Poetic Form: The Bop

Since it’s always good to challenge ourselves to do new things, I’m going to try two in this blog post. First, I’m going to try and incorporate images. Second, I’ll try my hand at The Bop.

The Bop is a poetic form that was developed by poet Afaa Michael Weaver (pic below) at a Cave Canem summer retreat.

Here are the basic rules:

  • 3 stanzas
  • Each stanza is followed by a refrain
  • First stanza is 6 lines long and presents a problem
  • Second stanza is 8 lines long and explores or expands the problem
  • Third stanza is 6 lines long and either presents a solution or documents the failed attempt to resolve the problem

(By the way, thanks to January O’Neil for pointing me in the direction of this poetic form.)

Here is my attempt:

“Wasted opportunities”

I watch a black cat descend from the moon
on a ladder made of broken mirrors
and spilled salt. At first, I’m shocked that no one
notices, but then, no one notices
anything anymore, or at least, that
is what the experts say and why argue.

Every bad sign is a chance to forgive our neighbors.

Why argue with experts, because they don’t
notice the black cat or the ladder. They’re
busy sharing their expertise with those
people who don’t notice anything (not
anymore), because sometimes it takes sledge
hammers to drive home nails of reason. Cats
and ladders and moons and mirrors, they fall
as the people don’t notice and explain

every bad sign is a chance to forgive our neighbors.

Thinking I’m in this alone, I decide
the only thing I can do is ignore
the cat descending from the moon on its
ladder made of broken mirrors. Then I
wonder if that’s what everyone else
is doing–pretending to not notice

every bad sign is a chance to forgive our neighbors.

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To check out a definition of The Bop from Poets.org, click here.

*****

Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

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If you want to discover more poetic forms,
check out John Drury’s The Poetry Dictionary.

Click to continue.

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25 thoughts on “Poetic Form: The Bop

  1. Taylor Graham

    HAPPY THE SOLDIER

    How do we bring a boy-child up to courage
    and a heart for war? We hang his nursery
    with pastry soldiers – sugar-rush like mother’s
    kisses and a father’s pride. We give him
    a wooden sword of passage painted
    red at the tip, so he goes to sleep dreaming

    and rattles away with the roll of the drums.

    Beware if your neighbor, on a festive
    day of military muster, drives
    his two young boys to the country –
    far from the fife and kettle-drum parade –
    to feast on forest-shadows
    at an edge of clearing, and be
    wooed by bird-song, as the cannon
    discharges its final volley

    and rattles away with the roll of the drums.

    We march together or against. We teach
    our sons combustibles, and tug-
    of-war; a juvenile artillery on the village
    green to tease a sweetheart, on this
    day of spent powder dwindling into twilight
    as a grandfather aches old wounds

    and rattles away with the roll of the drums.

    Note: refrain from the post-American-Revolutionary song “How Happy the Soldier”; poem based on Elihu Burritt’s “Teaching the Young Idea How to Shoot” and “An Example for Parents”

  2. Sara McNulty

    27 Bop

    Blood fades from her face; she wails,
    curses, finally moves up a notch to rage,
    asking, how can he do this again
    and again. Thinks of those times she sat
    back as he spun like a broken record,
    tales so tangled, she’d forget the truth.

    Offer a shoulder to lean on, and stay silent.

    Twenty-seven years together, she older
    by ten. Traumatic time for a woman of later
    years to fresh forward, but don’t I deserve
    a better life? she asks. Clicks keys, surfs
    the net in search of a woman lawyer, impressive
    credentials. It is time. Shaking, she crosses
    the threshold into the office, where she consults,
    provides information, and signs papers.

    Offer a shoulder to lean on, and stay silent.

    He turns victim–stunned, hurt–agog
    at her accusations. She will not speak.
    He pens a soap opera saga, refuting
    each bullet point of her arsenal. Pleads
    with her, at least talk to me. Four hours
    later, her eyes glaze; divorce is off the table.

