Editors Blog

Bref Double: Poetic Form

I’ve always been an admirer of French poetic forms, and I’m really digging the unusual flexibility offered with the bref double. It’s a quatorzain, which is any stanza or poem of 14 lines that is not a sonnet.

Here are the rules for a bref double:

  • 4 stanzas: 3 quatrains (or 4-line stanzas) and 1 couplet (or 2-line stanza)
  • 3 rhymes: an A rhyme, B rhyme, and C rhyme
  • The A and B rhymes appear twice in the first 3 stanzas and once each in the couplet
  • The C rhyme is the final line in each of the quatrains
  • Each poem has a variable line length, but the lines should be consistent within each poem

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Here’s my attempt at a bref double:

“dayton”

he lived in a city
made of elevators
and dead end alleyways
all was a box or trap

even the kids knew life
by its fistfights and strays
cats and dogs chased across
the corporation map

his first kiss was a lie
but one that was pretty
his teenage love affairs
flew through him in a snap

leaving him with gritty
women and one-act plays

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It should go without saying that a WD Poetic Form Challenge is just around the corner (I’d suspect a post on Thursday or Friday).

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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, and grew up around car factories (and even worked in one) that are now either abandoned or in the process of being torn down. As such, he has a soft spot for car shows and rust.

Learn more at www.robertleebrewer.com.

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33 thoughts on “Bref Double: Poetic Form

  1. bongomanor

    Change of Tide

    Down this alley past the ragged end of time
    Driven, like a priest of nothing, to the sea
    Drawn by the tang of salt, as by ring through nose
    Sensibly shod, my shabby soul rumors gold

    How the waves unfurl their flags of endless now
    Feet leave tracks on sand’s forgetful memory
    Sea and sand and sky and man can find a rhyme
    As young dive into salty fears and grow old

    Ground melts into sea as years grind steady by
    Mountains tumble down to dirt to feed the rose
    Roses sweeten lies of men and fade away
    The story wants only to be heard and told

    I come to my senses in a shining dime
    My teeth have bite for now and my feet have toes

  2. shellaysm

    Accompaniment

    demure, sitting atop padded leather perch
    she faces–with hope–quiet black and white keys
    stares in wait at the reflected amber light
    with its peripheral shine down dominoes

    tuned and polished, both the instrument and girl
    dressed in navy lace, deserves success tonight
    talent and confidence seek each other’s nod
    ready more than anyone–even she–knows

    quivering fingers nest on still ivory
    on cue they release, begin their debut dance
    eyes can’t focus on the scar or ring of pearl
    when the soul-humming melody freely flows

    flawless, possibility bows to unfurl
    pride which dares, snakes and lingers on what else might

    Michele K. Smith

  3. louiseh

    Spring Rejuvenation

    Flight of fancy
    inspired by creative activity
    flowers in full bloom
    soul in tune with the rhythms of moon

    Joy of simple pleasures
    tourist views, beautiful wild country
    birds sing an extraordinary song
    the song of success, soon

    Gardening, sideline passion
    music, soulmate, presence of loyalty
    drawing of love-in-a-mist (or a love-in-a-mist flower)
    overwelmed by visions, feeling like a baloon

    Spring Rejuvenation
    The nature changes nicely

  4. Susan

    Hello RLB and Poetic Asides! Here is my “bref double.” I used quotation marks where I intend italics.
    Thank you,
    Susan Chast

    Tryst

    “In the fourth quatrain,
    I (sigh) will die.
    We should plunge into
    the time allowed.”

    Crazed, she let beats wane
    while she queried
    enraptured couplets:
    “Is love avowed?”

    But my swift war cry
    against her lips
    showed meter and rhyme
    spirit unbowed

    to the last refrain
    where we breathed “Goodbye.”

  5. taylor graham

    revision:

    THE BOY WHO LOVES BLUE

    hunts sapphire dragonflies along the creek
    and searches for the turtle blue as sea.
    He knows a string of stories, azure beads
    be-speckled with the dust of every land;

    so many fables, all of them quite true
    in a young boy’s mind, vibrant as a week
    of Saturdays. Holes in pockets, he reads
    and memorizes, tries to understand

    the lessons taught at school. But every text
    denies that there’s a lamb with cobalt eyes
    who dares to walk among the wildest beasts.
    This boy still holds blue heaven in his hand,

    adventuring the way that larkspur leads
    and loving sky-blue wind upon his cheek.

  6. taylor graham

    HONITON LACE
    for Elihu Burritt, 1864

    You detoured just to see this one-street town
    famous for making lace – the handiwork
    of women hungerful and gaunt. This day,
    you find them on clay floors, their fingers worn

    not quite to bone with lace-work filigree
    and flounces. In damp cottages they bend
    to their needles, their art. A wedding gown
    for a princess. And its maker? Old, shorn

    of girlhood, womanhood. She just makes lace,
    wrought with lions and unicorns. A queen
    might wear her veil with pride. It’s cheap, to pay
    for precious weave a penny. Shall we mourn

    such poverty? A thought to bear away,
    how common peasant craft can wreathe a crown.

  7. Jezzie

    MYSCHKA’S DREAM

    Sleeping peacefully in the sun,
    her back legs start to madly twitch.
    She’s chasing squirrels in her dream,
    with her sister, young and carefree.

    Happy to be out in the woods,
    they are running wild in the stream
    splashing around and having fun,
    wagging their tails, barking with glee.

    Out on the bank again they run.
    They pause awhile to have a shake,
    before racing on, this sibling team,
    for the apples under the tree.

