Friday, 1 February 2019

Meddle with a san san poem


For the launch of the Meddling with Poetry course, starting in Feb 2019, I’m sharing 16 delicious forms of poetry I've discovered, each of them a delight to play with.

Love your imagery? Use it to the max! “San san” means “three three” in Chinese – three images, each repeated three times, across just eight lines, plus a rhyme scheme of abcabdcd.

The san san is a lovely variation on the repeating forms - instead of repeating exact phrases or lines, it repeats the imagery, which can be reworded and reused however you please. Each image appears three times, in any order. With just eight lines, that's rapid repetition! It also has a rhyme scheme of abcabdcd. When I'm writing, I break that down into abc abd cd, to help me keep track, and sometimes write it with those line breaks as well. Later, when I type it up, I remove the extra line breaks. Here's an example san san:

Rosebay Willowherb


Arms overflowing with twirls of seed-head froth
as white as the hair of the man who stopped me, said,
“In the blitz, that purple grew in the rubble, throughout,”
arms overflowing with memory, voice like a moth,
“It grows in purple cones in summer – our dread
couldn’t survive the flowers.” November’s white
seeded the broken places, a growing shout
of purple and arms overflowing in white nights.

Here it is again with the imagery in bold and colour-coded, and the line breaks added to help you see the rhyme scheme:

Rosebay Willowherb


Arms overflowing with twirls of seed-head froth
as white
as the hair of the man who stopped me, said,
“In the blitz, that purple grew in the rubble, throughout,”
arms overflowing with memory, voice like a moth,
“It grows in purple cones in summer – our dread
couldn’t survive the flowers.” November’s white
seeded the broken places, a growing shout
of purple and arms overflowing in white nights.

As you can see, you can repeat the words or not to repeat the image: "arms overflowing" is repeated exactly; "purple" interchanges with "purple cones"; and the white seeds are "seed-head froth of white", "white seeded" and "white nights".

Have fun with it!

Note: To respect copyright, these blog posts only use my own poems as examples. On the course, I'm licensed to give my students copyright poems, so you'll see lots of others.

The Meddling with Poetry course starts this week, on 6 and 7 February 2019 (Wednesday and Thursday courses running in parallel) and explores a host of different poetry forms, as well as the musicality of language, poetic imagery, and other aspects of the poetic. Absolute beginners and experienced writers are equally welcome. You can read more details and book a place here. You can also find lots of other fun forms to play with on my poetry advent calendar.


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