The huitain was Paul Brookes’ chosen form last week. It requires a lot of rhymes in a short space, ababbcbc and no repeats. As a standalone stanza, it has to be all there in the eight lines. Though it hasn’t been my favourite, I’ve enjoyed this square 8×8 form (eight lines of eight syllables), and getting it to make sense. I think of this aspect as a form of maths too.


This morning so blue, limpid air
crow-calling, ah-ah to the light,
a golden flood with wealth to spare,
fills up dull ditches, running bright
as galaxies that mesh the night,
while constellations, stately slow,
step toe to fiery toe, ignite
dawn-strewn dew-gems in afterglow.

Hawk hill

High upon this green hill, hawk-hung,
as mists dissolve and change their state,
fall in dew then rise feather-strung,
to hover in mid-air, I wait,
breathless, as searching eyes locate
some small furred thing, warm heart beating,
watch eternal death in the bate
of unfurled wings, life bleed, fleeting.


Maths poetry

Paul Brookes’ chosen form last week was maths poetry in its different manifestations. Using a straightforward sequence of 1, 1, 2, 5, 8, 13 etc words or syllables doesn’t appeal to me much, but I had already been impressed with Marian Christie’s poem that merged the ideas behind Fibonacci sequence poetry and the trimeric, in particular the tide-like back and forth of the lines, overstitching, until the words ebb away completely. It gives a purpose to the diminishing (or increasing) length of the lines, an effect you don’t get with forms like the nonet that simply count syllables. I have written quite a few poems using this idea, and find it almost hypnotic.

The hares are running

The hares are running in the meadow again,
boxing for joy, for spring,
among new daffodils,
bending in

boxing for joy, for spring
is stirring blood,
wild and

Among new daffodils,
long ears

bending in


The tritina is a form I’ve used before and hadn’t considered it as mathematical in any way, but that probably just reflects my ignorance of maths. The repeated end words, I found, risk creating a rather forced effect, particularly as the last word of one stanza is repeated in the first line of the following one. Also, the use of all three end words in the last line is hard to manage without it sounding like an afterthought or a make-weight. I’m certain it’s possible to write a good poem using this form. It’s a challenge, but that’s what we’re here for.

These winter days

These winter days are never silent
never still with flocks of homing birds
and trees that rustle handfuls of dead leaves.

These winter nights enrobe the rustling leaves
with hoar frost crisp as ice and silent
as the unseen swooping wings of night birds.

I hear them calling in the dark, the birds
that hunt the night fields. Filtered through the leaves,
moonlight streams, silver as the sea and silent,

but no birds stir the leaves in this silent moonlight.

Idiomatic poetry

Paul Brookes’ chosen form last week was idiomatic poetry The result was fun, but I’m not certain it’s poetry.

A figgy pudding, pardi

They sit on the fence, mi-figue mi-raisin,
while the world goes west,

à l’ouest, where we send the mad ones,
away with the fairies and the illuminés,

because they see light at the end of the tunnel,
la sortie de l’auberge, where pigs fly,

and hens have teeth. There will be happiness
at the end of the day, that time entre chien et loup,

that place over the moon, where everything
is half-fig, half-grape, and all circles are squared.

Questions and nonsense

When the answer is,
how long is a piece of string,
what was the question?

And if ce n’est pas le Pérou,
nor la mer à boire,
what is it?

I would like to get out of this wood,
where all I can see are trees,
but the blind are leading the blind,

and though there might be short cuts
along the way, it will always be
a long long way to Tipperary.


Paul Brookes chose the quatern for last week’s chosen form. The quatern is a French, possibly Medieval, form, four quatrains of 8 syllables with the first line acting as refrain, sliding down one line in each stanza. For modern purposes, there is no set rhyme scheme, but most examples seem to use one, and most use iambic tetrameter to give their 8 syllables a rhythm. It seems counter-intuitive to drop rhyme and rhythm, keeping only the number of lines and the number of syllables per line, but just as an experiment, I wrote a second version of my original quatern, keeping lines of 8 syllables but with no rhyme and no meter. My ear tells me that when all the lines are the same syllabic length, not to let the words fit a rhythm sounds like discord in a classical style of music.

