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THE PIROUETTE—When East meets West: a marriage of Chinese and Western poetry styles

by Suzette Richards

Chinese traditional poetry is often difficult to understand; good translation is essential to fully understand Chinese poems. In terms of the technical side of poetry, the two traditions (Chinese and English) have similarities, for example, there are a fixed number of lines of syllables and rhyme. And the ‘strict’ form of writing (metre, rhyme scheme, and stanzas) is still the most prevalent form of poetry in both traditions. Chinese poetry is all about the poet, the ‘meaning’ for the poet (subjective), and not what is happening ‘around’ the poet (objective). In contrast, modern English poetry places a focus on ‘what is happening’ around the poet. Modern Chinese poets have written in free verse, but many still write with a strict form. The main themes of Chinese modern poetry are ‘relationships’, but set within a unique Chinese context— in a wider social, economic and social context of China's continued economic and social development.

Jueju and Sijo are but two poetry styles that can trace their origins back to traditional Chinese poetry.

I kept these elements in mind when I designed the following poetic form:

© THE PIROUETTE (5 SEPTEMBER 2021)

pirouette: (n.) a ballet term meaning spin. It is used to describe any turn in ballet that involves turning on one leg.

 

  1. Metre per each stanza: A quatrain in anapaestic dimeter [**/|**/], and ending with an additional line, pirouette, in dactylic monometer [/**]. The pirouette may be extended, but then the metre is switched around in each subsequent line, eg L6 **/, L7 /**, etc. It imitates the rhythm of dance—the spin is in the reversed stress/metre of the final line(s). The number of stanzas is unlimited. In my example, the metre is highlighted. [Edited: Some latitude, insofar as the metre in the quatrain is concerned is allowed.]
  2. Rhyme scheme: The rhyme scheme of the quatrains is the prerogative of the poet. The first word/syllable [edited] (unstressed) in the 1st line of the quatrain rhymes with the last word (unstressed) in line 5. When the pirouette is extended, every alternate (uneven number) line rhymes as set out above. It is an example of remote rhyme [edited].
  3. The pirouette (the final line or more)) is presented indented.
  4. The subjective content has a light and playful ambience.
  5. It may be titled.

MY EXAMPLE

THE BALLERINA

Be intent on the prize;

one resists all fair play.

But then neither his nor

my absurd reaching dreams

affect me

by any

means and we,

however, love

same as thee.

 

 pirouette (n) meanings spin—it is used to describe any turn in ballet that involves turning on one leg.

 

[Edited 3 June 2022 & the poem rewritten]

THE PIROUETTE VARIATION (3 June 2022)

Syllabic: A 6 syllables per line quatrain, followed by the 3 syllables per line pirouette that spins on its own axis. The pirouette consists of at least five lines.

Rhyme scheme: This single stanza poem is a combination of remote rhyme and linked rhyme. The pirouette rhymes in its linked rhyme in L5 & L6 with the FIRST SYLLABLE of the unrhymed quatrain (creating the remote rhyme). You may deviate from the remote rhyme by introducing a new rhyme scheme from L7 & L8 onwards. The linked rhyme resulting in the spin is a variation of initial rhyme (page 48) where the last word rhymes with the first word in the next line.

Presentation: The pirouette is presented indented to the quatrain.

 

MY EXAMPLE

FAIR PLAY

Fair play didn’t quite feature

when reason absconded;

war and peace polarised.

When their ideals clash,

men rip, tear

hair by roots.

Didn’t they care

rare courage

found in lair?

 

Definition of remote rhyme: As found in the pantoum, and also tail-rhyme where the ‘tails’ rhyme and are preceded by rhyming couplets or tercets.

Definition of linked rhyme: It is a variation of initial rhyme, where the last word RHYMES with the first word in the next line. This is not to be confused with Chain Verse which uses the SAME CLOSING WORD OR SYLLABLE from one line to begin the next line. 

Other well-known heterometric verse:

Tail-rhyme; Clerihew; Limerick; Double Dactyl; Lai; Thorley; and Skeltronic verse.

 

All rights reserved.

The moral rights of the author have been asserted. 

Copyright © Docendo discimus, Suzette Richards, 2021 

ISBN 978-0-620-95432-7