A Funny Old Form: Double Dactyls

Of all the forms of poetry, the bizarre “double dactyl” has produced some of the most wonderfully bonkers poems. And for that, I love it.

Here are a couple of my double dactylic efforts. If you would like a go (and who wouldn’t?) the rather odd rules are provided below. I’ve also added some links so you can read some more examples.

Queen of the Dancefloor

Ooyakah Booyakah!
Dear Queen Elizabeth’s
ninety third birthday
turned into a rave.

She did the running man
extraordinarily,
crafting a move from her
famed royal wave.

It’s been a blast

Agedly sagedly
David F Attenborough
said we were doomed
with a very sad face.

We dragged our knuckles round
uncomprehendingly,
wrapped him in plastic
and launched him to space.

And Here Be The Rules

  • A double dactyl has 8 lines divided into two stanzas.
  • Each line should consist of two dactyls. A dactyl is a rhythmical foot with a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables like this: “YOM-pa-pa”
  • Lines 4 and 8 are the exception to this, rounding off each stanza with a “YOM-pa-pa YOM.”
  • Line 1 should consist of a pair of slightly nonsensical rhyming words. These can be relevant to the theme, or not. They might simply be there as a little oral warm-up. Flonkington plonkington.
  • Line 2 should consist of a single name. Now, some people’s names are simply MADE for double dactyls, (Gillian Anderson, Christopher Ecclestone, Edward Jehazaphat*) but many are not. A middle initial (“David F Attenborough) or slightly illegal adjective, (“Dear Queen Elizabeth”) can help, but some names, alas, are just beyond the reach of the double dactyl.
  • Line 6 should ideally consist of a single, six-syllable word. Quite a lot of double dactyl writers gently ignore this rule however. Why? Because it’s REALLY awkward.

And there you go. Simple. Right?!?

 

If you’re loving the double dactyl, by the way (and what’s not to love), Snakeskin Poetry recently did a rather marvellous DD special feature, which you can find here.

And if you’d like to find out more about the origins of the form (ie who on earth thought this was all a good idea and why), take a look here. There are some more examples to enjoy too.

And finally, if you’d like some lovely, or fun, or slightly odd poetry to pop up on your newsfeed now and again, all you have to do is follow the itallrhymes Facebook page.

*At the time of writing, Edward Jehazaphat does not exist. But should. 

The Exhalations of Stones

Many of the poems I write are on the lighter side, and they are quite obvious in their meaning – deliberately so. But where I write less clear-cut poems, I try to avoid explaining what they mean to me, unless asked. This is partly because I don’t want to be a spoilsport. But it’s also because I know that each reader may take something completely new away from a poem – different to what I intended, yes, but nevertheless equally valid.  And that is a glorious thing.

Now, I have carefully explained that rule because… I am now going to break it. This poem featured in this post is an attempt to convey something that I have tried to get across to people in “ordinary” words, but cannot. Poems can be good at throwing a light on things that we don’t have decent everyday language for. It’s one of the things they’re “for”, after all.

So does this poem convey what I wanted? Well, judge for yourself. The explanation is below the poem. And if you don’t want me to be a spoilsport, then stop reading at the end of the poem!

The Exhalations of Stones

We are the exhalations of stones, they said.
We know it because we know.
Tell your children of the cool breath
that fashioned their bones.

We are the sense of senseless things, they said.
We feel it because we feel.
Let the faithful shape the new law
from their imaginings.

You who blow doubt across creation, they said,
should quiet your tawdry lies.
Ours is the rock the air the spirit the peace the world.
Yours the damnation.

 

This poem was first published at The Hypertexts.

So what’s it about?

As an atheist, I find it difficult to explain to people with religious faith how their beliefs sound to me. It is really hard to explain this without tripping over language that may seem dismissive or insulting, or any of those things I don’t want to be. Even writing this paragraph is fraught with pitfalls!

People’s religious beliefs baffle me, to be honest. And I do get so frustrated by assertions such as “Ah, but you should have faith.” But why? Why should I have faith in this particular out-there suggestion, rather than any other out-there suggestion? What possible reason would I have to “give faith a go”, as has been suggested to me previously, when the thing you suggest I have faith in is so utterly unbelievable to me?

So, I decided to fabricate my own out-there suggestion and present it in the way mainstream religions are presented, to hold a gentle mirror up to faith and say, look. This is how it looks to me, and you saying “We know it because we know” isn’t really helping me out.

That’s a pretty long explanation for a pretty short poem. If you still don’t get it, well, that’s probably down to me. I’ll get my coat.

 

If you enjoy poetry, you can find poems from me, poems from people who are not me, and other poetry stuff at my Facebook page www.facebook.com/itallrhymes. Why not give it a follow?

Image by Frank Winkler from Pixabay

Living on Mars in a Lava Tube

I’m fascinated by the possibilities of the universe, and by space exploration. But it always strikes me as odd that we get so excited about possible places which are “fit for human habitation” on other planets. These “habitable” places are, of course, still fraught with the most horrific challenges.

It was recently suggested, for instance, that humans could live in the massive ancient lava tubes which snake beneath the surface of Mars. Which initially sounds like some kind of permanent funfair lifestyle in a jazzy Martian flume. But what kind of existence would it be really? Dark, airless, hostile – and probably hundreds of other depressing adjectives.

Could we not perhaps try cleaning up our act, limiting our population growth, and staying on lovely, LOVELY Earth? Would that be SO mad??

Living on Mars in a Lava Tube

Living on Mars in a lava tube?
What fun, my dears, what fun!
We’ll surf on the flows, and then maybe – who knows –
we will gather when day is done
to remember the sea and the sun.

Living on Mars in a lava tube –
no actual lava, you say?
Just vacuum and dust in the cold of the crust
and the dark? Still, a great place to stay
as we cower from cancer all day.

Living on Mars in a lava tube –
it’s so smashing to know that we could!
If we poison our sky—never mind! We’ll just fly
to this welcoming new neighbourhood.
Hooray! It’s a plan then. Sounds good.

First published by Light Magazine in its Poems of the Week feature. www.lightpoetrymagazine.com

 

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