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Bref Double

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
French Verse

The Bref Double is a quatorzain that does not claim to be a sonnet, now that is unique in itself. The variable rhyme scheme has been sited as a possible reason for its disqualification from that esteemed group, but anyone who has studied the sonnet knows there are already untold variations of rhyme schemes in verse forms claiming a spot on the sonnet roster.

There does seem to be a lack of a deliberate volta or pivot in many of the poems I encountered, which could mean that the lack of a pivot is possibly the distinctive feature that separates this form from the sonnet. However, I think most good writing should have a pivot, sonnet or not, so I hope this is not the case.

Perhaps the Bref Double is meant to be a narrative rather than lyrical verse. Turco's The Book of Forms lists it as lyrical of French origin, of what era I come up blank. I don't read French and I haven't found any early poems in the verse form anyway. But I have found poems under the heading Bref Double written as both narrative and lyrical verse. Lyrical verse, the standard for the sonnet, seems to dominate among the internet poets who have responded to poetry challenges to write a poem using the Bref Double frame. I am wondering if, since they were not directed to create a narrative, they just naturally merged into a lyrical meditation because of their familiarity with the more popular sonnet forms. I think this is how verse forms morph.

TheĀ elements of the Bref Double are:

  1. a short narrative.
  2. a quatorzain made up of three quatrains followed by a couplet.
  3. said to be unmetered but all lines should be equal length. Emulating French prosody in English usually comes down to counting syllables, so you probably can't go wrong if you set up a syllablic standard.
  4. rhymed, with variable rhyme schemes all of which include only 3 rhymes and some unrhymed lines. One source designates a fixed rhyme scheme in which the c rhyme ends only two quatrains and b ends the last quatrain and the couplet, axbc xaxc axab ab. Another rsource offers more variation but states the c rhyme ends all three quatrains and the a b rhymes must appear twice somewhere in the three quatrains axbc xaxc bxxc ab, axxc bxxc abxc ab, abxc abxc xxxc ab, xaxc xbxc xbac ba, xabc xaxc xbxc ab, etc. So take your pick, I believe no one is an expert here.

    Roly-Poly Prince by Judi Van Gorder

    Her older sister dared her to
    pick up the armored crawly bug
    and hold it in her tiny hand.
    The small girl carefully complied.

    Her frown turned up into a smile
    of glee as her confidence grew
    changing her face into the glow
    of a delighted elfin bride.

    Wet and slick from the grassy dew
    the round insect rolled right up tight,
    defense to fend off foe, a new
    magic prince for her fairy land!

    The impish buck toothed tot at two
    had bravely taken up command.

    Bref Double by Jan Haag

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