Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Challenge !

Now this is a serious challenge to all you poets.......

This article, which I am reproducing in full in case it "moves", was originally published in The Guardian newspaper site

Enjoy !!  I hasten to add that I would struggle to do this in English, let alone in Welsh, at which I am but a woefully inadequate dysgwyr (beginner)  ........


Poster poems: Englynion
Britain's equivalent of the haiku is your challenge this time, with a number of fiendish variations available

It's short, based on strict rules of syllable count, and British; in fact the englyn (plural form englynion) is among the oldest indigenous verse forms in the Welsh tongue, dating back at least as far as the 9th century Juvencus Englynion, a verse paraphrase of the Gospels.

So, why aren't englynion as popular with contemporary poets as the haiku? Well, the first problem that faces the would-be englynist is that it isn't a single fixed form. The earliest englynion, for instance, are written in three-line stanzas, each line of seven syllables, with a single end rhyme, thus:

_ _ _ _ _ _ a

_ _ _ _ _ _ a

_ _ _ _ _ _ a

This is the form known as the englyn milwr.

Straightforward enough, you might think. There is, however, another three-line version, the englyn penfyr, with a more elaborate rhyme scheme. In this form, the first line is 10 syllables long, and the second and third are seven syllables each. The final word of the first line must be polysyllabic and must rhyme with the first word of the second line. The second and third lines have end rhyme:

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ a

a _ _ _ _ _ b

_ _ _ _ _ _ b

The rhymes can be full or you can use assonance or alliteration. Easy, isn't it?

The three-line englyn soon evolved into a four-line stanza, an evolution that can be seen in the well-known Englyn on Padarn's Staff. Of course, these quatrains wouldn't be englynion if they didn't come in all kinds of shapes and forms. Perhaps the most common is the englyn cyrch, four seven-syllable lines of which lines one, two and four rhyme and the end of line three has an internal rhyme in line four:

_ _ _ _ _ _ a

_ _ _ _ _ _ a

_ _ _ _ _ _ b

_ _ _ b _ _ a

The englyn lleddfbroest also has four seven-syllable lines, rhyming a-a-a-a. Naturally, this is far too easy, so the rhymes have to be on dipthongs (in Welsh, ae, oe, wy, ei). The englyn proest dalgron follows an almost identical pattern, except that the syllables with the dipthongs are consonant rather than rhyming. The englyn proest gadwynog seeks to combine these two forms, dropping the dipthong requirement and having lines one and three rhyming and lines two and four consonant. There are two further four-line englynion, the englyn unodle crwca and the englyn unodle union, but please don't ask me to explain them!

If the englyn is the British equivalent of the haiku, then the great Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym is its Basho. However, it would be a mistake to imagine that the form is dead, a relic of some distant medieval past. It is very much alive and current in Welsh poetry and a number of English-language poets have tried their hands at it. For example, Richard Caddel's Nine Englynion is clearly based on the Juvencus form, with the syllable count retained but the rhyme pattern dropped.

And so this month's challenge is to add to the body of English englynion. You may want to stick rigidly to one or more of the traditional variants, or you may, like many western haiku writers, take a more flexible approach. The choice is yours, but one way or another let the englynion roll
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