(The following is taken from a thread on the blog of the poet Cynthia Jobin https://littleoldladydotnet.wordpress.com/)
According to my favorite Book of Forms (Lewis Turco, 1968)….DROIGNEACH (pronounced dray-ee-nock) is Irish. Syllabic. A loose stanza form. The single line may consist of from nine to thirteen syllables, and it always ends in a tri-syllabic word. There is rhyme between lines one and three, two and four, etc. There are at least two cross-rhymes in each couplet. There is alliteration in each line—usually the final word of the line alliterates with the preceding stressed word, and it always does so in the last line of each stanza. Stanzas may consist of any number of quatrains.
The poem (not the stanza) ends with the same first syllable, word, or line with which it begins.
A possible scheme:
Lines: syllables and rhymes:
1. x x b x x x x xxa
2. x x x x a x x x xxb
3. x x x x x b xxa
4. x x x x a x x xxb
5. x x x x x d x x xxc
6. x x x c x x x x x x xxd
7. x x d x x x x x x xxc
8. x x x x c x xxd
Notes on the Process
I asked someone I know, a translator called Neil Patrick Doherty, who is studied in the Irish language, what droigneach means. He told me it means ‘thorny’. Very fitting. I don’t know if this is because the form is a thorny one, or if it ends up turning the poet thorny?
One of the first things I thought when tackling the droigneach was, what can I get away with? I needed to make room for myself, to maneuver in my function. I have cheated by giving myself the option of hinging rhyming words both on their alliterative as well as assonant potential & of course, its use as a full end/start rhyme. This provides options, which is something desperately needed in a form as formidable as this. In addition, this opens up the form to more interesting acoustics & halts the dulling of the scansion, where the perfect fit of words becomes more a matter of getting the fit, rather ingenuity coming into the process.
My subject too had to be one that wasn’t simply there to be experimented on. I don’t like this idea & wanted the poem to mean something. I chose law, love & divorce; I think the context is clear enough that I don’t need to spell it out. In addition, law & love become metonymy for form & function. The theme of movement, freedom & imbalance applying in my mind both to marriage & poetry.
“In my beginning is my end.” This is problematic as the opening 1st or 2nd beats must rhyme with the final tri-syllabic beat of the 2nd line: xbxxxxxxxxxa / xaxxxxxxb. However, because the opening must be repeated at the end, it must be tri-syllabic too.
I had shot myself in the foot here as I had already devised the ‘eternal / cubicle / nuptial / eternal’ rhyme scheme for the 1st & 4th verse. My remedy for this was ‘movable’, which was assonantal with ‘overcast’ & end rhymed with ‘nuptial’. It further had functional usage, the relation between ‘eternal’ & ‘nuptial’ with ‘movable’ within the context of the subject, should be clear. This solution, also made the opening line flow nicely, establishing the subject & opening up maneuverability. Is this cheating? If it is, I am bloody proud of myself.
Before all this, there was the matter of tri-syllabic end rhymes. This is actually quite a hopeful point about the form, as tri-syllabic words are abundant. I am not ashamed to say I used a rhyming dictionary for this, but only because I had most of my rhymes already & wanted to make sure there weren’t better rhymes & also to finish off my rhyme sets. I don’t even know why I am apologizing, as thesauruses, dictionaries etcetera are all just tools there to be used.
The cross rhymes I decided to loosen & I acquiesce that some are questionable. The ‘Korea’/ ‘her hair’ might arguably be a more tacitly sonic slant end rhyme, & may be questionable; as is ‘curious’ & ‘odours’, although I personally think this works nicely. I was loath to omit function for form here & no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t fix these. It worked to my advantage on ‘acacias’ & ‘a cue to kiss’ though. The major hurdle really is the cross rhythm. It really is cumbersome. You can easily trip up here & lose in tackling this hurdle, the movement of your function.
I haven’t tried to continue the last line of each verse with the beginning of the next. I have allowed each verse their freedom.
Without my little cheats, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed writing this as much as I did; it is the effort to find the tweaks, which is really pulling apart the mechanism, which makes using difficult forms worthwhile to me.
I think poets have largely abandoned form because they concern themselves so much with function, which has usurped form to become the formal principle. However, it doesn’t have to be the case that function & form cannot coexist in the belly of a formal poem. To avoid the imbalance, it takes immense concentration. I have been working on this all week, sitting at my computer replacing words, maneuvering the scansion, all while paying mind to how the poem’s meaning might be more effective.. Before typing it, I filled 6 heavily scrawled pages in my pocket notebook, then a further 4 in my manuscript sized notebook & I have lost count of the minute iterations on the computer. & while I may not have a perfect poem (when does that ever really happen?) I have something I know has been worked out, it has balance & is in some part unique for being attempted & wrestled into being.
People write feeling toned free verse all the time without criticism, & when we do attempt to criticize it, there is a canon of popular poets who have popularized the form, so we end up without a leg to stand on & the correct backlash is probably to call this snobbery. I am not saying free verse cannot be musical, nor that it isn’t credible, only that there is a reason it has usurped verse forms & while one of them may be that the freedom it offers, makes for better poetry, it has also made it easier to write poetry, in that the shape of the poem becomes organically through the developmental expounding of function. This is attractive. It invites the poet to take full control of their poem from the inception. But I’d argue that, to be better at free verse, would be to understand the mechanics of various forms & have them at your disposal. There is nothing really hindering you then from developing your own shapes as well as borrowing from tradition. That would be truly free.
So I forgive myself for finding solutions to as stubborn a form as this, I hope you will too.
It isn’t perfect, but I’d be very impressed to read a droigneach poem, which manages to balance form & function in the way that a poet might with the sonnet, or even a strict form like the sestina or villanelle. The sonnet allows for immense freedoms compared to the droigneach.
While I recommend any serious poet should attempt this, I don’t know as I’ll be returning to it in a hurry.
Without further ado, here is Court.
Following Jobin’s model my poems structure looks as follows:
(You get the idea. In fact, you might say 'I've stored' is
in sonic relation to the 'd' rhyme scheme: 'curious' & 'odours'. & further,
the 3rd verse beginning 'In felt' is alliterative to 'uniting' & 'us: noting'.)
We make laws movable, then ask, if love’s eternal?
Etiolate men hand forms out to sign; overcast
weather pastes these grey panelled corridors—cubicles
collect years of error, processed by bureaucrats.
I’ve stored this memory: our stroll beneath acacias
—a cue to kiss: a symbol on a door, curious
odours. May-warm, she wore white linen, loose; Korea
her hair & skin, she said the sign was ‘just cultural’.
In felt seats, divorcees fidget, whispering,
waiting, while the judge, divided, our annealer,
annuls our coupled tensions, one thing uniting
us: noting the mistake in picking one another.
He asks our names, to confirm we want the annulment.
So it went…we closed what opened nuptial
—nodded, then the judge stamped our document.
Not being obedient, we make laws movable?