Court—a droigneach

(The following is taken from a thread on the blog of the poet Cynthia Jobin

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?

5 poems published @The Wagon Magazine

Thanks to Krishna Prasad for taking these 5, which, I don’t think are very easy poems & particularly the last poem, which is about the Seorak War Memorial in which the poet imagines histories superimposed in real time. I went through a stage of submitting poems without titles, simply using the lemniscate & this has been my only success, so I am pleased about that. In addition to my poems, John Looker has written a Letter from London for this issue of The Wagon & John is always worth a read.

The link is here.

Happy reading.





Ion Corcos (4 Poems)

Pleased to have Underfoot on Ion’s long list of publications.

If you’d like us to publish your poems, you know the drill. We’d be happy to read you in all your best threads.

Underfoot Poetry

These Mountains

In this still bay, limestone blue,
the fall of mountain steep with scree.

Clumps of hard grass grip the slope, shorn
like valleys I have seen in eastern Turkey.

Don’t tell the Greeks, don’t tell the Turks;
some of them at least. The far mountains,

covered in a haze of sun and clouds,
look like the Anatolia I have seen.

In this still bay, mountains rise,
while men sit around, drink coffee, complain;

until one day the earth trembles,
rips the land apart, and the mountains

sink into the sea.

Birds roost in caves, menace to keep their space,
until they too move on, or are banished.

We talk about this place, but we talk too much.
This place is about mountains, born from the sea,

from Venetians, Ottomans, Turks, Greeks;
everything that belongs to yesterday.

Everything that belongs to today.

One day a volcano exploded under the…

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Michael Vecchio (5 poems)

Pleased to have Michael Vecchio’s poems up at Underfoot this week. Fluid poems packed with natural imagery, inquisitive & with a sense of attachment to place.

If you’d like to be published by us, please see our submissions & read a few of the poets here to get a sense of what we want.

Underfoot Poetry

A Mythical Bird

A mythical bird
said to breed
in winter
In a nest floating
on the sea

is more actual than sand
drifting distantly
over dunes
when darkness
builds a canopy

because belief removes
any doubt that wings
will be feathered full
and the glass they cover
fished through.

From ‘An Allegiance to Some’, Selected Poems, 2010-2013 

Somnambulistic Tendencies Near to the Hudson

1. The Adirondacks in the absence of chlorophyll
reveal a hidden visual fire
beneath which run
the origin waters of the Hudson.

2. The middle opens
like a flower desire
cannot answer.

Transparent leaves
folding over
permit light
into fingered reaches.

3. As can be imagined
rock walls
reveal many greenish-grays
leaving the impression of shoulders
leaning through collars of vegetation.

4. Waiting for the deer to spring
blindly from the dark
into the hidden mire
my metallic carriage hurls forward.

5. Once the way…

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Stephanie L. Harper (7 Poems)

Pleased to finally have Stephanie on board, with her characteristic syntactic deftness on display in verses fat with complex scansion, thick with the sodden energies of so many images, these poems saturate you in words & meaning.
& as if that weren’t treat enough, there are 2 poems collaborated on with Bob Okaji from the blog O at the Edges, which really just makes this a special day. Get reading, get face to face with a couple of corking poets.

Underfoot Poetry

To the Dead White-Throated Sparrow

in my driveway: Would you at least do me the courtesy of an explanation?
What’s with your belly-mound-cenotaph arisen from the stony gloom spiel? And why
this exquisite bundle of yours, with its still-tender russets folded in the unbounded repose
of a napping cherub, as if you didn’t believe you were still reaching for the clouds?

I mean, was your plump little belly’s sky tribute supposed to un-stone the gloom
underfoot (as if your heavenward-splayed finger-knobs, all ruddy-bottomed
like a napping cherub, never knew their very purpose was reaching for the clouds)?
The spectacle of your tiny black lids pressed shut in sudden, brutal resignation to croaking

underfoot (even consecrated by such skyward-clasping, ruddy-bottomed branchlessness)
hardly passes for transubstantiation… Why package a fully-intact cadaver’s senselessness in
the spectacle of black-faced brutality’s sudden, penitent resignation to permanent blindness
for stealing a glimpse of the sun?…

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Hannah Rousselot (4 Poems)

Earnest & revealing poems by Hannah Rousselot at Underfoot this week.
There is tension in these poems exploring contemporary issues with piercing directness: the problems of indulgence, queer identity, social etiquette, body image & religion are all treated with a confident voice.
I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Underfoot Poetry


Glasses clink and
mouths smile and
jewelry sparkles and
eyes are hungry hawks.

This dress is too tight.
My smile is too tight.
My stomach is too tight.

I wish I could peel off my skin
to stretch it out over the curve of the Earth.
Maybe I would finally be skinny enough.

I wish I could give away pieces of my brain
until the light that shines behind my eyes
no longer reflects me, standing alone in the mirror.


The voices of the choir echo eerily
around the hollow chamber.
I feel surrounded here. The windows
are stained with stories I don’t know.