A last rose

This is the dying of the light,
the sluggish slipstream’s muddy blight,
this sliding from the river’s flow,
a fish-mouthed sucking afterglow,

but city sky’s glare-strung, despite
this is the dying of the light,
in ooze that rises frothed with scum,
the boozing, garish, deadbeat drum.

Jerusalem, boots trample on
the faces crying, Babylon!
this is the dying of the light,
beyond lies only endless night.

A rose is dreaming on a stem,
in sun’s last rays a thorny gem,
as petals, crucibled, ignite—
this is the dying of the light.

A last rose

This is the dying of the light,
this sliding from the water’s flow,
slipstream drowning whatever shines,
fish-mouthed, sucking the sun’s goodness.

City sky’s still strung with glare, though
this is the dying of the light,
sinking into yellow-frothed ooze,
the discordant rattle of trams.

They scream, Jerusalem! Their boots
stamp faces crying, Babylon—
this is the dying of the light,
nothing waits for us but the end.

A rose dreams on a thorny stem,
in the sun’s last rays, its petals
cupped, catch the shrinking brilliance.
This is the dying of the light.


The tripadi was Paul Brookes’ chosen form last week. It is deceptively simple, tercets in lines of 8 8 and 10 syllables, end rhyme on L1 and L2. The third line breaks the rhythm of the first couplet and has no rhyme. I read on one site that the strength of this third line is in its difference, drawing attention by other means, like internal rhyming, alliteration and its message. Also, that each stanza should read like a single thought, which means no run-ons.
I admit that this form didn’t much appeal to me. The examples given on various sites are clunky, syllable-counting but with no rhythm. I never understand why we count syllables but not beats, especially in rhyming poetry. The first couplet was easy enough, but the difficulty came with the third line, and how to give it a sense of purpose rather than having it sound like an afterthought.
In my first attempt, I added a variant, an end rhyme to link the third lines of each stanza. The second poem sticks to the rules.

Wishing for better times

I see the dark behind the light,
the glint of silver in the night,
the moon and stars when all the world is grey.

I see the hollow in the tree
the fallen flower, silent bee,
and wish the night would blossom into day.

Within the confines of the glade
the spread of oaks the gentle shade
I hear the sea storm’s voice, the lash of spray,

the salt that clings and turns to rust,
the rotten timbers beached, the dust
of aeons in the foam, a star astray.

And reaching out to catch a beam
of sunlight, pearl light, golden stream
I wish this spectral calm, this peace would stay.


These days of sun and nights of frost
revolve until time’s meaning’s lost
in oscillating fears and floral joys.

These morning fogs that freeze the grass,
that coat the pools in sunless glass,
the birds still sing, dance wing-tip tail to toe.

Pearl silver colours of the night
linger shadowed in the half-light,
and sink to snowdrop bells’ pale-chiming chill.


Last week’s form chosen by Paul Brookes was the Toddaid, another Welsh form. I found a Welsh site (in English translation) for the instructions. This is what I understood. Structure is couplets, L1 10 syllables, L2 9 syllables. Main rhyme, which can be assonance or consonance, is mid L1 end L2, and there’s an echo rhyme end of L1 and mid L2. Like all Welsh forms it should be song-like.

I really enjoyed writing these poems, particularly that slanting rhyme scheme that breaks the lines and binds them together at the same time. Like all poetry forms in translation, we tend to calculate in English syllables which isn’t the same as the original meter, making it hard, I find, to keep to an even rhythm. It was well worth the effort though.

The first poem is my tentative first attempt, expecting it was going to be difficult. The second poem still uses assonance for the rhymes and the third is an attempt at consonance. The final poem is more loosely ‘adapted’, keeping the line structure but mixing assonance and consonance and abandoning the lyrical aspect.

At the end of time

At the end of time and all things, there will
be, through the storm, a thrush still, that sings,

and the song in his throat, earth-fade’s lament
for the stars all spent, the dark sun’s birth.

Land of apples

These waves that rise and falling die, birth foam
to carry us to our home. Gulls cry

in sky, blue and honey-sweet, loud with bees,
as we walk the trees where waters meet.

No hunger here, no fear of night and shades
of sorrow in these glades, full of light

and peace, that grows and growing falls like rain,
all the pain to the great sea flowing.


