Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Burned Tongues and Unfamiliar Waters

Hello, everyone!  My name is Grace O'Malley, and I've been working my way through any strict form of poetry I could find over the last few months.  It began as a small thing to put on my writing-exercise blog, but after one or two, Marian, who writes at runaway sentence., began to chime in with her contributions, and a format challenge was born!  

Over the last three or four weeks, we've been working our way through some pretty rough and thorny undergrowth.  We stick with the stricter forms because we're both used to smaller or freer formats, and I have found that through these exercises, I have begun to reconnect with some of the things I loved about poetry when I first began to write.  For our first format challenge here at Real Toads, we are going to repeat a form we did a few weeks ago.  We loved it so much, it was the first idea we had when Kerry offered us a platform on which to share the challenge!  

So, welcome!  This week, we'll discuss the Roundel.

The roundel was developed by Algernon Swinburne as a variation of the rondeau.  It's a short poem with refrains, a repeating rhyme scheme, and a constant syllable-count. It has eleven lines, generally in three stanzas.  There are many examples of the roundel to be found on the internet, if you search carefully, including famous ones by Dorothy Parker and Geoffrey Chaucer!  One of my favorites is by Sara Teasdale, simply titled, "Roundel".

"If he could know my songs are all for him,
At silver dawn or in the evening glow,
Would he not smile and think it but a whim,
If he could know?

Or would his heart rejoice and overflow,
As happy brooks that break their icy rim
When April's horns along the hillsides blow?

I may not speak til Eros' torch is dim,
The god is bitter and will have it so;
And yet to-night our fate would seem less grim
If he could know."

In this example, we see the rhyme scheme:



R ,

with the refrain coming from the beginning of the first line.  Now, in my first attempt at the roundel, "Gray Lady", I missed this rule!  I succeeded in the rhyme scheme and refrains, maybe even in the rhythm, but failed to make my refrain the first part of the first line:

"This hunger always takes me unaware,
pulling me along on reluctant feet.
The wind tangles her fingers in my hair
as I head out to sea.

I conquer navies though I command no fleet,
my strange artilleries comprised of simple air.
Still, your lover prays we might never meet.

If some lonely night, you see me there?
If you're entranced by music sweet?
Shut up your ears, whatever else you dare,
as I head out to sea."

However, you cannot let the form dictate the poem, so, while trying to adhere to the strictness of the format is something we hope you'll do?  Minor variations are just fine.  Make the poem suit your voice, as Marian has in her first attempt, "hang my moon".

"if all the time i spent admiring you
broke down, shined out by sneak of my own light
revealing second place?  that would not do.
still, hang the moon you might.

the beacon of your realness in my sight
no longer hides beneath what is not true.
you know they say two wrongs don't make a right

so we'll make good on promises in lieu
of running, or of fear of darkest night.
i just know like the stars bright over you
yes, you hang my moon all right."

Her distinct voice permeates the form, and though she also chooses to eschew the forced refrain, she utilizes a killer writing technique called "burnt tongue".

This is a lesson I learned from Chuck Palahniuk, by way of his memories of writing workshops with Tom Spanbauer.  It's a method of putting words together in an unusual way, perhaps even "wrongly", twisting it just a touch, which makes you stop, pay attention, and maybe even read the poem out loud, as poetry ought to be read.

For more information on the roundel, Wikipedia's article here is a little scant, but servicable;  and if you are interested in more techniques of "Dangerous Writing" as put forward by Tom Spanbauer, Palahniuk wrote an essay here explaining them.  Also, many thanks again to Kerry for allowing us to reach a wider audience with our little challenge.

Please take the time this week to write yourself a roundel, and see if you can unlock its music.  We'd love to read your versions of this lovely form, so please link up, and leave a comment, when you've finished!


Marian said...

yay! working on a new roundel. do it, people! such a fun and lyrical form.

Marian said...

maybe i've already posted this one, but here is another roundel i wrote, last week. just for giggles!

Kerry O'Connor said...

This a Roundel I wrote last year, in the style of Swinburne. I see my rhyme scheme notes were a little different to yours... I shall definitely write a new one this week, following this pattern. Thanks Grace.

Kerry O'Connor said...

oops - no I think my rhyme scheme is right after all... and the refrain is taken from the introductory words of line 1.

Marian said...

aw, i wrote another one. i love this form, just love it.

Kerry O'Connor said...

And a new one...

Grace O'Malley said...

Kerry, you are absolutely right! I screwed up on my first roundel and had no idea until I went back to research for this post!

I wrote this roundel in FIVE MINUTES. New blog? Five-minute Poetry? MAYBE!

Of course, it is basically doggerel, but I like its lightness.

Thank you all for linking up!

Ella said...

I love the lyrical voice and the unexpected elements in these poems~
I will give it a go and come back n' post~ So, glad you shared; we need to push our boundaries~