Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Invented Form

The other night I went through my writing folder to see if I had any poems in progress that might hold some promise. This folder holds the poems that have been semi-abandoned, that is, they weren't working but I liked them well enough to hold onto them, thinking something might click for me weeks or months down the road. I throw out nothing, no matter how vile the first draft might be. Most of the drafts in this folder do not, in fact, ever amount to anything, but every once in a while I come across a draft and wonder why I abandoned it. I see some promise in it. Or I find a line that's the very one I need in another draft.

What I found this week was an unrevised draft, one I'd completely forgotten about. I don't know if this draft will amount to anything, but the form is intriguing, and I might like to give it another whirl. I can't, however, remember where I came across this form. I think it's an invented form. I love invented forms. I'm hoping that one of you can identify the name of this form and possibly even be able to tell me where I found it.

I wrote down the instructions for the form:

1. Begin with a line from a poem by someone else. (I suspect that the original instructions might have directed me to draw from a sonnet and then create a sonnet. My draft is 14 lines long and my first line is from a famous sonnet.)

2. Having chosen your first line, you must now repeat one word from that line in each successive line of your poem. For example, my first line was "Let me not to the marriage of true minds." I then decided to repeat "not" in each of the following lines.

3. The final two lines must rhyme.

Now while I love invented forms and rules, I also like to break the rules, so although I'd decided to use "not" as my repeating word, I also decided to use variations of the word. I first brainstormed a word bank: knot, nod, nut, nude, null, knotty, nub, but, cut, lot, mutt, knotted, nit, knit, gnat, note, net. Then I wrote the draft using a number of those words.

Does anyone recognize this form or know where I found it? Anyone feel up to giving it a try?

Note: My December Poetry Newsletter will go out this Wednesday, December 1. If you want to subscribe, go over to the sidebar and fill out the quick form.


  1. Diane, did the prompt or exercise appear on a poetry site or classroom teacher blog, etc.? or from a book of writing prompts?

    At the risk of giving you TMI "too much information" ;), I offer you now the results of my detective work on your mystery form:

    1) It's possible that the mystery form is directly related to Shakespeare, since the line you provided came from his sonnet. Shakespeare wrote sonnets that exhibit a single-word-repetition called, generally, "polyptoton."

    2) Kinds of single-word repetition include:
    a) "ploce" or "epizeuxis" -- repeating the same word, same grammar, same meaning
    b) "antanaclasis" -- same word, same grammar, different meaning
    c) "polyptoton" -- same word, same meaning, different grammar
    d) antanaclasis or polyptoton -- same word, different grammar, different meaning

    (The above information came from: The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics)

    3) This online Table of Forms suggests that the word "transnym" (sic? transonym?) refers to that single word which is repeated in every line of a poem --

    (I couldn't find this term in more mainstream poetry guides, so it may be nonce jargon peculiar to this particular Table of Forms.)

    Hope this info helps you in some small way.

  2. Good detective work! Now I broke down and cleared off my kitchen table this morning and uncovered the very book that contains the prompt. None of the words you have listed is used in the instructions, though "transonym" seems applicable. I've now got the answers to my questions, but I think I'll withhold them for a while just in case someone else comes up with the answers.

  3. In your December online newsletter, in the "Groovy Links" section, the Patterns of Poetry mini-lectures provide insights into repetition and sonnets by Shakespeare. Here's the link to the "Repetition" segment, only about five minutes long.


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