods from north-to-south. He hauls the freight from coast-to-coast. He kisses his wife in the driveway. They hold hands and enter their tidy cottage together. They shut the door behind.

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I mentioned the cæsura in last Wednesday’s post about the Haiku, and then realized I had not talked about the cæsura yet. A cæsura is a pause or break in the line of poetry. In songs, it is a good place to take a breath break. Ditto in reciting poetry. It helps to break up […]

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We have now seen several forms having different requirements. Rather than learning something totally new today, we will look at a form that developed out of the tanka. Brief History: The haiku is a Japanese form. It started out as the first three lines of the tanka, which would be used in an extemporaneous chain […]

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Today’s form, the mad cow, is a pastoral form, meaning it is about subjects pertaining to the country. This is most definitely not a citified form, no sirree, Bob. It’s also rather long. The lines are fairly long and there are a lot of lines to it. Schematic: In alexandrines (twelve-syllable lines) with rhyme scheme: […]

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The tanka is a form that comes from Japan. Courtiers were expected to not only be poets, but to compose poetry extemporaneously. The tanka was the basic building block of much of this style of court poetry. It is a five line form in two parts, and it was not unusual for the first courtier […]

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Today we will be working with a fun exercise in poetry. The abecedarium or abecedarius is a poetic structure that relies on an alphabet or other sequence as the basis of the structure. The most obvious versions of these are didactic primers for juveniles of the “A is for apple” variety. A skilled poet can […]

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By special request, today’s form is the villanelle. Its major feature is repetition, which can be used for comic effect or to enhance the seriousness of the poem, depending on the subject matter and skill of the poet. History: There have been poems called villanelles for centuries, but what those poems were has changed significantly. […]

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In our previous lessons, we learned about everything necessary to enable us to compose what some would call the pinnacle of English-language poetry, the English sonnet. We have learned about measurement systems, rhyme, rhythms, formal lines, and the pivot. Now, we shall put these all together into one package. History and Origin: The English sonnet, […]

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The Diamante is a simple-seeming form. While it could theoretically be stanzaic, most are simple, meaning one stanza in length. It is seven lines long and has only sixteen words in those seven lines. It is based on parts of speech. The first and last lines consist of one noun each, and these nouns are […]

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There is a poetic device that has various names, including: the Pivot, Volta, or Turn of Thought. All three terms mean the same thing, and I probably missed a few other terms for it. The basic idea is that the poem starts off in one direction, and then at some point turns to thinking in […]

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We are going to ease into the accentual-syllabic poetry with the Heroic Sestet. In previous discussions, we have talked about the five metrical systems. We have practiced syllabic poetry with the triolet and accentual poetry with Old Story Measure. We also talked about rhyme and ways to make it less Suessish. We talked about the […]

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We have talked about and played with both syllabic and accentual verse. Our next step is to put them together in accentual-syllabic verse. To do that, we have to put our best foot forward. So, today’s sidelight looks at rhythmic feet. The rhythmic foot varies depending on the number of syllables in the foot and […]

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English is a naturally stressed language. Some words and syllables are more important than others and receive stress. Others are less important and are not stressed. When it comes to meter and metrical forms, English most naturally trends towards the forms that are accentual, meaning measuring by stresses. In Anglo-Saxon, sometimes called Old English, the […]

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Today’s form combines the lessons we have previously touched on. It has repetition like the pantoum. It is a syllabic form like the nonet. And it has rhyme, which was discussed in this last Sunday’s sidelight. Beyond that, it is a simple eight line form. Description: A French form of eight lines where the first […]

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As has been mentioned earlier in our series, poetry tends to be filled with mnemonic devices. They are the check digits that ensure proper memorization and recitation. For most of history, the epic poem was the equivalent of the blockbuster action movie filled with explosions and gore. Of the mnemonic devices used to keep those […]

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Our first form was the pantoum, which had one main requirement, and that was a pattern of repetition. In our most recent sidelight, we talked a little about the five poetic metrical systems. Our second form, the nonet, might be said to have a few requirements, but the main requirement is that it is nine […]

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