This week I’d like to share a form of fixed poetry called the Chant Royal. It is similar to an Ode that was often used for heroic subjects or deeds. It has five eleven-line stanzas and an ending that can either be a five line or seven line envoi… that’s 60 plus lines of fixed writing! To make it more interesting, no rhyming word is to be used twice! Talk about intimidating…the set up for the stanzas is as follows:
a b a b c c d d e d E with an ending that can be either d d e d E or c c d d e d E.
I’ve only written three poems in this style…and tweaked each try with my own add ons. The first attempt was a train wreck, the second was only a car crash and this one, which I continue to edit to this day. As you can see, I altered the rules, making the word She the first line of each stanza. I’m not going lie, it’s complicated, but if you’re up for the challenge, trying this form out will be its own reward.
…is so fiery and hypnotic that her glance can turn a glacier into a lake, with a beauty that gives contusions to the eyes, those beholding her sight may never escape. The web of awe she weaves is indescribable and hard to deny. Divinity can't concoct a vision this grand, nature jealous because second place is its command, even the sun rises everyday to see, this earthly inspiration born of ancient sands.
…is a scintillating narcotic,
who every milli-second I wish to take.
No other illicit drug could ever get me this high,
aching for her every moment I wake.
If she were to ever leave
a river I would most surely cry,
becoming a lost vagabond roaming the land,
so that this may never happen, here is my plan:
devote all my existence to thee,
this earthly inspiration born of ancient sands.
…is alluring and exotic, curves, skin, and lips, flawless, no mistakes. Fingers fighting to touch her; the battle ending in a tie, exploration of her form soon to be caress’s fate. Destined to one day achieve a consummation that will cause the heavens to sigh; two lovers who turn constellations into a fan, of an endless connection that continually expands, her vivaciousness expansive as the sea, this earthly inspiration born of ancient sands.
…makes me neurotic,
whether asleep or awake.
Illusions and imagination of other things I dare not try,
gray matter could never function under this much weight.
To be this devoted, who would believe?
Mental faculties contorted and the same time spry.
The logic that's left assails to the lower stand,
joining erratic thoughts which are calmed by her hands,
an infatuation that has me giddy with glee;
this earthly inspiration born of ancient sands.
…the rest of my life to her allotted, willful conscription to her I shall never break, for when she is thirsty my mouth gets dry, with eventual nuptials there can be no debate. Into me essential breath she breathes, I need her and that's no lie. So we take a journey only fated lovers overstand, her becoming a High Priestess and I the Iman, letting the moments scribe our story, this earthly inspiration born of ancient sands.
…at last bound together, we work on starting a clan.
Children soon to be everywhere, our own genetic caravan.
The villanelle is another one of those fixed poetry forms like the Pantoum that has a repeating line structure throughout. I like this form because the repeating lines tend to carry great weight as the poem is read. While it has been around for some time, Dylan Thomas made the villanelle renowned with his piece, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night with that unforgettable line Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
It is usually made up of five tercets and an ending quatrain with just two repeating rhymes and two refrains. The first and third lines of the beginning tercet are the refrains that repeat thru the poem and also end it. Its construction is as follows:
A1 (refrain one)
A2 (refrain two)
A1 (refrain one)
A2 (refrain two)
A1 (refrain one)
A2 (refrain two)
A1 (refrain one)
A2 (refrain two)
This form is challenging but it will definitely strengthen your ability to convey meaning.
Okay in this post I’ll be dealing with one of my favorite fixed poetry forms, the Pantoum. Why is the Pantoum a favorite of mine you may ask?…because it challenges one to convey meaning with repeating lines and has an ending that brings the poem full circle.
It uses four line stanzas with lines two and four of the previous stanza becoming lines one and three of the next stanza. For the ending stanza, you take lines one and three of the first stanza and combine them with lines two and four of the stanza before it. Sounds confusing right? No sweat…this is what the form looks like with alphabets representing each line:
A(line 1) B(line 2) C(line 3) D(line 4)
B(2nd line of first stanza becomes the 1st of the new stanza) E D(4th line of first stanza becomes the 3rd line of the new stanza) F
E(2nd line of second stanza becomes the 1st on the new stanza) G F(4th line of second stanza becomes the 3rd line of the new stanza) H
G(2nd line of the previous stanza) A(1st line of the 1st stanza) H(4th line of the previous stanza) C (3rd line of the 1st stanza)
You can add as many stanzas as you like, just remember the second and fourth lines of the previous stanza will always be the first and the third of the next stanza. As for the ending, you can switch the position of lines one and three having the poem close on the same line that it opened. That is the ending I’ll be using for this piece I call:
A Sonnet is a fourteen line fixed poetry form that employs the use of iambic pentameter (say that three times fast :-) and has a patterned rhyme scheme. There are many varations of this form, but in this post I'll be dealing with two of the more popular ones which are the Italian Sonnet and the English or as it’s known by most, the Shakespearian Sonnet.
