Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday Poetry Forms (Poetry for Dummies) Week 12

It is that time of the week again! Thursday has rolled around (rather quicker than I would have liked it to this week) and in The Gooseberry Garden we are gathering on our picnic blankets, sun chairs and in antique armchairs to try to hash out more of the crazy world of Poetry Forms. I am CC Champagne, and it is my task to attempt to find order in this madness and pass my findings on to you!

As you may know by now I have never been an ardent fan of fixed forms of poetry. I started this journey in the Gooseberry Garden twelve weeks ago having no idea if I would ever make sense of any of the many form prompts, the poetry-speak or mysterious words many of you brilliant poets out there use. If someone said ABBA to me, I never thought of rhyming lines, I thought of music (or possibly fish products), but as the weeks have passed I have become more interested in the actual craft behind some of the poems I come across, and I have also become less intimidated by the poetry-speak. ABBA, although still one of the best bands ever to have existed, in the world of poetry now tells me that I need to rhyme the last line in a four line stanza (paragraph) with the first ,and the second with the third. However, this doesn't mean that I no longer feel like making fun of poetry-speak at times and when I stumbled upon the Paradelle I knew I had to mention it here. Unfortunately, to be able to appreciate this brilliant form we have to try to make sense of the Villanelle first.

Some rules for a Villanelle:

- 19 lines in all

- 2 rhyming refrains (yes, I will try to explain this later)

- usually in pentameter (five feet to a line)

- does not tell a story or work for narrative development

Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? So far, I should add... We haven't touched upon the rhyme pattern yet! In poetry-speak, you would probably say something along the lines of 'A1bA2 abA1 abA2 abA1 abA2 abA1A2', which to me feels more like some mysterious advanced maths equation than poetry. In plain words what this means is that lines 1 (A1) and 3 (A2) are the two rhyming refrains that keep recurring throughout the piece, whereas line 2 (b) of the first paragraph should rhyme with line 2 of the second paragraph. I personally find it much easier to understand when it is examplified this way:

1. Refrain 1 (A1)

2. Line 2 (b)

3. Refrain 2 (A2)

4. Line 4 (a)

5. Line 5 (b)

6. Refrain 1 (A1)

7. Line 7 (a)

8. Line 8 (b)

9. Refrain 2 (A2)

10. Line 10 (a)

11. Line 11 (b)

12. Refrain 1 (A1)

13. Line 13 (a)

14. Line 14 (b)

15. Refrain 2 (A2)

16. Line 16 (a)

17. Line 17 (b)

18. Refrain 1 (A1)

19. Refrain 2 (A2)

There are several very famous poems that are written in this way, for example Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night', but I have to admit that I find the lilting rhythm slightly disturbing and I have therefore not attempted this form myself... Yet!

But to return to the Paradelle... I laughed when I first read about this form, since it was - according to Wikipedia - actually invented as a parody of the Villanelle described above! In the 1990s, an American poet named Billy Collins appears to have gotten frustrated with his peers' constant use of the strictly fixed meters popular at the time, and, as a hoax, invented a poetry form of his very own, naming it the Paradelle.

At first, I would suppose to give his hoax credibility, he claimed it was a form used in France in the 1100s. It did not take long for him to admit that he had made the whole thing up - which, strangely enough, did little to prevent people from making their own attempt at this horrendously strict and more or less impossible form! What makes my laughter extra cynical is the fact that reading about the Villanelle on Wikipedia it appears that our adoration of this supposedly ancient French form stems from one single poem itself, Villanelle by Jean Passerat (1534-1602) and that, although that one original poem was French, most Villanelles written today are, in fact, written in English! Who is to say that we are not, all of us, using a form that might have been invented as a hoax back in the day?

Would you be able to make up your own poetry form and what would it be? Would you even try your hand at a Villanelle or the hoax form, the Paradelle? Whatever you choose to write about, and whichever form you decide to use, you are most welcome to join us in The Gooseberry Garden Poetry Picnic week 11, where the theme this week is Halloween or maybe you even want to rev up your engine and enter the always entertaining world of the Thursday Poets Rally Week 55. I hope to see you back here again next week.



Jingle Poetry At Olive Garden said...

I truly enjoyed your introduction to


wish to have a chance to try,

Maxwell Mead Williams Robinson Barry said...

perfectly lovely job, girl.

keep it up.

Unknown said...

appreciated your beautiful work,