    They are back home, it would now seem.
    She’s settled down, her dream is done.

  8. Amaria

    My attempt at bred double :/

    Mother and daughter – two of a kind
    they sometimes create much friction
    from seeing things from opposing views
    but the love between them never dies

    Mother tries to instill in her girl
    wisdom she collected in time
    but daughter always dismisses this –
    thinking she is just too hard to please

    But eventually the daughter finds
    that mother was right all along
    and grows to appreciate her more –
    their connection heighten and anew.

    At journey’s end, it is love that binds
    these two creatures together like glue.

  9. RuthieShev

    As I have no clue what I am doing here, I just did a silly poem to try and see if I am doikng it right.

    Baby Boomers and the Mash

    I woke up with a frightful start
    In the darkest time of the night
    Fell out of bed with a burning crash
    When I heard a thumping sound

    Tripped as I ran down the living room stairs
    Aching caused by my fast beating heart
    No matter what it took I had to figure out
    What could that be shaking the ground

    Out the back door, I tripped over the trash
    Rubbed my eyes to wipe the sleep
    Surprised by the sight before me
    Loud music playing with people dancing around

    As a baby boomer myself I see this as a form of art
    As I joined them in doing the Monster Mash

  10. taylor graham

    THE GIRL WHO WANTS TO GROW UP

    Don’t be in such a hurry, child,
    to find your life. Step back a pace
    and take your bearings; set your glide

    and grab a slipstream. From up there,
    you’ll know it by its colors – wild
    rainforest greens, and blues to blind
    the eye. Unbridled horse to ride

    without the fear of hobbles. Share
    free heaven; taste it in your lungs.
    Hang onto wind that whips your face.
    You’ll lose yourself at full-tilt stride.

    Somewhere on earth, you’ll see a place
    beside the hawk; return his stare.

  11. taylor graham

    THE BOY WHO LOVES BLUE

    hunts sapphire dragonflies along the creek
    and searches for the turtle blue as sea.
    He knows a string of stories, azure beads
    be-speckled with the dust of every land;

    so many fables, all of them quite true
    in a young boy’s mind, vibrant as a week
    of Saturdays. He weighs each one against
    the facts he learns and tries to understand

    at school. But every lesson that he reads
    denies that there’s a lamb with cobalt eyes
    who dares to walk among the wildest beasts.
    This boy would hold blue heaven in his hand,

    adventuring the way that larkspur leads
    and loving sky-blue wind upon his cheek.

  12. PressOn

    I’m puzzled by the description, “any stanza or poem of 14 lines that is not a sonnet,” given the variety of 14-line poems that are called sonnets.

    1. RJ Clarken

      Hi William (and anyone else) :D

      Last September, when I was the In-form Poet coordinator at Poetic Asides, we did the Bref Double form.
      Please click hereif you want to see more examples, discussion, etc.

        1. PressOn

          Good luck with those tests, and thanks for the note. I do recall your use of teh form at the Bloomings site, but I was just confused over the general notion of what is a sonnet and what is not. Are there a certain defined rhyme schemes, for example?

          Anyway, as I said, good luck.

    2. Robert Lee Brewer Post author

      Hey William.

      My understanding is that the sonnet should be a 14-line poem with a standard set of syllables and a defined rhyme scheme. While the rhyme scheme may differ, every line should rhyme with at least one other line in the poem.

      Now I know there are poets who write blank verse “sonnets,” but I’m guessing it might be similar to people who write “haiku” that are 5-7-5 syllables that do not have a kigo (seasonal reference) or kireji (cutting word)–or that deal with human emotions, relationships (as opposed to nature).

      Many “haiku” are actually senryu or some other small poetic form; I’m guessing the same could be said for 14-line poems that don’t maintain a rhyme from beginning to end.

  13. gmagrady

    Raccoon

    I think it’s called flashing
    where the roof meets the wall,
    where the slope comes to an end.
    Apparently, it’s now the place

    where the critter just wiggles
    through, thinking he’s a friend
    who can camp out every
    night and day in the crawlspace,

    destroying decorations from last
    Christmas, crashing and thrashing
    about at boxed up books and clothes,
    old pictures and papers now defaced.

    I’m weary of his boasting and bashing.
    When he’s trapped, it’ll be a godsend.

  14. lionetravail

    “Why I’m A Doctor”

    He’s eighty when he walks in,
    holding himself stiffly, with care,
    so he doesn’t trigger the pain
    that brought him to see me.

    Hunched shoulders carry anger
    and diagnoses of their own,
    frustration expressed like a prayer,
    hands clasped, resting on knee.

    I greet him with respect, with
    interest in him, not just his issue.
    I notice when he gives himself free rein
    to speak, unfettered, ‘A’ to ‘Z’.

    Watching, I see it when his strain
    relaxes, and hope rises from despair.

  15. Cameron Steele

    Planting Season

    TV says it will rain Thursday;
    a prophecy that’s kicked up the dirt
    roads, saddled them with planters,
    yoked them to the dusty trucks

    and strung them through with purpose.
    They grew skinny in winter, unworked
    bones wheezing finally into May —
    the weather will hold with any luck.

    On the off chance it won’t
    we’ll ride them til it hurts
    dig in til they pay
    off or rain turns them to muck.

    The men don’t wear shirts, the hay turns
    in wheels, the roads beneath it all run rough.

    growing skinny

    1. PressOn

      I don’t understand how I missed this till now, but I’m glad I checked back. The pictures you paint here are as vivid as those I recall from an old novel, Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road.I think this is superb work.

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