Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Writing Exercise – the rondeau
By Ashley Lister
This month I wanted to work with the rondeau. The reason why I wanted to tackle the rondeau this month is because arguably the most famous example of the rondeau is ‘In Flanders Fields’ by Canadian army physician, and poet, Lieutenant John McCrae. ‘In Flanders Fields’ is a poem we hear often during this month of remembrance and it seemed apposite to consider the structure that supports this great work.
The rondeau is a form of French poetry with 15 lines and a fixed, distinctive rhyme scheme. The rondeau also makes use of refrains, which are repeated according to the stylized pattern.
The rhyme scheme for the rondeau is: a a b b a a a b C a a b b a C, where a and b are the end rhymes and C is the refrain.
Technically each line of the rondeau should consist of eight syllables (except for the refrains which are half lines of four syllables). Ideally, the poem should be laid out in three stanzas and the refrain should be identical to the beginning of the first line.
All of which is easier to illustrate with an example.
I slash the strap across your back
And thrill to hear the brisk wet smack
When leather strikes unbroken skin
And you beg me to push deep in
To tight confines within your crack
And beg for a more forceful whack
Whilst reaching back to clutch my sac
You’re shrieking with a sated grin
I slash the strap
The pinwheel left a pretty track
The paddle’s bruises ne’er turned black
But stripes of leather suit this sin
You tell me this one’s for the win
And urge more force in my attack
I slash the strap
Fifteen lines of rhyming poetry will always be a challenge, especially when you’re expected to find a refrain and use only two rhymes. The main challenge is finding something to say that bears repeating. I was fortunate here that the phrase ‘I slash the strap’ has a hypnotic rhythm and seems to work within the context of sexual punishment.
As always, I look forward to seeing your poems in the comments box below.