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Always Write Form Poetry Cheat Sheet

Link added to Janice Wald’s Linky Party

In 1994 my first husband died. God comforted me. By day I taught fourth grade. By night I turned to poetry to keep myself together. 

Fixed form poetry has gone in and out of style over the decades, but enjoyed a modicum of popularity in the 1990s. Sticking to the form and making meaning out of the words I strew together soothed my sorrow.

With the onset of COVID-19 many are going stir crazy. Exerts thought the virus would go away with the hot weather, but it hasn’t. Many people still stay home more than they used to.

One of the best ways to fight boredom/frustration/anger and keep your mind alert is to write poetry.

In the samples below, each form is defined and I’ve used my own poetry as samples to model the style.

Like most of you, I am not an English literature major. One of the plusses about writing poetry or prose is that it doesn’t have to be perfect to share it. The fun is in the crafting of the words.

So enjoy.

Pantoum

A pantoum is a fixed style French form of poetry. The second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the following stanza. In the last stanza, the third line of the first stanza is the second line, and the last line is the same as the first line in the first stanza. It is written in three-foot iambic lines.  So the stresses are read as – da DUM da DUM da DUM

boy with head on table writing

Writing Day

They stare at pencil leads.

Start chewing on their nails.

Nothing’s in their heads.

They heavily exhale.

Start chewing on their nails.

They grasp at thoughts that float.

They heavily exhale

And look at what they wrote.

They grasp at thoughts that float, 

Visions evade their reach.

And look at what they wrote,

Nothing to merit speech.

Visions evade their reach.

Too soon the poem’s due.

Nothing to merit speech.

They see only what they drew.

Too soon the poem’s due.

Nothing’s in their heads.

They see only what they drew.

They stare at pencil leads.

Marsha Ingrao

Rondel

A rondel, a thirteen-lined French-style poem begun in the fourteenth-century writing of northern France. The poem follows a strict rhyming pattern with only two sounds, A & B. Lines one and two are repeated in various lines throughout the poem. 1A, 2B, B, A, A, B, 1A, 2B, A, B, B, A, 1A. It has been modified since its earliest days from 14 to the 13 lines we use today.

Malign the Clothesline or Hire the Dryer

Bird droppings dripping off the line,

staked up behind the dirt driveway,

that circles our old country getaway.

Wind stiffened sheets, perma-wrinkled negligee,

Dangle precariously over grassy soot, on twine.

Brittle, linty black socks hung in disarray.

Bird droppings dripping off the line,

staked up behind the dirt driveway,

Faded towels I know are mine,

Smelling fresh as a skunk in the hay.

Cardboard tee shirts betray

No fleecy dryer feel, only crisp sunshine.

Bird droppings dripping off the line.

Marsha Ingrao

Villanelle

The villanelle, a French fixed form of poetry consists of 19 lines: five three-lined stanzas or tercets and a concluding quatrain. Lines one and three of the first triplet conclude the quatrain. Line one also terminated stanzas two and four, while line three terminates stanzas three and five. There are two rhyming sounds in the poem. “The villanelle frequently treats the subject of obsessions.” Wiki

First-Year Teacher

Facts, theories, knowledge within my mind blur

Strewn together in my eclectic interior.

Skill, creativity, love, and wonder in each life stir.

Come inside where class goals occur.

Encourage pride of work, be their counselor.

Facts, theories, knowledge within my mind blur.

Brainstorm, list, write, proofread, and confer

Develop their writing to be superior.

Skill, creativity, love, and wonder in each life stir.

Drill, games, mnemonics, knowledge transfer

Meritocracy, always the competitor

Facts, theories, knowledge within my mind blur.

Build new schema on what they prefer.

Encourage the inquisitor.

Skill, creativity, love, and wonder in each life stir.

Have myself ready, organized, not just on the spur.

Break up large tasks to easily monitor

Facts, theories, knowledge within my mind blur.

Skill, creativity, love, and wonder in each life stir.

Marsha Ingrao

Kyrielle

The Kyrielle is composed of eight-syllable quatrains in the rhyming pattern of AABB, CCBB, DDBB, with each stanza terminating with the same line.

automatic icemaker in standard freezer

Dry Ice

Where there’s no pipe, there’s no water,

Ice makers do, but ought notter,

Work. It programmed itself to crush,

Whenever its steel grin could mush.

Beware when you throw something in,

Make sure it is in something tin.

In plastic, biscuits turned to slush,

Whenever its steel grin could mush.

So now my Ziplocks safely lie

Out of reach of the evil eye,

No worry ’bout a toothy crush

Whenever its steel grin could mush.

Marsha Ingrao

Limerick

A limerick is humorous or nonsense that rhymes. The poems consist of five lines A A B B A. The syllables are in a pattern of 9 9 6 6 9. 

Remember this one? “There once was a man from Nantucket.”

drawing by Joyce Purporo

Guinea Mania

A cavy named Betty did bellow

To Buster her own guinea fellow

“Deaf?” She gave him a bump 

On his guinea pig rump

So hard that it turned his fur yellow.

A Trip to the Doctor

A kindly old doc from Visalia

Could cure whatever did ail ya.

If you went in with bumps,

You’d come out with stumps,

And a bill that forever assailed ya.

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Now It’s Your Turn

You should feel brave after reading my silly poems. Are you ready to write a poem on your blog and share the link?

22 replies »

    • LOL, years! I have 119 of them neatly printed and categorized that sit in an unmarked binder. Some of them were published in small journals. Sending them off to publishers took more time than writing some of them. Then suddenly I wasn’t so sad, and I married. Vince, changed jobs, went back to school to get my masters degree and administrative credentials, and had much less time to write poetry. And it dried up until now.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I only write poetry when depressed but it is something I would like to change. I have put this into my journal to come back to as a reference for the different types. Loved your poetry. Unfortunately it is not a genre that is easily published unless you do it yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you on that. My first husband was dying when I wrote these. It sounds like poetry might have been therapeutic for you, too. These genres are more stilted and formal. They have been popular, hugely in the 1930s. When I wrote so much poetry, I found a few journals that would publish, but few that paid for poetry. Lots of anthologies wanted to publish if you bought the anthologies for $150 or something ridiculous. Have you found a genre that is easy to get published?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think anything these days is easy to publish unless you have a name or a good agent or have won a prize. As mainstream publishers markets diminish and self publishing increases the mainstream have to make certain that what they publish will sell or they won’t last long in the marketplace themeselves. Interesting times. A genre that I think has huge potential is prose poetry novels such as Finding the Place Marg Collett and We come apart by Crossman and Connaghan. The poetry means that every word matters and they are so emotive. I have reviewed them both and would be happy to post you Finding the Place. We can do a book swap.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I thought Colleen’s sheet was brilliant. She’s not into rhyming only syllables, so I thought I’d add on to what she’s done. I found one site that defines them all. So complete. It’s amazing what’s on the internet. I had a great interview with Soooz, thanks to you. It’s scheduled for tomorrow. I had an hour and a half phone interview with Charli Mills, which will come out in a week or two, and Colleen is doing a post for me by the end of July. Are there other hosts of writing challenges that you would recommend for an interview or guest post fo my series on writing challenges? Would you like to do a guest post for that series and talk about what got you started writing challenges and how it affected your writing?

      Liked by 1 person

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Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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