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Explore the Craft of Writing

German Poetry


Knittelvers means cudgel verse. Considered simple, sometimes awkward and often satirical, comical or vulgar, Knittelvers are a 15thcentury German stanzaic form which by the 17th century had become indicative of derogatory statements. Written in crude couplets the genre / form was rejected as clumsy by most reputed poets. But by the 18th century they were revived by such noted poets as Goethe, Schiller and Gottsched. Knittelvers continue to be effective in political satire and parodies.


The Knittelvers is:

  • stanzaic, written in any number of couplets.
  • rhymed. The rhyme can be true or assonant rhyme. aa bb cc dd etc.
  • syllabic, originally the lines were long but narrowed down to either strict count of 8 syllable lines or free count of 8 or 9 syllable lines each. But by the 18th century two prominent variations emerged:
    • a rhymed couplet of alternating an 8 syllable masculine ending line followed by a 9 syllable feminine ending line.
    • or alternating rhymed couplets of 8 syllable masculine ending lines followed by a couplet of 9 syllable feminine ending lines.
  • accentual, each line carries 4 stressed syllables.


    How Many Times? by Judi Van Gorder


    He said "sorry, it's me not you.

    I strayed and found somebody new."

    She knew before he spoke his confession

    he'd played long before this transgression.

German and Austrian Poetic Forms:

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