    Offer a shoulder to lean on, and stay silent.

    Offer a shoulder to lean on, and stay silent.

  3. Taylor Graham

    PRISONERS OF WAR

    [based on Elihu Burritt’s “After-Battle Amenities”]

    These Russians taken prisoner in battle
    by the French, detained inside Liédot –
    island fort on the Île d’Aix –
    look how they come tonight in full uniform,
    convivially, on invitation
    of their captors. How can this be?

    What of the war? These are only men.

    They speak of faroff homes, of wives
    and sweethearts left behind;
    a little girl called Tatyana, a boy
    christened Jean-Pierre. The conversation
    turns, in time, to politics. A Russian
    says, "we are only machines
    of slaughter. Off the field of battle,
    we have no enemies."

    What of the war? These are only men.

    It was he, or another – English,
    French, or Russian – wandering the field
    at night, binding up wounds
    of the dying, no matter what uniform
    they bled, what language they cried.
    "We are only brothers."

    What of the war? These are only men.

  4. Taylor Graham

    FALLING EQUINOX

    Tonight’s full moon, and Jupiter – I just can’t sleep.
    The sky keeps asking questions. No flash-
    light. My dogs cast moving shadows over fields
    already mowed. I’m walking under burned-out stars
    and stars still burning, casting a reflected light.
    The Harvest Moon’s already waning.

    Conjunctions, oppositions, what’s a winning
    number in this lottery of stars?

    Tonight I wonder where my mind has gone –
    the one that catalogued a forest full
    of words (the fault, Dear Brutus, is not
    in our stars), and tried to weave a hammock
    between Polaris and a rooted oak.
    My moving shadow interweaves the live-
    oak’s branching dark, and it’s the moon’s face
    staring when I step back into light.

    Conjunctions, oppositions, what’s a winning
    number in this lottery of stars?

    The dogs have brought me back
    to my own door. I’ll be soon enough
    asleep, my dreaming mind
    as dark as hall or closet. The Harvest Moon
    looks in through every window,
    its face diminishing with each breath.

    Conjunctions, oppositions, what’s a winning
    number in this lottery of stars?

  5. Amy Barlow Liberatore

    Thanks to January O’Neill for turning Robert on to this form.

    Robert, once again, you "go bravely" (sorry, Walt, Star Trek used that split infinitie!) where others fear to tread. Liked your take on the form; philosophical without being preachy.

    And to Afaa Michael Weaver: Bop on! This one I’ll try!

  6. Laurie Kolp

    Childlike Sue

    Sue walks through the house when she talks on the phone
    pacing back and forth, picking up here and there.
    This day was like no other, going along as planned
    until Sue spotted on the white rug a blade of green
    slither by and disappear under a big orange chair;
    the scream was a fog horn in her poor friend’s ear.

    We all need sunshine, time to play outside.

    Sue stood like a statue as if stoned by Medusa,
    she was not accustomed to snakes in the house
    (although Sue once encountered a small mouse
    and found it so adorable she made it her pet).
    Some thought Sue eccentric, a wee bit whimsy;
    bold colors and feathers she wore in her hair
    and her home an alluring fairy tale cottage
    but a snake inside she found horrific and vile.

    We all need sunshine, time to play outside.

    Sue called for her neighbor, dialed 9-1-1
    the whole time her eyes glued to the chair.
    Her stilettos would make perfect weapons
    thought Sue as she blew bubbles and waited.
    When the young, hot fireman entered her house,
    the little green lizard made its way home.

    We all need sunshine, time to play outside.

  7. Dare Gaither

    Cost-Benefit

    They walk down the row, set criteria in mind seeking
    only One who fulfills from Three who wait.
    Golden Wiggles entice, beckoning with youth and beauty
    Wounded Hurt snarls, cringing in the corner
    Grey Hope wags slowly, still offering timeless love.

    Too many came, yet all were invited.

