originally published June 10, 2014

I have a tendency to mistrust my own ambition. One morning I felt the urge to spend that day’s kilograph using however many haikus would be necessary to fill a thousand words (eight-two, apparently). Another day had me wrestling to produce nine Shakespearean sonnets, adhering as closely as possible to the specific rules the Bard created for himself. Once I stuck my e-quill into the murky ink of limericks. Every time I drift from prose into the rhymey, heavily-structured stuff it sucks up most of my daylight hours.

Yet here I go again, this time seeking the lesser-known twists of poetic construct, and aiming to siphon yet another perfectly good weekday into the mire of make-workery. Such is the sacrifice that I shall make for you, the reader of my manifesto of madness.

And because nothing is really drop-kicking my heart of hearts between the uprights of noble inspiration this morning, I’m going to use films from the 1980s as my muse. Suck it, romanticism.

I’ll start with a seguidilla, a Spanish form of verse with a specific syllable count (7,5,7,5,5,7,5) and rhyme scheme (x,A,x,A,B,x,B).

Consider: five lives meeting,

locked in detention;

overcoming plot points, and

child-scar retention;

it might happen there –

in Fiction, Illinois, sure;

fist-pump in the air!

I’m not winning any awards with these – best to accept that early on and continue.

For my erasure, a form of ‘found poetry’ in which the words of another piece of text are erased, leaving something that might resemble a piece of poetry, I’m borrowing from James Earl Jones’ monologue from Field Of Dreams.

They’ll come to your driveway

They’ll arrive for twenty dollars

And they’ll sit on children.

Heroes dipped in magic so thick, they’ll come.

People, Ray.

Ray, baseball.

Steamrollers erased our past, Ray.

People, Ray.

People.

I think it makes the same point as the original, but with greater brevity. Sort of.

A clerihew is a quick, four-line biographical poem with irregular lines, an AABB rhyme scheme, and a whimsical structure. Since ‘whimsical’ is a must, I feel I should write one of these for the film Sophie’s Choice.

Sophie had a crappy day

They (spoiler!) took her kid away.

And though she fooled around with a guy named Spingo

Did it still hurt like hell? That’s a bingo!

Wow. Even with the fun Nazi reference to Inglourious Basterds, I still feel filthy after writing that.

A cadae is a poem based on math, because the people who develop new forms of poetry are unnaturally cruel. Each stanza of the poem contains 3, 1, 4, 1 and 5 lines, representing the first numbers of pi. Also, each line contains the corresponding number of syllables, because why make this easy?

To sum up: five stanzas with the line count above. Syllable count in each line should match pi’s digits: 3.1415926535897.

Since these poems are all about pi, I’ll write one about the greatest pie scene of the decade, from Stand By Me.

A large kid –

Huge –

Davie Hogan.

Loathed.

“Lardass” to others,

He plots an elaborate revenge:

Contest.

Comeuppance through baked goods.

“Boom-baba-boom.” Dicks.

Castor oil,

raw egg for the win!

He launches a well-placed, vulgar,

purple vomit-bomb. He sits back, chills,

and lets those jerks drown themselves.

I have never been so proud of myself for something so… vaguely inappropriate.

A fib is similar to the cadae, in that it uses math so as to challenge the poet into not going insane under such weird constraints. Rather than revolve around pi, the fib involves the Fibonacci sequence, that string of numbers wherein the next in the series is the sum of the previous two numbers. This creates a poem of six lines, with a Fibonacci syllable count: 1/1/2/3/5/8. One could go further, but by line twelve you’d need to fit 144 syllables in, and who wants to put in that kind of effort?

Grace,

this

snot-nosed

punk – Ferris –

he’s lying; he won’t

leave my cheese out in the wind, Grace.

Is this great art? No. Will I hit my daily quota and learn something about poetic forms that I’ll probably never even think of again? I guess. Do I hate it when people ask themselves easy set-up questions and then answer them? Yes, and I should stop this immediately.

I’m a big fan of the pruntiform poem, mostly because it doesn’t rhyme, giving me one less thing to worry about. The idea with these is that you can read the first line across and down, as the first words of all subsequent lines. American poet Randy Prunty invented this format. Congratulations, Randy. You’ve gone down in history.

Axel, this mystery will lead you west to fight another;

This darkness, this murder – shrouded in sulphurous

Mystery; hold tight to the truck-chains, steal hotel robes.

Will Serge make you coffee with a lemon twist?

Lead role as Balki he’ll take soon – but this is not your concern;

You must dig beneath coffee to find drugs in the warehouse –

West coast white people wear funny jackets…

To the strip club with Rosewood and Taggart with ye!

Fight Victor Maitland; there’s no concealing he’s the bad guy.

Another use for a banana you’ll find in your travels.

It’s hard to imagine I’m giving all this poetic fortitude to the masses on the internet for free, isn’t it?

Next I’ll try a little scifaiku – the science-fiction variant on the haiku form. The only differences are that they must have something to do with sci-fi or fantasy (obviously), and while minimalism is key, they can deviate from the 5-7-5 syllable structure of the haiku if necessary. Screw that – where’s the fun in this exercise if I’m not blindly adhering to structure?

Cute, crafty Muppets

Time to hoist those swinging logs;

Can’t use a blaster?

The tetractys is yet another exercise in syllable-counting. Just as the tetrad is a sacred triangle, the related poem is set up in much the same way. The first line is one syllable, then two, then three, then four, then ten. I don’t know why ten and not five – ask the ancient Pythagoreans.

“Karl

you should

have heard your

brother squeal when

I broke his fucking neck,” said John McClane.

Poetry is meant to touch the soul, and if your soul was raised on 80’s flicks like mine, I hope I inspired a tear. If not a tear, then some longing nestled within the cradle of your heart’s memory that cultivated a yearning for… oh, what’s that? I hit my thousand word quota? Should I stop writing now?

Yes. Yes I should.

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