Sympoe

Former poet laureate Billy Collins invented the paradelle as a joke. Intended as a satire on poetic forms, poets have begun writing them in all seriousness, starving for new forms to try. I am no different. I too feel that hunger. So I came up with one of my own, the sympoe. Now, just because someone thought up something does not mean it was never thought of before. Even Darwin’s idea of the origin of species was thought of originally by a farmer just trying to pass the days in the field by using a few brain cells. Darwin even acknowledged that he wasn’t the first when he heard of the farmer. Of course, I’m no Darwin. Don’t do a “You’re no Jack Kennedy” line on me. But what I am saying is this: the sympoe seems so, well, sim-ple, that it HAS to have been thought of before. But I can’t find it anywhere.

From Greek sym (together) + poiein (to create), the sympoe is a linked poem using two metrically linked stanzas of unlimited but equal length. It rhymes A1bbccdd…A2A1 in the first verse and A2xxyyzz…A1A2 in the second, where A1 and A2 are full repeating lines and link to its sister stanza.

With regards to subject matter, both stanzas must describe two distinct events but with similar qualities. For this purpose it is a narrative poem, and from what I can best tell, it is a dramatic poem, though I believe satire must also work even if it hasn’t worked for me yet.

“Loss” is the first sympoe to achieve publication. It is written in iambic tetrameter. Both stanzas are about an estranged family member of two separate families. In the first stanza the character is not the estranged; in the second it is.

Although the stanza can be of any length, the poet needs to think carefully. If the stanzas of a sympoe are too long, the poet risks losing the beauty of the linking lines; if the stanzas are too short, the poet risks a stanza that is abrupt and choppy. Eleven or thirteen line sympoe stanzas seem to work best, keeping in mind that one couplet (or three lines) cannot serve as a progression of narrative but as its conclusion. Finally, in the ones that I have written, it always seems to work best to write the repeating lines, then choose which couplet goes in which stanza, and then write the rest of the poem.

I also published a sympoe in trochaic tetrameter about York River. York River was host two two battles: the American Civil War and the American Revolution each had their Battle of Yorktown. Distinct, but similar.

Finally, Sympoe for Art Students was published by Poets and Artists, and can be read here.

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