One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Mini-Challenge for Sunday ~ Envelopes

In my search for an interesting form to share this weekend, I have come across variations of an Envelope Stanza.

Image source: Etsy


The Envelope Quatrain is a very interesting form and was probably created by Francesco Petrarch, when he moved from the Sicilian court. As well as being the building block of the Italian octave, the Spanish and French octave also use it. However, it is a poetry form in its own right, and the meter, which if we look at the French or Spanish roots, consists of eight syllables, with English purists insisting on Iambic Tetrameter. This gives a suggested pattern of:
x x x x x x x a
x x x x x x x b
x x x x x x x b
x x x x x x x a
(Where x is a single syllable)

Example HERE

Photo credit: gino dedominici


The Envelope Quintet is a natural progression of a four line poem to 5 lines. There are several ways this can be achieved and the Sicilian Quintain is an excellent one, using the rhyme scheme: a, b, a, b, a

There are two other ways: one of them is simply by turning the middle couplet into a triplet, giving a rhyming scheme of: a, b, b, b, a.

As an alternative there can be one of: a, b, c, b, a.

If one wants to extend this stanza form into a lengthier poem,        
the c/ e/ g rhyme can also be used to link subsequent stanzas by setting the Envelope rhyme for the next stanza as below:

a, b, c, b, a
c, d, e, d, c
e, f, a, f, e

You'll notice how the last stanza (here shown as stanza 3, but any number of stanzas is possible) may be linked back to the original envelope, by using the a rhyme again. It is also possible to retain the c line throughout the poem as a repeat rhyme, or a repeat line (refrain).

There is no set meter, but Iambic Pentameter, or a ten syllable line is suggested.

Example HERE

Image source: tumblr


The Envelope Couplet is a far stricter variation. Here the first and last line use the same refrain which starts and completes the stanzas of that poem. The second and fifth line of each stanza rhyme with the refrain lines. This leaves only the centre couplet to change its rhyme:

A, a, b, b, a, A (where A is the refrain)

The pattern for a three stanza work would be:
A, a, b, b, a, A
A, a, c, c, a, A
A, a, d, d, a, A

The meter is suggested as Iambic Tetrameter, or an eight syllable line but may also be written in the ten syllable line if preferred.

Example HERE

Information sourced on

Image source:


The Open Letter: for those who hate rhyme and whose stomachs turn at the mere mention of rules and regulations, I invite you to write in free verse. The only stipulation is that your piece must be in letter form, complete with address, greeting and salutation, using four or five line stanzas.

I believe we can have a lot of fun getting to grips with these various forms of the Envelope Stanza.  Because rhyme and meter take extra time to write, the Sunday Mini-Challenge will be posted at noon on Saturday.  Only new work is wanted for this prompt. Management reserves the right to remove the links of poems which are older than Saturday, 21 April or which have no connection to the theme or form suggested here.


Heaven said...

I have used the form, using Mary's movies prompt ~ Any feedback is appreciated as rhyming is not my strong form ~

Happy day ~

hedgewitch said...

Just took a break from the garden to peruse this letter from the land of forms--I love it, and I will definitely be giving it my full attention (as soon as I'm through with everything else clamoring for attention.) Back later, and thanks Kerry for a fun challenge.

Mara-The Poetic Homemaker said...

Interesting forms . . . I'm game to attempt the first two, but the 3rd or 4th, I think I shall pass for now.

Fireblossom said...

Gah, my brain hurts. I would need to see an example, to understand what it is. I don't even know what tetrameter is. I'm guessing it doesn't have anything to do with neon tetras.

Next time, pretty please, could you just throw an example up, and say, "Shay, do *this*"?

Marian said...

love it, yippee!
i get it (cuz i'm a form lover), but i agree, an example would be a happy thing.

Ostensible Truth said...

counting in four again are we haha I love the idea of an enveloping poem or envelope poem - though more for its name and the abstract thought it has me running off with than its structure which would have me ripping up pages to achieve

Hannah said...

Hi there all you poetic peeps! :) So am I right that we just choose one form and try it, because that I can do! #2 was appealing to me and the way that you displayed the rhyme scheme with different colors was helpful. Plus the fact that it just calls for ten syllable lines is good because I'm still a little green in the area of the idea of "Iambic Pentameter etc." I need to study! Heeheee! Oh, also the daisy chaining effect of lacing the rhyme scheme to continue through the poem is cool too. Thank you, for the challenge!

Margaret said...

It is late Saturday and I have a busy day with family Sunday. I do want to do this as a challenge is always good for me... and yikes... what a challenge. I won't really be able to get to this until Monday or Tuesday. I hope that is OK.

Susie Clevenger said...

I am so terrible at rhyme so I did the open letter form.

Kerry O'Connor said...

No one should feel forced to attempt these forms, if they hate counting syllables (OT) or working in rhyme.

I did not use examples because they come straight from the site I mentioned and I don't have copyright for them, but I will add in links to the specific pages.

OT... if you came up with an abstract poem based on the idea of envelopes and posted it in the next six months, I would consider my work here was done :P

Kerry O'Connor said...

@Hannah... The idea is to select any of the forms mentioned which takes your fancy and try it out, but certainly not to do all of them :)

hedgewitch said...

Yeesh! These are not called challenges for nothing! I finally (hopefully) have a version of the quintet, with the extended linked rhyme in iambic pentameter--it would have been so much easier in tetrameter, but if you go fives, you have to go all the way I guess. Anyway--I hope I haven't butchered the form too badly. Thanks Kerry for the mental exercise.

Hannah said...

Thank you, Kerry!! I thought that was the case. I had a lovely time with #3!! Thank you SO much!!

Kerry O'Connor said...

I totally failed at getting my rhyming stanzas to sound like anything other than a jingle, so went with the open letter instead.

I humbly bow to those who kicked butt in this challenge.

Mary Ann Potter said...

Whew! For some reason this one eluded me for awhile. I may just tweak it later, but I finally wrote something that I liked!

Kay L. Davies said...

I managed to write a limerick for Madeleine this morning, so I thought I'd give these envelope forms a try.
Nope, nothing but doggerel at best, or drivel at worst, depending upon your point of view.
I totally missed the letter part of the challenge, so I may try that, but it's been a long day, so I might not even succeed there.
Bear with me. Consulting with my doctor tomorrow, to see if he has new ideas for my chronic problem.