Wednesday, June 27, 2018


When someone loves the structure a poetry form provides as much as I do, the fatras is kind of scary. It has no rhyme, no rhythm, no set number of syllables…so what the heck is it?

This somewhat obscure form comes to us from medieval France. Early examples were humorous, sometimes obscene, and usually satirical. Very few fatras survived the test of time, which is why so little is known about them, although many of them were attributed to the poet Watriquet de Couvin

It begins with a couplet (sometimes, but not always, lifted from a more serious poem) that sets the tone of the poem. The first line of the couplet is repeated, followed by nine lines of the poem, and ending with the second line of the couplet. A fatras double can be created when two eleven line stanzas are formed (the original couplet remaining only at the beginning), with the lines of the couplet reversed in the second stanza.

I wanted to try and stay as traditional as possible, so I opened my big book of English and American poetry and picked two lines at random. My starting couplet is from The Ballad of Reading Gaol, by Oscar Wilde. And for some reason humor seemed to escape me, so I went with satire.

Silently we went round and round
And through each hollow mind

Silently we went round and round
Like bugs caught in the current of a pool
Kicking our feet and getting nowhere
Listening to the news from the south
Where the orange menace seems to be
Losing what little mind he ever had
Determined to go down in history
As the anti-Christ, the new Hitler
His words knocking down his followers
In one ear and out the other
And through each hollow mind

And through each hollow mind
Where brain has been replaced by jello
Or some other such substance
That has no nutritional value
The collective I.Q. is falling
Like a chocolate soufflé does
When you open the oven door
We don’t have the answers
Any more than you do
As just like the bug in the pool
Silently we went round and round

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