Get Your Premium Membership

Double Dactyl

A double dactyl poem type of light verse poetry that was developed and promoted by two famous poets John Hollander and Antony Hecht. This type of poetry comprises of two quatrains, with each comprising of as many as three dactyl lines. The poem also has its unique rhythm scheme and flow of ideas. These are the preceded by the shorter dactyl spondee pair. It's important to note that the two spondees rhyme. More so, the first line must also be a phrase with no meaning, the second line a correct or place name.

Another line, usually the sixth often has a single, double dactyl phrase that has never been used in conventional poems. The final aspect of the poem, which is a double dactyl also has a single six syllable word. The poem comprises of one sentence that contains as many as forty-four syllables that are divided into eight lines. Besides that, the poem also falls into two four-line stanzas. 

A verse form, also known as "higgledy piggledy," invented by Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal. Like a limerick, it has a rigid structure and is usually humorous, but the double dactyl is considerably more rigid and difficult to write. There must be two stanzas, each comprising three lines of dactylic dimeter followed by a line with a dactyl and a single accent. The two stanzas have to rhyme on their last line. The first line of the first stanza is repetitive nonsense. The second line of the first stanza is the subject of the poem, a proper noun (usually someone's name). Note that this name must itself be double-dactylic. There is also a requirement for at least one line of the second stanza to be entirely one double dactyl word, for example "va-le-dic-tor-i-an".


A recent one by Gene Weingarten and Dan Weingarten:

Joe and Marilyn

Higgledy Piggledy
Joseph DiMaggio''
Jolted the ball but was
Jilted in bed.

Marilyn walked, but he
Laid her in rose bouquets
When she was dead.

Related Information

More Double Dactyl Links