Introducing … the Belissima

Just finished teaching a series of classes looking at formal poetry. It’s been quite a lot of fun, even if I did manage to cock up the handouts. Repeatedly. (Sigh!) Oh well, doing everything online meant I could just make my (multiple) corrections to the master document and flick a new pdf to everyone right then and there. Plus I had access to all my books, so I could check things when questions came up.

Because I am a cruel and capricious woman, the final exercise, done communally, was to create a brand new form, and write an example poem in that form. I had a couple of reasons for this. First, because I had a ball coming up with the decima, and like to share some joy. Second, because why not? And third – the proper reason – because I thought it would be a good way of bringing everything we’d been talking about into focus. It’s one thing to talk about a historical form like the villanelle, and say this form works well for X sort of subject, because Y, and quite another thing to actually start slotting the bits together and seeing where it feels like it’ll hold and where it won’t.

Feeling curious? Over the next week or so I’ll post the three forms, along with the sample poems that we drafted together. Who knows: maybe other people will see them, fall in love, and start writing them. There may even be a competition …

The Bellissima

  • The bellissima is a sixteen line poem, made up of four envelope-rhymed quatrain stanzas.
  • A line borrowed from someone else’s poem makes up line 4 in stanza 1 (and therefore sets the a rhyme).
  • The middle lines of each stanza have internal rhyme, set by a word from the borrowed line (a different word each for stanza).
  • The overall pattern is axxa bxxb cxxc dxxd.

Bellissima with a line from Robert Frost

Three a.m. Still awake, however I try
to trick myself against myself
and back to the restraint of sleep. The
one luminary clock against the sky

has washed through all my dreams again
and left me here. The clock is the face
of the one locked in sleep beside me.
I’ve been here before. It always seems

to be this way: dark house,
brilliant night – luminary, illusionary,
fancies delusionary and funereal finery.
The room feels velvet-lined. How’s

a girl to sleep in all this cloth?
Sleep, if it comes, wears silk slippers,
places one dainty foot after another.
Butterfly kisses. Downy wing of a moth.

The borrowed line is one luminary clock against the sky, which set the a rhyme for the first stanza. The repeated mid-stanza words are against (line 2), clock (line 6), luminary (line 10) and one (line 15). Their partners in internal-rhyme were restraint (line 3), locked (line 7), delusionary (line 11) and comes (line 14).

So. Waddaya think?

One Reply to “Introducing … the Belissima”

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