    Magnetic perfection draws them, obviously.
    Pricks of conscience or pity bid them linger, only a moment
    moving quickly on before they see too much.
    Shadows hide the truth of two soon-vacant cages.
    Must it be Zero sum? Plus here makes minus there?
    Hard numbers rule where once there was a dream.
    Being reduces to cost and benefit
    But Hurt has strength and Grey still loves.

    Too many came, yet all were invited.

    All come bringing gifts, invitation self-evident.
    Society’s choice is made, obviously.
    Blind chance may grant a rare reprieve
    But One equals Three minus Two.
    Still there is One.
    Maybe some day all empty cages will mean hope.

    Too many came, yet all were invited.

  8. DrPKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    Bop That Clock

    Hands moving forward on the big clock time
    Things that moved in rhythm now just rhyme
    Up the stairs climbing pushing air like a mime
    Up the stairs climbing pushing air like a mime
    Wake up with a start straight up in the bed
    Heart stopped, heart pounds, fed on the dread

    Shake it off – Shake if off – Keep moving on.

    Hands moving, hands moving seconds at a time
    Want to stop the hour glass pour back sand’s climb
    Want to stop the hour glass pour back sand’s climb
    Sagging, slogging, physicality
    Twirling, sparkling, sizzling, sensuality
    Things that moved in rhythm, now just rhyme
    Ache to make each second count not mark time
    Up the stairs, up the stairs, pushing air like a mime

    Shake it off – Shake if off – Keep moving on.

    Hands moving, hands moving, flying over time
    Dancing, prancing, hip jut, lip pout, jazzing on the climb
    Breathe deep- Breathe deep – Drop all that dread
    Clear the webs – Clear the webs – Clear the webs from your head
    Turn it, touch it, burn the candle – burn the candle – two ended flame
    Long as you feel it – Feel it – You still in the game.

    Shake it off – Shake it off – Keep moving on.

  9. Debra Ann Elliott

    My attempt, not sure if I got this one right?

    The Breeze in the Trees

    The breeze in the trees whisper come away,
    come away, come away with me. I watch
    the Spanish Moss tangle itself around the Cypress
    trees. The swamp beckons for me to follow along
    the oil stained coast of Louisiana. Come away,
    come away, come away with me.

    Why? I ask nonchalantly.

    The Gulf Coast stands alone with oil within its grasp.
    Spanish Moss no longer dances around the Cypress
    trees in the majestic swamp. Gators descend into
    my neighbors backyards,oil slicked with muck.
    The breeze whispers and moans. The putrid smell
    of the oil wretches throughout Louisiana. When
    will the madness end? Oil, oil go away. We can no
    longer play.

    Why? I ask nonchalantly.

    I light a match to see my way into the darkened
    swamp. Spanish Moss engulfs the Cypress trees.
    Gators feed on shrimp hiding below the surface.
    It was only a dream. Oil does not drip onto the
    beauty of Louisiana. The breeze in the trees whisper
    come away, come away, come away with me.

    Why? I ask nonchalantly.

  10. jeffrey Marbury

    Time

    I wake up ever-grateful for another day
    When the first vision that hits me is the shade of grey
    Grey sky, grey hair, grey like the color of my beard trimmer
    then I catch the vision of a dying leaf
    And I remember death and overwhelming bouts of grief
    Sadness, sorrow, dispare, and from the classic soul hit I borrow

    Daydreaming and I’m thinking of age, Daydreaming and I’m thinking of age

    I wake up the next day, ever-grateful again
    The first vision is yellow today, hopefully signifying an end
    To the dull, drab, downtrodden feeling of loneliness, nope…it’s here
    The sensation that all that I am working for is meaningless, I fear
    That, in the end, you really can’t take it with you
    No matter what you try to do, it’s true
    So every bus I catch, every thought I put to pen,
    Every presentation I make, everyone that I call friend…stays here as I’m

