National Poetry Month: Day 6


A murderous magpie marches merrily
meandering more ‘midst mud and maddness;
to peck peevishly ‘pon pretty or pocked,
paupers or princes, pale proud prattlers;
he feasts from foe & friend, for festering flesh
from Fatherland or farther-land feeds felicitious:

verily, the sadness-shocked in tatters
freshens the blood like wine.

— Delilah Des Anges

In poetry as in all other art forms, experimentation with forms and assimilation of features from cultural forms outside the poet’s own culture drive the innovation and development of the art. Poets continually grow tired with the restrictions their precursors have invented and throw them off to develop new ones. Freeform, Dada-ist, unrhyming, unmetered: successive generations unpick old bonds and work at what Sounds Good, what Looks Good, and overall simply what works for them and their intended audiences.

Alliteration has been popular poetic device for a long time in the Western poetic tradition: one of the better-known examples in English is the narrative poem Gawain and the Green Knight. Much like rhyme schemes and metre, alliteration creates a sense of expectation in the listener or reader, inviting them to fill the lines ahead with their own imaginings, and satisfying or shocking them depending on whether or not the real result fulfils or bucks their expectations.

In this poem I’ve adhered as slavishly as I can to an intense regime of alliteration – one letter for each two lines – and tried to tie it together by using a closing couplet which, like the closing tercet of some forms of the sestina (more on this in future posts, I promise!), in which I use words which rhyme with the end-words of each of the preceding lines.

I’m not sure if it’s a success, but new poetry forms are being invented all the time, so who knows, I may even innovate this month!

Disclaimer: this is unlikely.

Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF.


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