Skeltonic Verse: Poetic Form

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One of my favorite things to do is look at forms, so let’s examine skeltonic verse!

Skeltonic Verse Poems

Skeltonic verse is one of those forms I thought I had covered previously, but I couldn't find a post for it. Maybe I confused it with The Blitz, which uses a series of short lines to work down the page. Whatever the reason, let's dive into skeltonics now.

Named after its originator, John Skelton, skeltonic verse has a few simple rules:

  • Lines are short with two or three stresses...
  • ...with irregular rhymes...
  • ...rhythms...
  • ...and bonus points for alliteration.

James VI called skeltonics "tumbling verse," because of how it tumbles down the page. Often humorous, there are no specific rules for subject, tone, or length.

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Master Poetic Forms!

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Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.

This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works. Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!

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Here’s my attempt at Skeltonic Verse:

to dylan thomas, by Robert Lee Brewer

forgive me sweet dylan
if i sound like a villain
who's out for a killin'
but i'm no father's keeper
& i don't fear the reaper
or the late night creeper
nor rage against dying
as the living are crying
& all self-denying
the world & its trying
way of defying
our hopes & our dreams
once more than it seems
in the glare of the light
on this fragile good night
when we burn & we rave
with our elegant wave
from the almighty hearse
as we cough & we curse
in our skeleton verse

we go gentle you know
with death not our foe
but a friend we must meet
& joyfully greet
for where younger ones rage
their elders just age
& reset the stage
for the beaus & the belles
with their swift villanelles
as they open the play
with the bold words they say
against both night & day
as our lives fade away

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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). He tips his cap to Dylan Thomas and his immortal villanelle. Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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