Friday, January 11, 2008

January Poem Prompt 1 - Thinking about Couplets

Two lines of poetry working as a unit are known as a couplet. They can be syntactically complete in themselves, or they can employ enjambment and rely on the previous or succeeding couplet/s to complete the thought or image.

Couplets can have a feeling of isolation on the page - there's all that white space surrounding them - or maybe it's not isolation or loneliness, maybe it's aloneness, self-containment. Maybe they can act as a celebration of that white space and what it represents to you.

My challenge to you is to write a poem whose subject matter and theme deserves being shaped into couplets. Your reasons do not have to be the same as any I've suggested above, but try to be aware of the reciprocation of form and content.

And one other thing: couplets tend to draw attention to themselves so make sure that each couplet has some power, something to show or say for itself, even if it does run on to the next.

Good luck. And here's a poem by the wonderful Catherine Smith to inspire you.

On 6th July 2005, a fifteen year old girl sleep-walked from her home in East Dulwich and was spotted at 2 a. m., curled fast asleep on the counterweight of a crane.

She doesn’t register
the slap of pavement

then the grip

of each rung
as she ascends

towards the sky –
­a mild night,

stars winking
over the library,

the railway station,
the Curry Club.

She’s not dreaming this,
she’s not dreaming

anything. Something
drives her upwards ­

to curl her body
on cooled steel

rest her cheek
against the dust

and pigeon shit,

she could roll off
like a pea on the blade

of a knife, and her
mouth opens,

bubbles spit,
her limbs still warm

from the tangled nest
of sheets ­–

she’s not dreaming this,
she’s not dreaming

anything, she’s risen
above the tilt

of the earth,
she’s risen

as high as she can,
as high as this.

from Lip
Smith/Doorstop Books 2007

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Mary Rose said...


She stares at the calendar
Amy smiles at her

one arm round a giant snowman,
she’ll remain through January.

a star lights up the 31st
the rest looks bleak.

She isn’t sure if the paper box
goes out today or next week,

decides it went last week
marks it on the caldendar, relaxes.

She lifts the page to February
James bears his three years lightly

smiling, resplendent in England kit
hugging a full size football.

margaret beston said...

Hibaku *

In the precinct of the Kokutaiji Temple
the camphor tree has been uprooted

the fireball has scorched the bark
of phoenix trees, hollowed out their trunks

charred stumps of temple ginkgos
scar the landscape, their

butterfly leaves incinerated
by the apocalyptic blast

no life, no greenery, our city
is a sterile wasteland

then we see the water of the Ota river
running fresh and clear and

beneath scorched earth
green roots spread and grow

sending out defiant shoots
‘bearers of hope’

like the rainbow appearing
when black rain fell

we will lift the phoenix trees
plant them deep among the ashes

spread their seeds of peace
around the world and

in April fragrant Oleander blooms
will fill the acrid air.

© Margaret Beston

* ‘Hibaku’ is the name given to survivors of
the Hiroshima A-bomb.

Lynne Rees said...

Thanks for posting, Mary Rose and Margaret. Interestingly, both of them use the white space to indicate different types of silence.

I'll be back with another posting soon.

Sharra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharra said...

Mother’s day

The ringing doorbell brings
expensive Interflora flowers,

the excuse laden card signed
‘to mum with love, see you soon’.

But she’s learnt that soon
can be as long as a piece of string,

that each pound spent on freesias
is an atonement

for each day they don’t visit,
for each phone call they forget to make.

She sits the vase of pink and yellow
alone on the empty dining table.

The road to the shop is scattered
with fragments of families

sleep-deprived mums and squirming toddlers,
sulky teenagers with weekend dads;

the rest of the world moving at its own speed
leaving her in its wake.

The lad at the checkout is busy
impressing his friend, doesn’t notice

her hopeful smile
and cheery good morning

just takes the money
without a break in his conversation.

Hobbling home against the current of people
she tries to catch an eye

to smile
to say hello

but they’re wrapped in themselves
and don’t see.

On the chintz covered sofa
she sips her morning tea.

Four biscuits are counted onto a plate, the rest
stored in a Tupperware tub

just in case
they find the time.

Abi said...


I wipe mud and blood
down the front of my dress

my calves ache with crouching
my heart urgent

bloody hands by my side
ready to reach your neck

when I jump out screaming
‘gipsies will get you!’

blackberry juice running
from the corners of my mouth