Poetry Niche

Writing Style
by Lea Docken

As a novice poetry editor I made a checklist of all the styles of poetry I could find. I listed at least ten different styles, most I never heard of. At the side of each poetic style I listed the meters needed and the rhyme scheme. I went to edit the poetry and discovered it would take forever just figuring out the style of each poem. The poor poet would have no idea what I commented on. I spent hours changing the checklist so I would have something both the poet and I could work with. I began to think about the way I write poetry. I never did say to myself, 'I am going to write a sestina or couplet today,' I just wrote. Thinking on how, who, what, when, and why I write began a journey of self-discovery. I discovered I just write. The words come, I write. Oh, it takes a while to mold the words into a worthwhile poem, but never do I ever think about writing a certain poetic form. My poetry has to be lyrical. My poetry has to delve deep within the subject. Style? What Style? I write, I whittle the words to fit the tale. Reading aloud always helps me hear the lyrical quality; whether or not the words fit the musical story I tell.

Not until it was suggested that I turn a story into a Villanelle did I consider poetic form, then, I looked up the Villanelle and the strict form overwhelmed me. How on earth is one to write a form which the first and last lines of the first stanza are repeated alternately at the end of each stanza. And the first and last lines of each stanza have to rhyme? Not to mention all the middle lines of each stanza has to rhyme. Four lines make up the last stanza. The first and last lines of the first stanza are repeated. The meters also had to fit within the form...no more then ten per line. A nineteen-line poem, 5 three-line stanzas and one four line stanza. Whew! The rules boggled my mind. However I was stuck and knew I had to do something. I gritted my teeth and dug in. I found a Villanelle, placed it beside my blank paper and went to work. Finally, filled with unexpected beauty, a story, I could not tell any other way. Today, I am hooked on Villanelles. I love the strict form and the word play. I take comfort in the fact rhyme scheme is all-important in this style; no sense needs to be made. It is the form that is emphasized. I adore the sensible and at times non-sensible word play the Villanelle allows. I am sharing a Villanelle I recently wrote. Alas, at this time I cannot share The Accident, which started my obsession with this form, as it is soon to be published.

Lady of Wind

Blowing, heaving, pushing, sweeping
Death moves through the land.
Hear the cries; see life drifting.

"Lady!" The great Lord cries weeping,
"Do not sacrifice the sacred band!"
Blowing, howling, pushing, sweeping.

Sleep crawls slowly laboring.
All ceases at the motion of her hand.
Hear the cries; see life drifting.

The Lady's wind comes strongly stealing
Thoughts, birth, time's worn sands,
Blowing, heaving, pushing, sweeping.

"Sleep softly," she says, "Until the dawning
time brings renewal to the land."
Hear the cheers; see life rising.

The great Lady returns sighing.
Life begins once again,
Blowing, heaving, pushing, sweeping.
Hear the cheers; see life rising.

Lea (C) 1997

I find writing a Villanelle that one must at times take small creative license with the verse to paint the picture completely. An extra word or meter at the end of a line as long as the flow is not changed is acceptable. The challenge is not to lose the lyrical flow of the French Verse. Looks like fun doesn't it? When nothing else works I begin to try other forms.

I am eager to try the Sestina, invented by the Troubadours. Six stanzas of six lines ending in the same words in a fixed, although evolving pattern. Studying a Sestina show the end-words do not have to be in the same order as the first stanza; just the same end-words. Creating Poetry by John Drury has an example of a Sestina on page 120. I am going to take on the Sestina challenge. I will let you know how my Sestina evolves. Other poetry styles abound. Songs, Odes, Pantoums, Sapphics, Sonnets, Ballads, and the Haiku are all styles of poetry. Imagine the joy of writing a Haiku capturing the joy and trials of a season within three short lines of 5-7-5 syllables.


Multi colored leaves
Graceful flight of changing sun
Blanket day warmed grass

Lea (c)1997

Writing the above Haiku brought warm fuzzies to my heart. We try different poetic forms searching for a unique voice. Our own voice! Once we find a voice we may go onto to different forms. It is fun to play around. Ah, the satisfactions of writing a Sonnet with a song like quality while pretending to be Shakespeare. Sounds fun to me. I may not write verse with every different style but I will experiment. I encourage you to do the same. Go ahead. Try a style you have never written before. Investigate, read poems written in the style that you would like to try. Then, write poetic verse in that form. Remember whatever form or style of poetry you write your voice and your unique style will come through. You are the creator. Find a voice, create a world filled with words and style will follow.

I will use examples of poetry, my own and others, from time to time.

Look for the next article on Ideas.

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