    Daydreaming and I’m thinking of age, Daydreaming and I’m thinking of age

    Daydreaming and I wake up…and I take in my first conscious breath
    And the first vision is green as the oddest thing I’ve ever seen
    A budding leaf in the dead of winter, frozen though appearing to move
    A new beginning, triumph against the normal groove
    And the icicles melt
    Spiritual renewal, the best feeling I’ve ever felt

  11. Karen H. Phillips

    Poetic Form: The Bop 9-23-2010

    Enough

    I fret, cutting it close.
    Trying hard not to be morose.
    A promise, unfulfilled,
    hangs over us still.
    Where’s the faith I claim
    to have in His name?

    Grace sufficient, He promises me.

    For someone deserving,
    unrewarded toil’s unnerving.
    Timing’s everything, with need,
    and it’s not about greed.
    Broken cars and power bills,
    blood pressure and cholesterol pills,
    adult children not yet independent,
    jacked-up phone fees never-ending.

    Grace sufficient, He promises me.

    Periodically I remember to pray–
    the awaited call comes today.
    Approved, the money’s there next week,
    and about what to pay off we can speak.
    The answer was there all along.
    Just couldn’t see it or hear its song.

    Grace sufficient, He promised me.
    I wait and trust–He delivers me.

  12. Margaret Fieland

    Termination?

    I thought I heard a mouse
    It was a thief in my house
    I hit him over the head.
    Is he dead?
    If he is should I do?
    I wish I knew.

    I think he’s dead,
    because I hit him over the head.

    I put my ear on his chest
    to hear if his heart is at rest
    I try giving him a treat
    but he doesn’t eat
    He’s not breathing,
    and before he was wheezing.
    I tickle his nose with some cheese,
    he doesn’t even sneeze.

    He’s probably dead,
    because I hit him over the head

    I let out a loud groan,
    then I pick up the phone,
    I call the police,
    and say my piece.
    I am blessed,
    because they didn’t put me under arrest.

    The police say he’s dead,
    because I hit him over the head.

  13. DrPKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    The last argument

    "Four-year-olds need supervision"
    "And fresh air and freedom
    to explore stuff
    to think stuff
    to find stuff on their own
    not like the way you were raised"

    Barefooted Kaitlin lies stone still in the darkening woods.

    "There’s nothing wrong with parents’
    caring for their children"
    "Like mine didn’t – that’s it right?
    You called me wild child, liked me then
    Liked me well enough – when I was running to you
    I never seen you looking for my parents when we got busy."
    "As usual, that has nothing to do with what I’ve been saying.
    She-is-my-child."

    Barefooted Kaitlin lies stone still in the darkening woods.

    Flushed faced faced off, they stop – and listen
    to the quiet
    a breeze blows on their hot skin, on their pounding chests
    as together they look to the open door
    look through and beyond over the empty lawn rolling to the woods
    willing a shimmered peal of crystal laughter – a game-of-hide-n-seek
    as they run racing to nowhere
    together for the very last time calling her name to the gulping wind

    Barefooted Kaitlin lies stone still in the darkening woods.

  14. DrPKP aka Pearl Ketover Prilik

    My first attempt…..

    Needed One Good Head Bop

    In the pursuit of liberty and justice for all
    there is intentional mistiness
    room left for interpretation, discussion
    and if need be, amendment
    sentient avoidance
    of the stifling specific

    In the meeting of the minds

    In the pursuit of liberty and justice for all
    there is no definition of liberty or justice
    only the “all” initally accepted, later argued,
    warred and ultimately amended
    onto justice wrapped in and confused with
    codified law
    one person’s justice another’s immorality
    picking on the bones of the skeleton

    In the meeting of the minds

    In the pursuit of liberty and justice for all
    the only possibility not consensus
    but the fluttering “veils of ignorance”
    sit each and opine without
    knowledge of where one will sit
    and decide on liberty and justice – finally

    In the meeting of the minds

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