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2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse
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Friday, 14 December 2018

Meddle with a Rubliw 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.

Like a Brontosaurus, this poem is thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle, and then thin again. The first line has 2 syllables, the next 4, then 6, then 8, then 10 – then it goes back down to 8, then 6, then 4, then 2.

The rubliw is another handy little short form, like the elevenie, but with no constraints other than the number of syllables on each line. Limiting your syllables, rather than the number of words or rhyme or metre, does interesting things to your writing - try it out and see for yourself. It was invented by Richard Wilbur, based on the cinquain – that's the one that goes 2–4–6–8–2.

Here's a draft rubliw I wrote to try it out, based on a delightful snippet of folklore:

flowers; berries
harden to red nubs, swell
and glitter black between the thorns:
soft and plump to the lightest tug until
Old Michaelmas Day: the devil’s
piss wizens and sours
fruit to gnarls on

By the way – if you're wondering how to pronounce "rubliw", I thought it was Welsh and have been going with "rooblee-yoo". I've just realised it's his name, Wilbur, backwards. Numpty.

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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