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 writing;

  • 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.

worksheet image on off worksheet poems workbook pdf worksheets pdf
Windows Workshops Dave Calder, The Windows Project ,1997,1998,1999,2009