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Double Dactyl and the Mc Whirtle

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Explore the Craft of Writing
Light Verse

Double Dactyl is nonsense verse in dactylic meter which helps the silliness along. It was created by 20th century American poet Anthony Hecht and the opening line of each poem in this verse form is often Higgledy Piggledy or a silly equivalent. The elements of the Double Dactyl are:

  1. stanzaic, framed in 2 quatrains.
  2. metered, L1-L3 written in dactylic dimeter (Suu/Suu), L4 is a trochee followed by an iamb. (Su/uS)
  3. rhymed xxxa xxxa x being unrhymed.
  4. composed with L1 is the words, Higgledy Piggledy (or silly metric equivalent) and L2 is a name, from there on you are on your own. (at least 1 dactyl in the name should be attempted, 2 is great but not everyone has a name like Emily Dickinson.
  5. appropriate for light verse, the poem should be humorous not tumorous .

    Scrumptuous lumptuous by Judi Van Gorder

    Albertson's Groceries,
    beverages, pharmacy
    steak and prime rib,

    Munchable, lunchable
    always fresh vegetables,
    pineapple, passion fruit,
    must wear a bib!

    Some examples can be found at Everything 2

A Mc Whirtle is a Double Dactyl without the words Higgledy Piggledy. It is also allows a looser frame. This verse form is a 20th century American creation by Bruce Newling.  The elements of the Mc Whirtle are:

  1. stanzaic, written in 2 quatrains but if an extra line slips in who cares.
  2. metric, L1-L3 are dactylic dimeter (Suu/Suu), most of the time. Usually L4 is a trochee followed by an iamb (Su/uS) but not always. An extra unstressed syllable is often added to the beginning of the first line of each stanza.
  3. rhymed, xxxa xxxa, x being unrhymed or additional rhyme may be added at the poet's discretion.
  4. written with a name in L1. (and if it doesn't fit the double dactyl meter, so be it.)
  5. appropriate for light verse.

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