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2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse
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Friday, 30 November 2018

Meddle with a fold poem

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

Lovely repetition and light rhyme make a flexible, flowing form: 11 lines, with all the odd lines rhyming, and the end of line 1 repeated at the end of lines 5 and 11.

A fold poem uses a bit of repetition and very light rhyme (only every second line rhymes) which makes it a wonderfully flowing form to write.

It has 11 lines, and the end of line 1 repeats as the end of lines 5 and 11. (That can be one word, a phrase, or most of the line, as you wish.) All the odd lines rhyme (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11) - but because 1, 5, and 11 are the same words anyway, you actually only need four rhymes total. Here's what the form looks like:

1   ~~~~~~ refrain      a
2   ~~~~~~~~~~~    *
3   ~~~~~~~~~~~    a
4   ~~~~~~~~~~~    *
5  ~~~~~~ refrain       a
6   ~~~~~~~~~~~    *
7   ~~~~~~~~~~~    a
8   ~~~~~~~~~~~    *
9   ~~~~~~~~~~~    a
10 ~~~~~~~~~~~    *
11 ~~~~~~ refrain      a

refrain is the repeated bit; a is the lines that rhyme; * means no rhyme. As with any poem that uses repeated lines, you can play with twisting the meaning, or just use it as obsessive repetition

The fold peom was invented by Gillena Cox, who also specifies that there must be a reference to nature (as with haiku) and how it affects you as the poet, moments that are "special, simple and exactly". I take that specification with a pinch of salt: I write more than enough about nature as it is and I think the form is more flexible than that.

Here's the first fold poem I wrote, about choosing a perfume. The repeated bits are underlined and the rhymes are in bold - and yes, there is an invariable reference to nature, but that's more because it's me writing than because I was obeying that requirement! Anyway, is perfume distilled and bottled still nature?

Inhale: English oak and hazlenut,
cedarwood and juniper, cedrat,
amber, oud, and bergamot – the glut
drags you, gasping, country after country,
but… English oak and hazlenut
is home. Your skin says yes and welcomes in
its pheremonal counterpart to rut
in glee upon your wrist: it knows you well,
your smell of onion, sandalwood, and slut,
your lazy warm delight, your greenish gown,
a spell of English oak and hazlenut.

Have fun folding your own poems, with absolute freedom to ignore any rules you wish!

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 next Meddling with Poetry course starts in May 2020. It 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.

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