Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with an Irish Poetry Form!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
If you couldn't tell from my name, I'm a wee bit Irish!
This St. Paddy's Day, why not try something (other than Guinness beer) that's also a wee bit Irish - an Irish poetry form! Just as filling and possibly as tasty (depending on your subject) as a stout.
I also recommend checking out poetry by Irish creatives. William Butler Yeats is probably the best-known Irish poet, but there are many others. Check out the works by Seamus Heaney (one of my personal favorites known for sensory writing), Eavan Boland, and Sinead Morrissey. They may or may not write in Irish poetry forms, but their poetry is worth reading.
Once you've soaked up some Irish inspiration, you're ready to try writing in an Irish poetry form.
Ireland is home to many traditional forms of poetry, and if you're pressed for time (like me) you'll appreciate that many of them are short. Maybe the leprechauns had something to do with the compact forms? ;)
Here's one you can attempt today: the Dechnad Cummaisc.
How to write a Dechnad Cummaisc
This short-as-you-like-it Irish poetry form has only THREE main rules. If you tried to read about the form in a textbook, you'd probably cross it off the list of things you want to try (I know from experience -it's why I ignored the form for so long!).
But when you break it down, rule by rule, and follow it up with some examples, it's clear the Dechnad Cummaisc isn't complicated and can make you exercise creativity in different ways.
Let's take a look at the THREE RULES of the Dechnad Cummaisc:
Rule #1 - A poem of any length made up of quatrains.
The word "quatrain" means a group (or stanza) of four lines. If you get confused, remember there are four quarters in a dollar, so there are four lines in a quatrain.
Your Dechnad Cummaisc poem can have ONE STANZA of FOUR LINES, or it can have twenty stanzas, each with four lines. The total number of lines isn't relevant, it's the pattern of the quatrains that makes it a Dechnad Cummaisc and a classic Irish poetry form.
Rule #2 - 8/4/8/4
Those numbers refer to how many syllables are in each line of the quatrain.
In each quatrain: - Lines 1 & 3 should have 8 syllables - Lines 2 & 4 should have 4 syllables
Rule # 3 - Rhyme
The rhyme scheme for each quatrain is as follows: - Lines 2 & 4 must rhyme - The end of Line 3 must rhyme with the middle of Line 4
And those are the three main rules of the Dechnad Cummaisc.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO HELP YOU GET A DRAFT THAT MEETS THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE THREE RULES:
First, brainstorm for TEN MINUTES to come up with a subject so you can stay on course for each quatrain.
If you're stuck and can't think of anything, use St. Patrick's Day as inspiration. Try words like green, potato, snakes, shamrock, luck, gold, walking stick, and so on. If you're not familiar with any St. Patrick stories, you can read some here
Next, circle, highlight, or underline the words and phrases that stand out to you. You might also want to circle the ones you're avoiding. Often the best poems hide under layers of pain or discomfort.
Use your circled words and phrases to begin writing your first quatrain. Pay attention to the syllables and rhyme, but don't fret if your first attempts are far off the mark. You'll fine tune your writing to match the rules last.
Write as many quatrains as you feel are appropriate for your poem. Don't worry if you only have one, 20, or an epic number of quatrains. The right length is what feels complete to you. You can always remove excess quatrains in revision.
Revise your poem so that it meets the rules of the Dechnad Cummaisc and is complete, then give your poem a title!
You may find the revision goes quickly, or you may struggle. If you're having a hard time with syllables or rhyme, try asking a friend for help. Sometimes a set of fresh eyes is just what's needed with forms. Length can be tricky, but don't worry about cutting away quatrains that don't add to the emotional story you're trying to tell.
And don't forget an attention-grabbing title! You can use a subtitle to let readers know what form you're using.
Examples of Dechnad Cummaisc
I can't wait to sit down and write my own Dechnad Cummaisc later today. In the meantime, here are two examples from other poets to demonstrate the form. You can find these poems and more from the writers by clicking on the title.
VISIONS BY WALTER J. WOJTANICK ©2019
My memory still sees you there in the shadows, You are a mirage of my mind, a kind I know.
It seems I never let you go, you never leave. My vision does not fail me. I see; believe.
So, I hold you in my sad heart. I’m reminded, no matter where your heart will be, I will find it.
AWAKENING BY CASCHWA
(one o’ them dechnad cummaisc things)
Heavy eyelids fight to stay shut awakening sunlight prevails to unlock them A.M. will sing
coffee is brewed, hot and steamy just the right cream cup rests on the breakfast table: a fabled dream