A Quick Word on Couplets: Writing Poetry


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  1. #1

    A Quick Word on Couplets: Writing Poetry

    Couplets are two successive lines of poetry, usually rhymed. Couplets have been used in English poetry for as long as there has been rhyming poetry in the language. Couplets can stand as a poem on their own but often work as an organizing pattern to longer works, the most obvious being as the closing lines of Shakespearean sonnets. When couplets are in iambic pentameter they are called Heroic couplets and were introduced to the poetic tradition by Chaucer. Heroic couplets are a popular choice for long, epic poems.

    Couplets are suitable for love poems because of the way they work as a unit. They can be either “open” in that the syntactical unit continues past the couplet, or “closed” in that the syntactical unit ends with the couplet. This pairing of lines and the flow they create emphasizes the “pairing off” of traditional romantic love.

    Happy writing!

    Works Cited

    Hirsch, Edward. Poet’s Glossary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014.

  2. #2
    Just in time for Valentine's Day, kiddo. Or, as my sis says: Valentime's Day. I said that for too many years.

  3. #3
    Our next Poets-in-Progress challenge will be ten lines of rhyming couplets on the theme of love.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Ariel View Post
    Couplets are suitable for love poems because of the way they work as a unit. They can be either “open” in that the syntactical unit continues past the couplet, or “closed” in that the syntactical unit ends with the couplet. This pairing of lines and the flow they create emphasizes the “pairing off” of traditional romantic love.
    Thanks, Ams. Please can you expand on this and include examples?
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  5. #5
    I can with two links.

    http://www.writingforums.com/threads...nt-and-Caesura

    http://www.writingforums.com/threads...ry-Line-Breaks

    Couplets usually work as a pair by containing ideas. A paired couplet will usually rhyme, expound upon a single idea or image, and be metrically the same. Saying that a couplet is "open" is saying that the couplet employs enjambment through not just itself but into other lines. Saying that it is closed means that the final line of a couplet ends with the sentence; the ending punctuation does not have to be a period, question mark, or exclamation point but can be a semi-colon or dash (and sometimes a comma).
    Last edited by Ariel; January 27th, 2017 at 02:46 PM.

  6. #6
    Couplets usually work as a pair by containing ideas. A paired couplet will usually rhyme, expound upon a single idea or image, and be metrically the same. Saying that a couplet is "open" is saying that the couplet employs enjambment through not just itself but into other lines. Saying that it is closed means that the final line of a couplet ends with the sentence; the ending punctuation does not have to be a period, question mark, or exclamation point but can be a semi-colon or dash (and sometimes a comma).

    I feel that Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" contains great examples of open and closed couplets. The couplets are also rhyming couplets and it is a metaphysical love poem.

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...s/detail/44688

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Marvell
    Had we but world enough and time,
    This coyness, lady, were no crime.
    We would sit down, and think which way
    To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
    Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
    Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
    Of Humber would complain. I would
    Love you ten years before the flood,
    And you should, if you please, refuse
    Till the conversion of the Jews.
    My vegetable love should grow
    Vaster than empires and more slow;
    An hundred years should go to praise
    Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
    Two hundred to adore each breast,
    But thirty thousand to the rest;
    An age at least to every part,
    And the last age should show your heart.
    For, lady, you deserve this state,
    Nor would I love at lower rate.

    But at my back I always hear

    Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
    And yonder all before us lie
    Deserts of vast eternity.
    Thy beauty shall no more be found;
    Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
    My echoing song; then worms shall try
    That long-preserved virginity,
    And your quaint honour turn to dust,
    And into ashes all my lust;
    The grave’s a fine and private place,
    But none, I think, do there embrace.

    Now therefore, while the youthful hue

    Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
    And while thy willing soul transpires
    At every pore with instant fires,
    Now let us sport us while we may,
    And now, like amorous birds of prey,
    Rather at once our time devour
    Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
    Let us roll all our strength and all
    Our sweetness up into one ball,
    And tear our pleasures with rough strife
    Through the iron gates of life:
    Thus, though we cannot make our sun
    Stand still, yet we will make him run.



    Last edited by Ariel; January 27th, 2017 at 03:12 PM.

  7. #7
    Thanks, ams.

    So this is an open couplet with eight syllables per line?Okay, I am not sure of Indians that is probably 9 syllables with my accent

    Thou by the Indians ganges' side
    should'st rubies find; I by the tide
    of Humber would complain. I would
    love you ten years before the flood,
    and you should


    Closed couplet

    Rather at once our time devour
    than languish in our slow-capped power.

    My challenge poem was written in closed couplets. However, from this discussion I believe I boxed myself into a corner by taking that route throughout the poem.
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  8. #8
    Remember, syllables do not indicate meter. They're a starting point but not the final answer.


    The first four lines are two closed couplets. The next six are open. I would not worry about whether the couplets are open or closed but about whether they work within context of the poem.

  9. #9
    No, I was not concerned about meter more syllables. Adding meter to the mix is a discussion project for another day.

    However, I now understand that by utilising both open and closed couplets gives you more flexibility with your choice of words. Less ...shall we say...forced?
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  10. #10
    Indeed, it does help one's work sound much less forced. Luckily everyone has time to work on their poems before the contest begins. (Seems fair as February is so short).

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