More from the Week In Poetry: homework for the weekend

'I'm just not sure that third line in stanza two is really working...'

In the middle of everything else going on this week was Tuesday: of course, teaching night for me at the Poetry School.

The course is called ‘Making Poetry’ and covers in three terms the basics of prosody – that is, poetic technique.

This week we began to unpick the mysteries of rhyming ‘cat’ with ‘dog’ – maybe not so basic after all, I’m turning them into magicians – and I sent the class home with a homework assignment: to find a word of two syllables, any word you like the sound of, and make as many pararhymes for it as you possibly can, or can find the time to.

Here’s how it works. You keep the consonants the same, and change the vowels. Easy!

But you can also change the consonants to neighbour sounds, as in k/g, p/b, t/d etc. And also, you can vary the placement of the vowels too if you find something and it works. Like all magic, it is essentially a question of manipulating the materials.

‘So’, as Don Paterson says, in his famous ‘Dark Arts of Poetry’ essay:

in ‘cat’ we hear hard ‘k’ and ‘t’, and can derive kite, cute, acute, cockatoo, biscuit, Cato… also, from close consonants, words like caddy, gateaux, god, Agadoo…

He describes how the Torah is printed without vowels, and must be ‘envoweled’ by us – which is the simple origin of centuries of interpretation and disagreement! He mentions the Kabbalah, and says:

In our art, pararhyming treats the mind as a sacred book. Once this series of secret cognates has been generated – Kabbalah, cable, quibble, cobble, equable, Keble, cue-ball, likeable, blackball, accapella, copla – they must be made sense of, and connected by the memory and imagination, which they simultaneously interrogate.

You get the idea.

Off you go! Homework on the blog. Word lists in the comments please. Maybe for the blog, keep it to ten, but make them good ones.

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