Roundelay: Poetic Form

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Here's one final poetic form before the end of the year: the roundelay poem.

Roundelay Poems

Technically, the roundelay is any simple lyric poem that uses a refrain, but I found a very interesting version of a John Dryden roundelay in Lewis Turco's The New Book of Forms. Basically, the roundelay is comprised of just an a rhyme and a b rhyme--with most of the lines acting as refrains.

Here is how the rhymes and refrains (capitalized with a number look):

Line 1: a
Line 2: b
Line 3: A1
Line 4: B1
Line 5: A2
Line 6: B2

Line 7: A1
Line 8: B1
Line 9: A3
Line 10: B3
Line 11: A2
Line 12: B2

Line 13: A3
Line 14: B3
Line 15: A4
Line 16: B4
Line 17: A2
Line 18: B2

Line 19: A4
Line 20: B4
Line 21: a
Line 22: b
Line 23: A2
Line 24: B2

As you can see, the A2-B2 lines complete each stanza--so these might be the most important lines of the entire poem as every other line bounces off this refrain.

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Here’s my (rather weak) attempt at a Roundelay:

Roundelay, by Robert Lee Brewer

this world is crammed full of liars
lying for love or drugs or gold
& i'm preaching to the choir
so maybe this statement's not bold:
if liar-liars catch on fire,
why is it i always feel cold?

& i'm preaching to the choir
so maybe this statement's not bold
where there was love there's no desire
possibly since i'm getting old
if liar-liars catch on fire,
why is it i always feel cold?

where there was love there's no desire
possibly since i'm getting old
now it's like i'm set to retire
& watch every sunset unfold
if liar-liars catch on fire,
why is it i always feel cold?

now it's like i'm set to retire
& watch every sunset unfold
or perhaps i'm caught on a wire
trying to buy all that i've sold
if liar-liars catch on fire,
why is it i always feel cold?

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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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