National Poetry Month Day 9

The Lullabies of Motion

Sleep comes tearing down the iron track
(click clack, click clack)
Where the road’s road dares not attack
(click clack, click clack)
Night’s whistle echoes both fore and back
(click clack, click clack)
And dreams come yawning from their shack
(click clack, click clack)
We shan’t wake ’til dawn’s first grey crack
(click clack, click clack)
When sleep comes rattling down the track.

Delilah Des Anges

Restriction in poetry, as in the villanelle, the triolet, the sestina, etc., and in metered forms, acts as a brace which folds the poem up and also as an impetus to force the poet to choose their words carefully. It can also work as a form of guidance: rather than being defeated by the sheer bewildering variety of words in the language (in English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are at least 171,476 to pick from), a rhyme scheme or required sound can narrow down the possibilities and jerk the mind toward specific meanings.

Restricting the words used to fall within a particular sound category can also produce a pleasing soundscape, and I’ve often had a lot of fun personally with oversaturating poems with sibilants: the endless “s” renders the poem soft and insideous (and the fun I mentioned there is largely masochistic as I have a lisp and it makes reading out those poems a challenge). Elsewhere I mucked around with voiced and unvoiced consonants to imply the silencing of bees; here I’ve tried to mimic the sound of a train both with onomatopoeia  in the click clack and in the echoing rhyme of the longer lines (ack, ack, ack).

For the masterwork in train rhythms in English language poetry, of course, one must look to The Night Train by W H Auden.


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

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