Lynne: For a while now the urge to write poetry has been growing in me. The words push me, threaten me with their whisperings until I give in ungraciously, knowing that this means work and struggle and disappointment. For words are a bitter master always finding new ways, better ways to combine, always needing another rewrite or a toss into the nearest waste basket or at really bad times the furious tines of a paper shredder. But there it is, I’ve begun.
I went back to the Four Line quatrains I was doing in 2012 because I found that the structure and brevity of these poems keep me safely enclosed within their boundaries yet let me wander anywhere I want in terms of meanings, sounds and typographies.
I try to write one quatrain a day and within a reasonable amount of time I had five quatrains enough to catch me up with the days of the 2016 new year.
What I wondered as I reread the nearly unpunctuated quatrains was how much understanding I was expecting from someone who doesn’t know why or how the words march beneath my fingertips because they do march, not in rows or columns, but in all different directions each to their own beat doing as many things as it is possible to make them do while staying within the formal boundaries set by my quatrains. Sometimes I even find my subconscious glaring at me for parting the curtains it hides behind for it’s naked and mostly unlovely.
I can describe how I am building the quatrains. Taken directly from Wikipedia: ‘A quatrain is a type of stanza, or a complete poem, consisting of four lines.’ Most of the quatrains I write are complete poems on their own, but I overlap their meaning from day to day by using the last line of the previous day’s poem for the first line of the next day’s poem. This repetition is known as chain verse and I use it to give me the push I need to start the verse for the next day. If you’re interested in more details here is a link that explains pretty well.
Next I have opted to use an envelope rhyme where the first and fourth lines rhyme and the second and third lines rhyme thus enclosing the middle two lines within the outer two lines. This shape, generally written in poetry jargon as ABBA, sort of resembles an envelope wherein the external lines contain the internal lines,.
For even more structure I limit the lines to eight syllables. Eight syllables keeps the lines sparse and clean because it doesn’t allow you to use too many prepositions ( ‘on’, ‘in’, ‘of’ …) or articles of speech ( ‘a’ and ‘the’) unless they are actually imparting meaning. This also keeps me from using multi-syllabled words which are fun for their internal rhyme but lead to rhymes like ‘conclusion’, ‘delusion’, ‘contribution’,’revolution’ … or one I particularly abuse, ‘ing’ words, ‘loving’, ‘giving’, ‘meaning’, ‘distressing’, ‘specializing’. You can see how any type of word can rhyme even though it’s root has no rhyme or even close rhyme between them. They are a sort of cheat for lazy or harassed poets. I don’t always avoid this but when I find too many syllables or a sing-song rhythm I look for repeating suffixes.
Those are mostly the restrictions I work within. I find that boundaries make it easier for me to start and finish. Plus every now and then something breaks the rules that is just too good not to use. These gems only come when those boundaries are in place and I love it when I find one of them.
In January of 2012 I explained these boundaries in verse:
I want to do a three six five
and start on january one
a poem complete neatly done
an envelope rhyme come alive
An envelope rhyme comes alive,
when the lines have eight syllables.
With strict straightforward simple rules,
lines two, three, one and four must rhyme.
That lines two, three, one and four rhyme,
seems strange and rather more like prose.
The constraints keep the meter close,
let meaning float beneath the lines.