This Saturday we are ‘celebrating’ the 5th birthday of our writers’ club, Writers on the Wharfe (now ‘virtual’ of course). Formation of the club was life-changing for me although for most of my working life I was writing for a living. It’s a good time I think to reflect on my ‘writing’ journey.

I’d rarely tried to write fiction or a ‘poem’ before the club (other than haiku and those were usually linked to a photograph in what I called ‘picture haiku’). I can think of only a couple of very short stories.

Restricted forms

Those who’ve been following me for a while will know that when I try to write I often prefer a tightly restricted format, like an English sonnet, an acrostic, haiku or even, with prose, writing to an exact length, eg 100 words or even 25 words, or some self-imposed restriction like in my recent post when I tried to ‘make’ a character in 20 sentences or less.

I cannot force myself to sit down and write, though that was never a problem as a journalist. So, although in the writers’ club we are usually given a theme about which to write for the next meeting I now rarely follow this.

I gave up attempting haiku when I decided good haiku were not possible except probably in Japanese, as I explained here. But my real journey into ‘restricted poems’ began after an hour with ‘eyup poet’ Matt Abbot on a barge in Leeds on the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

The décima

A portrait of Vincente Espinel

Vicente Espinel

So, I was excited to discover a new-to-me restricted form, the décima. It was created in Spain in the 16th century by Vicente Espinel, born in Ronda in 1550. Like haiku, it was often used in a ‘conversation’ between two poets, one answering the other’s décima with another décima. However, like haiku, the décima was created for a different language and a different culture so those written in English can never be quite right.

Even more exciting was the discovery that, set to music, there are competitions in Puerto Rica where the décimas are composed ‘on the spot’ to a given theme. How they are able to do that is just amazing. However, just as rhyming poetry is easier in Romanian because of the grammar, the décima is possibly a bit easier in Spanish as two written syllables are sometimes voiced as one. On the other hand, the interchangeability of eg,‘don’t’ and ‘do not’ in English can make achieving the syllable count easier.

In an attempt to make the occasion ‘special’ I’ve attempted to write two on the theme ‘birthday’, one by my alter ego answering that from ‘me’.


Birthday

I’m celebrating a birthday
A truly golden day for me
My start in fiction as you’ll see
A few false ‘haiku’ on the way
Even ‘tankas’ kept boredom at bay
But then came someone, she’s crazy
A sylphlike figure far from lazy.
Dark tales left, came a writers’ club
First coffee shop then kind of pub.
Ruxandra is now boss; rules are hazy.

Alter ego’s response

Well, I’m grumpy tyke it seems
Even hazy rules bring rebel
A milder revolt than Bebel,
I often don’t follow the themes
I tend just to follow my dreams
I’ve done it today yet again
Not today’s ‘Isolated Brain’,
The set theme for why I don’t know.
Having considered I said “NO!”
Adopting ‘Birthday’ kept me sane.


If you haven’t worked it out from my efforts, the décima is a poem of ten lines each with eight syllables, the rhyming plan being ABBAACCDDC.

There’s more info on:
https://dversepoets.com/2016/04/21/form-for-allmeeting-the-bar-decima/
from which I took most of my information. There’s also an example of a competition with sung décima in Puerto Rica.

More information about formation of the writers’ club at:

https://wp.me/pkm0h-NI