NaPoWriMo 2016: day ten


Day ten!

We are continuing our exploration of words today with a prompt that combines the visual of shaped poetry (though in a much less pronounced way) and the soundscape of alliteration.

Today's prompt is to write a poem which employees repetition as its main focus.

Repetition is one of the "basic unifying device(s)" used in poetry, so there are lots of different types.

Aliteration and rhyme (which we'll be discussing soon) are both types of repetition (the repetition of specific syllables).

But today we're going to focus on the repetition of a word or phrase.

To start us off, there is anaphora: the repetition of the beginning word or phrase of a line or sentence. (CLICK THE LINK on anaphora because that's an important wiki page to read! And here's another page that will give you more examples.)

And then there is refrain: a repeating line used throughout a poem (especially at the end of a stanza or line, as in "A Spring Song" by Donald Davie).

Repetition can get old, fast, so the way to keep it fresh feeling is to vary the phrase a little (at least once in the poem, if not more often).

This can be done with line breaks, as in the poem "To a Poor Old Woman" by William Carlos Williams (where the refrain never has a fixed place in the line breaks).

Or you change up the phrase each time it is reused, as the poem "A Spring Song" (already linked to above) did.

Our primary example poem for repetition, because it combines both anaphora and refrain is "O Best of All Nights, Return and Return Again" by James Laughlin, which I'm going to quote here in full:

O best of all nights, return and return again.

How she let her long hair down over her shoulders, making a love cave around her face. Return and return again.
How when the lamplight was lowered she pressed against him, twining her fingers in his. Return and return again.
How their legs swam together like dolphins and their toes played like little tunnies. Return and return again.
How she sat beside him cross-legged, telling him stories of her childhood. Return and return again.
How she closed her eyes when his were open, how they breathed together, breathing each other. Return and return again.
How they fell into slumber, their bodies curled together like two spoons. Return and return again.
How they went together to Otherwhere, the fairest land they had ever seen. Return and return again.
O best of all nights, return and return again.

[Note: these are long lines, which all start - until the final line - with the word "How." The continuation of the line should appear indented when you read it in your email, but if it doesn't, go to the link to read it online.]

In this poem, you have anaphora, with the repeating of the phrase "How she/they" (which is changed once into "how when" and then omitted entirely in the final line.

And you have refrain, with the phrase, "Return and return again," which is not changed at all in the poem until the final line, which is also the title, where it is not a sentence unto itself (a very subtle change, indeed, but a change, nonetheless).

Some of you might have already used either anaphora or refrain in one of your poems thus far. If you have, your challenge today is to combine them (or use a different type than you have already in this set of poems).

* I tend to use a lot of anaphora in my poetry (see here and here and here), so today I am going to challenge myself to use a refrain line (like in this poem).

Have fun writing!

Remember: you can use the prompt today or let it marinate for awhile and write something else in the meantime. There is no wrong or right, only the work of writing.

Happy poeming!