The Italian Sonnet has fourteen lines that break up into two quatrains, which usually describe a problem, followed by a sestet (two tercets), which gives the resolution to it. This type of Sonnet can have many rhyme patterns but the one I will be using today is:
abba abba cddc ee
The Shakespearian Sonnet (made famous by you know who) consists of three quatrains and a couplet. Like the Italian Sonnet, it tends to describe a problem and offer a resolution. The rhyme pattern I’ll be using for this one is:
abab cdcd efef gg
I like Sonnets because they tend to be breaths of brevity…but the challenge is sticking to the script of iambic pentameter…that 10 syllable count is a pain in the bahookey…that’s why there’s poetic license. (^_^)
Over the next few weeks I’ll be trying my hand at fixed poetry forms such as the Chant Royal, Pantoum, Sonnet and the Villanelle. In this post, I’m going to attempt a Sestina.
What is a Sestina you might ask? Well it’s a fixed form dating back to the 12th century containing six six-line stanzas and a three-line concluding stanza known as a tercet or envoi. The kicker is that the ending words of the first stanza are repeated throughout each of the following stanzas in a set pattern. For the finale, the same six words appear in the concluding three-line stanza, two in each line.
Here is how the pattern looks with a letter representing the placement of one of the six ending words:
Stanza 1: A, B, C, D, E, F
Stanza 2: F, A, E, B, D, C
Stanza 3: C, F, D, A, B, E
Stanza 4: E, C, B, F, A, D
Stanza 5: D, E, A, C, F, B
Stanza 6: B, D, F, E, C, A
Ending: AB CD EF
So to recap: A Sestina is a poem that contains six six-line stanzas and a three-line ending stanza utilizing the same six ending words in all of the stanzas.
Looks intimidating right?
A couple of my poetry friends who’ve tried this gave me some tips on how to get started. One way is to pick six related words first, making sure you have a verb or two in the mix. Another way is to write the stanzas first then go back and fashion them to fit six words you choose after writing the poem.
But what’s the challenge in that? So I chose the first option…here goes…I call this piece…
The Plague of Fate
To step up and bare the soul unafraid of enormous hurt that can crush a normal heart causing memories to bleed because our eventual fate forces time to be cruel.
Sadistic satisfaction is cruel that one should touch the soul putting everything in the hands of fate not worrying about hurt 1,000 daily deaths to bleed just to once hold another’s heart.
But coldness seizes this heart for reality is relentlessly cruel coercing one to empty out and bleed from the very pit of the soul compounded hurt seems to be our fate.
Oh, to be strong enough to fight fate with the strength of a lion’s heart coiling off hurt the very thought cruel as I fight to reach your soul your name I will bleed.
Love, a dye that will never bleed untainted or faded by fate cleansing the soul and reviving this heart for kindness trumps an existence that’s cruel erasing all traces of hurt.
Longing to touch you may hurt causing worn abrasions to bleed but compassion crushes time that is cruel bringing us closer to fate conjoining pieces of a heart pacifying a once lost soul.
No more hurt because finally fate dies as joy commences to bleed from the heart time ceasing to be cruel, allowing unification into one soul.
I like to think that motivational and inspirational quotes about writing are crumbs that lead one to the table of action. Let’s face it, we're all susceptible to emotional ruts and bouts of laziness we call writer’s block but in the end the only way to write is to write…here are a few quotes I peek at every now and again when I need to shovel some coals into the writing furnace…
I don’t know too many poets including myself, who as they discover a proclivity for the written word don’t let their mind take to flights of fancy because they feel as though their writing is the best that has ever graced the planet. Like no one else since the beginning of human civilization has ever crafted together words to describe the indescribable…wrong, wrong, WRONG.
Whether we choose to realize it or not, folks have been writing about the same subject matter for several millennia and because we sometimes fail to acknowledge this, some of the best poetry one could ever read never gets read. Which brings me to an important detail all poets should heed…read read READ!!!
Not just your own work but the works of others as well…maybe in exploring the inked thoughts of those who precede US, one can uncover the mystery that makes writers like Pablo Neruda or Nikki Giovanni papyrus immortals. I know reading other writers might be hard to do especially when you’ve just written a masterpiece that puts Langston Hughes’ catalog to shame, but trust me it works.
