tobeornottobe

From Ballads to Roundels to Odes

We’re in the final week of classes for the MFA, and what follows is an excerpt from the forms class (there’s also a class on the history of prosody), that I sent out to the students a few days ago.  Over the course of the two semesters in the meters / stanzas / lyrical forms / lyrical genres sequence our students read, scanned, read about (i.e. history and theory) and imitated every single type of lyrical emanation listed below — and the results now coming in are astonishing (wish I could post some of them here…but that’s up to the students themselves…). It’s tremendously inspiring to see this curriculum at work in the poetry of the students. Now that they are working on the genres and know their meters, stanzas and lyrical forms, they are sending things like iambic tetrameter sonnet madrigals, and epistolary ceremonial blank verse, and so on…it’s quite a ride.  Here’s the excerpt from my post, which shows what we’ve done, and in what order:

As we come to the last week of our work in this course and take on Odes and Pastoral, I look back with astonishment over what you have accomplished in a single year in the craft sequence on lyrical poetry. Consider:

Meters
Anglo-Saxon Strong Stress Verse
Ballad Meter
Stress-Based Imitations of Classical Meters
Iambic Tetrameter

Blank Verse
Triple Meters
Free Verse
Nonce Meters

Stanza Forms
Couplets
Terza Rima
Quatrains
Cinquains
Venus and Adonis Stanzas
Rime Royal
Ottava Rima
Spenserian Stanzas
Nonce Stanzas

Lyrical Forms
Sonnet
Triolet
Ballade
Rondeau
Rondel
Rondelet
Roundel
Chant Royal
Villanelle
Sestina
Ghazal
Pantoum
Haiku
Tanka
Limerick
Clerihew
Double Dactyl

Lyrical Genres
Aubade
Serenade
Hymn
Prayer
Canticle
Carol
Epigram
Verse Epistle
Carpe Diem
Madrigal
Canzone
Anacreontic
Epithalamium
Ceremonial Verse
Protest Poetry
War Poetry
Elegy
Memento Mori
Epitaph
Lament
Threnody
Dirge

Of course, we haven’t worked as deeply on every single one of these as on every other – but we’ve done many of the major ones and you now know how to go after more.

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Looking at what the students are writing, I have that wonderful feeling that, as a teacher, at least in this realm and at this level, I’m making myself less and less necessary — and that when these students arrive in David Yezzi’s classes on narrative poetry and dramatic poetry next year…they’re going to be ready.  Indeed, many of them are more than ready to start sending poems out and you should start looking for them in print soon.

David J. Rothman

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