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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A long poem using the rhyme scheme abab cdcd

I'm reading a bio of Edward Byrne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite painter right now so I'll use a woodcut of a Renaissance scribe for this post, following the example of the previous post. Reading is not all I'm doing of course. There's also a long poem in the works. The poem takes it's departure from a blogpost I did two months ago on female desire and the man's role in a woman's world. It's also heavily autobiographical, inspired in a way by Craig Sherborne's 2005 memoir Hoi Polloi.

What's notable about this long poem is the form, which is accentual-syllabic (loosely; the iambic metre tends to be observed more in the breach than in the observance, although there are always 10 syllables in each line) and rhyming (abab cdcd, though there are lots of half-rhymes). The models are Wordsworth's long early poem, The Prelude (1805), and Cowper's late long poem, The Task (1785). But unlike these models my long poem is not in blank verse, but uses the sonnet rhyme scheme of abab cdcd. It's probably something that you'd never consider if you'd not tried to write a poem in this style, but this rhyme scheme presents special challenges. With blank verse (no rhymes) or heroic couplets (aa bb cc dd) it's easy to add lines at any time. Say, for example, you complete 100 lines and then two weeks later you go back and decide to pop a few more in at some point within the poem. With blank verse you can add one, two, three, or any number of lines at any time with no problem. And with heroic couplets you can just simply pop in pairs of lines at any place as well. But the rhyme scheme I'm using resists this kind of post-factum editing. You have to keep track of the line endings, because if you miss out pairing one of them, or add in a line ending that isn't paired with a mate immediately, to fix the problem is a complete pain.

The way to make sure you've caught all the line endings is to count the lines when you've done a section. If there is an odd number of lines you're screwed. So far I've done four chapters in 322 lines. It has taken me three days to get this far. I have no specific plan at this moment as to how many chapters there will be in the poem; I'm planning each new chapter during the day and writing it in the early morning before breakfast.

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