See my LOVE affair with poetry began not with the lines of Sappho but with the lyrics of Rakim and the songwriting of Gamble & Huff; for it was rhythmic poetry that first seduced my mind. Once the love affair with palabras intensified I was able to move on to the Gwendolyn Bennett’s and Kahlil Gibran’s of the world, but when I first started writing poetry, I could see a lot of the mistakes I was making in my own work because of reading others.
You know the usual suspects…repeating the same word 50 different times in one piece, using the hell out of conjunctions (particularly as, but, for, of, or, that, etc.), switching from an active voice to a passive voice, misspelling, and my favorite…mixing up homonyms and homophones.
While grammatical errors can be fixed with proofreading and practice, one element that’s difficult to rectify is style. Writing styles that tend to leave an impact with me are those that show a reader instead of telling them. What does this mean? Simply paint a picture with your words that the mind’s eye has never seen. We all know what trees are and what grass is and what the air does, but if you can wrap metaphoric euphoria around these every day occurrences and make them seem new, then you’re one step closer to becoming the poet you dream you can be.
As Audre Lorde once said, There are no new ideas there are only new ways of making them felt.
I don’t know about you, but what I enjoy is when people FEEL what I write. Not FEEL it because they know me but because it touched a place that is familiar yet fallible. For their genuine responses have come to symbolize connectivity to something that is larger than myself.
I realize not every poet seeks to become a household name…for some their breathings upon the page represent a healing of the spirit and they share in an attempt to inspire others to heal themselves as well. I like to think one day I can nestle myself firmly into this category…but until that time the learning continues…
…is the question that’s been crossing my mind a lot these
I’ve been writing under the name Dasuntoucha for about 4
years now and have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with some truly talented
and motivated poets, largely thru on-line writing groups and poetry boards.
Recently at one of my favorite poetry spots, there was some drama with the
ownership that prompted me to delete my account because quite frankly, I felt
the way that the situation was being handled was totally unprofessional and
underhanded. While an owner of any given board or site has the right to do what
they see fit, a member has a right to do what they feel is in their best
interest. I don’t harbor any ill will toward anyone involved, but I made a
personal vow back in 2007 not to solicit any writing community where the
ownership is in any way, shape, or form is deceitful or disrespectful to those who
help facilitate the day to day operations, because 9 times out of 10 it is
their commitment that ensures writers keep coming back.
Even though some of my work has been published in a few
literary journals and poetic anthologies, it is the joy of being able to read
and share with others, whether novice or pro, that I have come to cherish. I
guess I’m like that playground basketball player that should be playing in the
pros but laces up his shoes and plays not for fortune or fame but for the sheer
LOVE of the game. It’s picking the right court to scribe on that makes
all the difference.
And in that regard I have been blessed.
I started out here
with an outstanding ensemble of writers when Tom’s space was the place to be,
then moved on to this community
where I encountered some of the best
undiscovered writers I’ve ever read, while also witnessing the pain one
person’s maniacal ego can cause. But luckily, a large amount of the
talent from that board moved here to what I consider my
TRUE poetic home. It was only out of
searching for other writing spots to expand my horizons that I was able to find
this place which was as advertised,
the hottest, realest, most active black poetry spot on the web. Here I
made connections with what I would like to consider life-long writing comrades.
I will never forget the relationships I forged with
poets and writers from these various boards…they are some truly gifted people
driven not by ego but an unadulterated LOVE of words.
As we know, the writing life can be a solitary endeavor,
but at least on-line if you choose to, you can post with crew…just choose where
you post wisely.
R.I.P. to Keith Elam aka Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal who passed away on April 20, 2010. Anyone who is a fan of Hip Hop music from the 1990’s knows how important his contributions were to the legacy of the culture. Guru and DJ Premier, who arguably headed one of the best Hip Hop duo’s ever under the name GANGSTARR turned out some truly remarkable music. They are to this day world renowned for the use of eclectic jazz samples and rhythmic poetry that was always a step above the rest. With Guru’s lyric dexterity and Premier’s superb beat production they left an indelible mark on many a music listener. Baldhead Slick you will truly be missed…ONE::
a few times
when it seems
Hip Hop has been
aligned with past
present and future…
…the end result being
as fresh as
when it first blessed the ears
with ancestral cadences
set to the echoes of
concrete dreams that
showed global nations a
Planet Will Rock
and Don’t Stop
while giving birth
who with his
of soaring beyond
to spray paint
in hallowed spaces
Above the Clouds.