The Double Dactyl - what a cool poetic form! I was made aware of double dactyls by the lovely Cath at The Picket Fence, who admitted that it sounded like a strange sort of dinosaur, which is what I'd been secretly thinking myself.
The rules of a double dactyl were difficult for me to grasp:
- dactylic meter, meaning that the 'feet' are made up of three syllables in a 'strong-weak-weak' pattern
- two verses of four lines each, each line having two of these dactylic feet (although the fourth and eighth lines usually have one dactyl followed by a single stressed syllable ... once you've understood this pattern of syllables, it's a piece of cake, I promise)
- the first line of the poem is a rhyming nonsense phrase - the hardest part for me, as I am just not that into writing nonsense phrases
- the second line is a name
- one of the lines in the second verse is a six-syllable word, and Cath kindly sent me a list of 1,500 six syllable words to choose from Some poets add a rule that no single six-syllable word, once used in a double dactyl, should ever be knowingly used again.
- the ends of each verse rhyme, and the whole thing is usually humourous.
That's a lot to take in, but once you've read a few double dactyls, you get an 'Aha!' moment and understand the structure.
My friend Cath posted a double dactyl written by her friend, poet Will Mackerras. Will's poetry blog, The Banjo Bible, is well worth a read and it includes a few superb double dactyls. Read Cath's own double dactyl, which came with a short lesson in art appreciation. Both were brilliant!
I wrote my first double dactyl in the comments on my sister's blog in her recent poetry posts while I was sleeping in the dorm at the campsite where we had our recent beach holiday. When I came home, I realised another whole double dactyl was needed to fully explain my plight (as if a 2kg gain on the scales wasn't explanation enough.)
Does this make it a Quadruple Dactyl? I am not sure.
At Seabreeze Apartments
The weather was wondrous,
The cabins were close.
But I'll be needing some
Though they did feed us,
The food was quite gross.