Across the waking meadow, wing shadow
cuts the frosted blades, sharp as midday

summer sun. Kestrel swoops, keen-eyed, blood-fierce.
In this desert field, no secret’s kept,

nowhere to hide or cower safe from sight,
a final sigh, a life’s doused candle.


Standing here, the place that was ours, we said,
the light green then red, waiting for hours,

though I know there’s no point, still kid myself
the crowd on this empty street will part,

a pushing seaward of time, and you’ll stride
back, then, when every stretched lie was true.


My response to Paul Brookes’ ekphrastic challenge ‘This day’. You can see the photographic image here


In the tree slowly turning
to stone a face looks out
man bear dog
with an expression
of great sadness

the sight of this world
slowly turning
from green and growing
to the stone
of closed hearts and motorways
the last light in brown eyes
slowly turning.

Burning skies

A poetic response to Paul Brookes’ ‘This day’ photograph. You can see the image on Paul’s blog here.

Burning skies

How many fires in the sky
before the snakes and strings
of cultured gemstone-light
sink into the ocean of dark night?

Moon-sun perhaps
will wash them away

and when daylight rises again
there may still be eyes
wild and wide
to marvel at its pearl-soft purity.


Paul Brookes’ chosen form last week was the mathnawi. This form of rhyming couplets has a good rhythm, and the internal rhymes give cohesion to the long lines of 10/11 syllables. Traditionally, the mathnawi gave long religious or mystical poems, so I decided to go with nature. The first poem has 11- syllable lines, rhyming couplets with the same internal rhyme. The second poem has 10-syllable lines and the half lines have their own rhyme. It would be interesting to try another one using consonance rather than full rhyme for the half-lines.

Dreams of flight

Heart and mind are one with the wind and no-sun,
rivers that run and run till the world is done,

and beneath this grim grey canopy of day,
we who’d choose the wild way, tread the tame byway.

I’d run with dainty deer and nimble hare, here
where rain and mere make mirrors of pewter drear,

and up above with black crow and turtle dove,
over the foxglove fields we’d fly and find love.

In the woods

In the dark of winter woods, runs the deer.
We watch and hark, red arrow leaping clear

through slanting sun, trees straight as spears. Moss green
boughs in the breeze hide secrets left unseen,

the flight, the set, the nest and hollow tree.
By bramble barbs beset, we leave them be.


Paul Brookes chose the endecha for last week’s poetry form. The endecha (usually plural endechas) is a poem of Medieval Spanish Jewish origin, a lament intended to be sung. The stanzas are quatrains, of 7 7 7 and 11 syllables, rhyme scheme xaxa where x is unrhymed. It can be a full rhyme but is more usually consonance. I wrote one of each, a full rhyme endecha, and one using consonance instead. Since the poem is intended to be sung, it matters that the lines follow a rhythm which led me to write a third endecha where I tried to place the stresses so that the final eleven syllable line breaks naturally after seven syllables, leaving the final four syllables as a sort of plaintive echo. Given the origins of the poem, this seems like a reasonable interpretation.

Those who are gone

I can hear you in the wind
in the way the fox-bells chime,
the keening of survivors
the harrowing, dearth and the sorrowing time.

You were all around me once,
in the warm breath of the spring,
In the flight of birds, too high
to see their bright plumage, hear their voices sing.

You were young and old, lovely,
rainbows, storm-light in your eyes,
you sang the words, I listened,
to the ever-changing torrent, always wise.

Now there’s snow in the meadow,
no bird-sound, but all around,
the touch of dead hands wringing,
lips that murmur in the dark of holy ground.

Years turning

When will I see you again?
In the greening of the year
or at its turning? When snow
lies cold, unforgiving, and I wait, yearning?

For the years will keep turning,
russet red then green again,
and the road remains empty,
though my wishes throng the trees, leaf-stars aging.

To have wings

Black these cold and lightless days,
dirt-grey the clouds, sun rayless,
white the frost that furs the dead
leaf litter, that lies deer-scraped—brown and rotting.

I wish a bird would lend me
the magic of feathered dance
night or day uncaring, I’d
toss these sorrows in the sea—watch them drowning.