There is a hidden script in this place.
The Priest speaks to the crowd,
and they all know what to say back.
I scramble to keep up.
I decide to just mouth “watermelon”
like my theater director taught me.

In the middle of the…

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Esoterrier Moon Faeces

I decided that seeing as I am not particularly precious about the music I write, meaning I’ll probably never pay someone money to record it, or again, buy recording equipment to do it myself (well maybe, but no time soon) I thought I’d be raw & uncompromising & record songs on my phone.
I recommend turning any bass down, the thinner the better, time for treble then you’ll have no trouble enjoying what I am thinking sounds like Sun City Girls & Robbie Basho with the wisdom of Lao Tzu & St Francis of Assisi while they are having a drinking competition.

The chorus to Elephant in the room is taken from Marie Marshall’s poem Y. Thanks Marie.
Though I am not religious or spiritual I don’t know as there is a music more intense than devotional music, especially the raga. I am not a student of music, I play & experiment. I like anything unusual, unsettling, unexpected, I like curated fault & above all complex intensity. Improvisation allows me to attempt some of this.

Here is the link to Esoterrier Moon Faeces.

Richard Weaver (10 Poems)

These poems by Richard Weaver create an atmosphere I haven’t felt for a while in poems. Weaver’s intimacy of his subject & his sense of Walter Anderson’s inner motions & how this co-operates with the environments in the poems, is astonishingly handled. Richard sent me 10 & I couldn’t not take all 10 as the thread of the theme & the tone of them just demanded it.
Was really pleased to receive these. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


Underfoot Poetry

The subject of these poems, Walter Anderson, a Mississippi Gulf Coast artist who died in 1965, spent most of his time on the Barrier Islands off the coast of Mississippi. The first 6 poems are reflections of that. The final four are set in China during the Cultural revolution. Anderson attempted to walk across China in order to reach Tibet.


I know weather by the osprey.
When a change is coming they take to the air

riding the upward currents before a storm,
lighter than wind. They roll and loop,

dive then soar again, disappearing
into the black edge of the nor’easter

as the water turns to green fire around them.
The horizon is lost then found again

between earth and sky. One image
succeeds another. Like the Moor hens

giving chase in the surf. Or the young
pelicans standing in the palmettos

who flap their wings with the…

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Irena Hergottova (7 Poems)

  1. Thrilled that I was able to encourage Irena to submit to us, she is a poet with a rare insight on her lived perspective as a woman, wife, mother, migrant & humanitarian.
    Please, please, please encourage Irena to write more, she’s really very good at it & needs people to tell her, to give her the confidence to do it as much as possible, for my sake, think about me dear readers, I want more to read from Irena.

Thanks for reading & see our submissions page if you are interested in submitting, we are always open to submissions from emerging writers, hidden, shy writers & the cream of the crop. We don’t care where you are in your career, we want the best, we want poems that reveal, expand, incise with insight, boldly baffle, poems impossible to predict but speak to our deeper senses of understanding, the poems from everyone to everything, the poems of our climate, clippered with lillies & speak out the kindling as they rage on the pyre.

Underfoot Poetry

Nothing of Me on the Moon

The moon where I live
sucks up all darkness,
it’s a pond upside down.

The moon that I know
casts a circle of brightness,
a Chinese lantern in the sky.

Like a pot of honey never falling,
she just sits there, waiting for my glance.

I no longer ask such questions as
what’s the air like, is there noise?

I am happy sitting near the window
resting my eyes on the distant ball of stone.

I narrow my view—does she ever wonder,
am I a blot of blood, a stubborn stain
or just a fleeting interest
with a shimmering spotlight,
a random puppet
positioned in a frame…?

In the blink of an eye, everything’s forgotten,
there is nothing of my presence imprinted on the Moon.

An ocean that no one sees,
drops of rain falling on its surface at night…
I mean the sea…

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Barton Smock (7 Poems)

I am a huge fan of Barton, which is odd for me as I don’t usually like skinny poems or prose poems, which are Barton’s usual go-to form.
However, Barton is just so damn inventive & consistently surprises me, he is impossible to anticipate. He’s insightful, mysterious, full of humour & humanity.
As he he says above “I keep detailed notes on avoidance” & I believe he does.
He sent me a couple of his books instead of payment for my Isacoustic publication & I read them often & I find myself laughing joyously & his inventiveness & cannot put the book down.
Find him, learn him & become addicted to him.

Underfoot Poetry


as some things incorrectly have wings, we stamp a chicken into the hood of a cop car. the groundskeeper on break inside the church wonders aloud how much is left of the lord. a boy not part of our boyhood bikes over to us with his feet he’s named individually show and tell. the cop chuckles but straightens out when he sees what I’ve made of my hand. the boy says careful it might stay that way for good.

the stripper

beauty is the beginning of beauty. a man and a woman wait together for a stripper. you know the man like an intimate thought. like a toddler covered head-to-toe in blue body paint stepping in front of a blue door. the woman is an unfinished stranger whose son comes home to be with war and whose husband rests until laziness subsides. the man is aware he’s the…

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