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Byr a Thoddaid: Poetic Form

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Byr a Thoddaid Poems

If you couldn't tell from the name, the byr a thoddaid is a Welsh form (like the gwawdodyn). Here are the rules:

  • The byr a thoddaid is a quatrain (4-line stanza) or series of quatrains
  • The quatrain itself is divided into two combined couplets (2-line stanza)
  • One couplet contains 8 syllables for each line with an aa end rhyme
  • The other couplet contains 10 syllables in the first line and 6 syllables in the second
  • The 10-syllable line of this other couplet has an end rhyme near the end of the line (but not at the end)
  • The 6-syllable line of this other couplet has a link (either rhyme, alliteration, etc.) to the end word of the 10-syllable line and then an end rhyme
  • The couplets can appear in alternating orders

I realize the explanation might sound complicated, but it's not too bad.

Here are the two main options:

X's represent non-rhyming syllables; capital letters represent rhyming syllables; lower-case letters (that aren't x's) represent the linked words/sounds/etc.

Option 1:

xxxxxxxA
xxxxxxxA
xxxxxxxBxc
xcxxxB

Option2:

xxxxxxxAxb
xbxxxA
xxxxxxxC
xxxxxxxC

Note: The linked sound in the second line of the 10-6 couplet can be the first sound, first syllable, second sound, second syllable, etc.--just as long as it's near the beginning of that second line.

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Here’s my attempt at a Byr a Thoddaid poem:

Godspeed, by Robert Lee Brewer

As the storm warned us with thunderous sounds
sending us asunder
to our individual homes
before the rain could chill our bones,

we imagined we ran for life
itself--as if the lightning might
find our footsteps and strike us dead as nails
as snails hid fast their heads.

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A few notes on my example:

  1. A byr a thoddaid can be as short as one stanza or run on for several.
  2. I used both structures here to show options, but I could've made either quatrain as a standalone poem.
  3. In the second line of the first stanza, I used the familiar sounds of "sounds" and "sends" (or "sxnds") to link the end of one to the beginning of the other.
  4. In the fourth line of the second stanza, I used a straight up rhyme of "as nails" with "as snails."

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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