Thursday, 12 July 2012


07:30:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , , , , 1 comment
Sonnet, Haiku, Senryu, Epic, Epistolary, Blank, Villanelle, Paradelle, Elegy.  Someone called Gary has counted 55 types of poetic form which makes me think that there the true number is closer to 555.  Some of these forms are rigid in their requirements of rhyme and metre.  Others encourage rebellion, such as Blank Verse, which requires only metre, or Free Verse which tends to follow no rules and Robert Frost described as "like playing tennis without a net".

As the quote above indicates, playing with form is a sort of game - an exercise.  It's one which is used in schools to familiarise students with form while allowing them to express themselves.  Below is an example of a sonnet written by Millie Shepherd, a high school student from Over Wyre. 

Shall I compare your love to refined art?
Not rendered by hue nor pigment but sublime.
Your composition plays a unique part,
In the remarkable mountains you climb.

You can't be broken by fragility,
Or overcome by the childlike spectrum.
Nothing you create hinders ability,
Instead it thaws with natural rhythm.

Your gentle golden brush of affection,
Hath expressed such bewitching imagery,
If such love would ever hint at rejection,
My entire existence would be a query.

If you only ever drew a rainbow,
It could never detract from your halo.

What Millie's poem reveals to me is the power of such an exercise on the direction of a poem.  I think you can see where the structure has guided the language.  This is no bad thing.  How many times have we started to write a poem only to find that the landscape, or chosen form, has redirected our initial efforts so that our final piece is removed from that first idea, sometimes radically so?  I think that structured exercises, and I cound adherence to form as such, is a time-honoured method of challenging those initial thoughts, of pushing ourselves that little bit further.  It's as if the paper is saying to us, 'Yes, that's an intriguing line of thread but let's see what happens to it when you wrap it about a new frame.' 

Of course, sometimes we don't want to be distracted by the frame - we want to communicate our idea in its first shape, without the twist of form.  But when you love to play with words (and we do love to play with words don't we?) there is a real joy in rising to the challenge of a complex structure, of hanging our ideas about a twisted frame. 

OK, it wouldn't be an exercise week without a challenge or two so here's a frame for you to try on... It's the Monostich form, which means a poem that consists of a single line.  Here's an example stolen from the interweb:

Bravery runs in my family.

A. R. Ammons

And here is my attempt:

Your licorice laces are untied.

Right.  Off you go...


Ashley R Lister said...

The monostitch?

Your lessons are still being learnt.

Despised despite having the coolest weather.