Always Write Form Poetry Cheat Sheet

“When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand.” You’ve Got a Friend in your journal. Want to fill it and exercise your literary muscles on some poetry you’ve don’t see of hear often?

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?