tagHow ToHow to Get a Round

How to Get a Round

byMungoParkIII©

No, this will not be a discussion about running around on your spouse, lover or significant other, and it has nothing to do with a Beach Boy's song from the sixties. This will be a brief discussion of several French forms of poetry that have been translated into English. Much like the villanelle, all of these forms utilize a limited rhyme scheme and feature refrains.

Rondeau The rondeau, or rondeaux in plural form has two basic restraints from which the poem is built. The first of these is a refrain made up of the first word or words in the first line which must appear in line nine and fifteen of the fifteen line poem. The second restraint is that the remaining non-refrain lines utilize only two rhymes. The thirteen lines also must be written in the same meter, often either in iambic lines of four or five feet.

Sometimes the first five lines form the first stanza, sometimes there is no break until after the ninth line. The following rhyming diagrams will show the layout of the rondeau:

Line refrain or rhyme
1           R a    —first line contains refrain
2           a
3           b
4           b
5           a

6           a
7           a
8           b
9           R -- refrain

10          a
11          a
12          b
13          b
14          a
15          R -- refrain

Or alternately

Line refrain or rhyme
1           R a    —first line contains refrain
2           a
3           b
4           b
5           a
6           a
7           a
8           b
9           R -- refrain

10          a
11          a
12          b
13          b
14          a
15          R – refrain

One of the challenges of a rondeau is the effective use of only two different rhymes. The poems often have a forced or artificial feel unless the rhyme is handled with deft subtlety.

Roundel A roundel is very similar to the rondeau except with fewer lines and slightly rearranged refrains. The roundel should have lines of any single length, not necessarily with matching meter. This eleven line poetic form draws the refrain from the first word or words of the first line. The refrain is repeated in line four and eleven, with the stanza breaks after the fourth and seventh line. Again like the rondeau, the non-refrain lines use only two rhymes. The roundel would diagram as follows:

Line refrain or rhyme
1           R a    '—first line contains refrain
2           b
3           a
4           R – refrain

5           b
6           a
7           b

8           a
9           b
10          a
11          R – refrain

Although there are not as many repetitive rhymes in the roundel the rhyme must still be handled well to avoid the rhyme feeling forced.

Rondeau Redoubled The rondeau redoubled takes the complexity of the rondeau and doubles it, or at least it seems that way. It is a twenty five lined poem featuring five quatrains (four lined stanzas) followed by a single quintet (five lined stanza) and a single line. Each line of the first quatrain make up four refrains that are repeated at the ends of stanzas two through five. Additionally, a refrain made up of the first word or several words of line one makes the final refrain on line twenty five. Rather than try to diagram this form I offer a sample poem, used with the permission of the author:

Sweet Agony

I yearn the touch, your hands are mine
Searching your soft geographies
Fingers ply your body supine
Coaxing the ache, sweet agonies.

Your face, your eyes burn with your needs
As palms press your breast's supple line
And I whisper my lonely pleas:
"I yearn the touch, your hands are mine."

Fingers and nipples intertwine
Grow firm to your circular tease
Then curving downward, serpentine
Searching your soft geographies

You move in subtle harmonies
Arching upward and then recline
In rhythm with your fragrant seas
As fingers ply your body supine.

Tension rises, desires entwine
Throbbing lips part to your wet heat
A liquid touch in rhythmic grind
Coaxing the ache, sweet agonies:

A pulsing quake of ecstasies
A burst of light, the sun outshined
As you seethe in your lone release
I'm left to dream, breathless repine

"I yearn the touch."


                    James M. Thompson

There are a number of other similar forms including the Rondel, Rondel Supreme, Roundelet, Rondine, and Roundelay all of which feature the varied use of refrains and are limited to two different rhymes. Again, the restrictive rhyme requirements in all of these forms make the skilled use of rhyme an absolute necessity for these forms.

 

Documentation:

 

1. Turco, Lewis The New Book of Forms, A Handbook of Poetics University Press of New England 1986.

2. Finch, Annie ed. & Varnes, Katherine ed. An Exaltation of Forms, Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2002.

3. Strand, Mark & Boland, Eavan The Making of a Poem, A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms W.W. Norton & Company, New York 2000.

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