Basic craft : Forms and figures /1
Many verse forms and metrical patterns can be explained on a "boxed" sheet:
even whole sonnets can be given as a TI-TUM "tune". I have included those
we have found most fun: the limerick and a quatrain in pentameter. The
pantoum and sonnet sheets are for the more experienced.
Given in this form, the scansion and structure can be built bit by bit,
jigsaw fashion. Nevertheless, I feel it's not necessary, except in the cases
where the form absolutely demands it, to hold precisely to strict rhythm
patterns. More can be achieved through reading poems aloud, both during and
after the making:
- demonstrating the cadence, the variations created by different phrasing;
- encouraging awareness of their own rhythms and how they can be used in
- to establish that poetry is built on rhythms, that different phrasings and
stresses make different and controllable musical effects;
- that poetry is intended to be spoken and heard;
- that to read (quietly) aloud as you write, in order to understand and
control the rhythm is an important part of the making.
There are many familiar standards in light verse; nursery rhymes and
humorous poems like "You are old, Father William" or "If all the world was
paper". Re-writing the words to these basic stanzas, or, indeed, any parody
or imitation, is an excellent way of learning how to work confidently within
a form and develop a personal style from a firm base. Some of the games
work by mutation: the original is available or copied out and players are
encouraged to start at the beginning, replacing words with others of the
same rhythmic and scanning values, e.g:
"You are green, Mother Susan,
the old duck quacked .."
"If all the stars were pickles
and half the eggs were bad ..".
It's helpful to point out to players how few words need to rhyme but how
important they are, so that the choice of rhyme-word will affect the whole
sense and story of the verse. Warming-up games of rhyme recognition can
be played (see Rhymeboard). It also helps to continually repeat the original,
then the part-altered and original together, to keep the overall rhythm and
sound of the original before the players. They should be encouraged to look
for lots of different solutions, it being stressed that there is no one right
answer but that one phrase or idea will sound and work better than others.
Although the subject matter of these games of parody or replacement can
be left to evolve as the mutation develops, we have sometimes provided
subjects. Since many old rhymes were comments on events and people of
their time or were comic for the sheer fun of it, these subjects were `won'
by players throwing a shape onto a table covered in opened-out newspapers
or comics. A line was drawn around the shape and the subject was the
newspaper story, the advertisment, the cartoon character or simply some
words that were within the outline.
For further information on this sort of game click on games listed under BASIC CRAFT in the INDEX side bar.