By C.B. Anderson

Anyone writing formal poetry today has to be grateful for the arsenal of fixed forms—most of them bequeathed to us from masters of the past—that is available to lend structure to poetic ideas.  Where would we be without the villanelle, the heroic couplet, or the mighty sonnet?  And new forms are still arising, not ex nihilo exactly, but from the native inventiveness of persons committed to writing verse.

One such new form is the alexandroid, which was recently invented, discovered, by poet Jared Carter.  A great many of these, under his byline, have appeared in various venues over the past few years.  (He told me he has “written around six hundred of the damn things.”)

Essentially, an alexandroid consists of six alexandrine (iambic hexameter) lines, where each line is broken into four-foot and two-foot segments, with end rhymes occurring in the corresponding segments in an abab rhyme scheme.  The short segments should be indented roughly ten spaces.  Two divided alexandrine lines constitute a stanza.  Let me cite an example of my own:

 

As the Crow Flies

The winding paths we tread until
____our bodies die
Delay ascent of yonder hill,
____yet crows may fly

Directly to that vaunted peak
____on which we yearn
To hear the Primal Author speak.
____But we may learn,

Along our way, to celebrate
____celestial laws,
Imposed or seamlessly innate,
____with corvine caws.

 

The minor segments should begin with a lower-case letter (unless grammar demands otherwise) in order to preserve the integrity of the component alexandrine lines.  It can be noted that the major segment ought not to have a feminine rhyme-ending, since this would result in a metrical infelicity.

Enjambment—both from line to line and from stanza to stanza—works very well in alexandroids, since this serves to tighten the connections between the whole poem and its several parts.

Another example (again written by me, and which first appeared in Indiana Voice Journal):

 

Dyed in the Wool, and Cut from the Whole Cloth

for Jared Carter

The bard of Indiana is
____a master of
The subtle trope.  The text is his,
____but such a love

For words must come from somewhere far
____away.  The less
He says, the more his measures are
____the warm caress

Of language in its native state—
____epiphanies
Presented on a sterling plate
____from Tiffany’s.

 

The alexandroid can be a lot of fun to play with and certainly deserves a place in the canon of received forms.

Post your alexandroid in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 

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13 Responses

  1. G. M. H. Thompson

    The Image & The Word

    These aren’t the droids you’re looking for
    & you’re no Al
    exander; still, it can’t be worse
    than “Shallow Hal”,–

    a movie that you’ve never seen
    or even heard,
    which goes to show how much the screen
    affects the word– :

    the word, a word, what is a word?–
    a thousand pic
    tures of a strange dead flightless bird
    crawling with ticks.

    Reply
    • Satyananda Sarangi

      Greetings for the day!

      I loved these lines so much.

      Regards

      Reply
    • Satyananda Sarangi

      Hello, greetings!

      Here is mine :

      Sombre Hours of Youth

      The hours that sing of sombre mood
      and echo truth,
      Though seem the aged’s favoured food,
      they feed the youth.

      But lest this world upon me doubt
      and stamp my view
      As false with notions now worn-out,
      there’s something new.

      The glow of fame, the pine for love
      Consume the life
      Of young, that do not stare above
      To win o’er strife.

      © Satyananda Sarangi

      This is the very first time that I have written something in this form.
      Grateful to you for urging me to write one.

      Thank you.

      Regards and best wishes

      Reply
  2. Wilbur Dee Case

    An Alexandroid
    by Scwirel Beadue
    for C. B. Anderson

    Amidst Indianapolis,
    that fast, planned site,
    he moves right in that capital’s
    vast satellite,

    as quiet as a rabbit’s zoom
    across the lawn,
    beyond James Whitcomb Riley’s tomb
    in morning’s yawn,

    while traffic flies beneath gray skites
    in pressing lines,
    yes, Jared Carter, underwrites
    some concrete vines.

    I notice Mr. G. M. H. Thompson is back, and his circuits aren’t on the blink…blink…blink…HAL-IBM-JCN-KDO-LEP-MFQ-NGR-OHS-PIT-QJU-RKV-SLW-TMX-UNY-VOZ.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      You forgot to indent the B lines. And what, pray tell, is a skite?

      — C.B. Anderson

      Reply
      • G. M. H. Thompson

        You can’t actually indent things with this comments editor. I’ll write several lines with varying levels of indentation, but the editor will only display them unindented, to the extreme left of the comment’s area:

        home
        alone
        yet no one
        knows

  3. Scwirel Beadue

    I was thinking skies, slipping, sliding, kite-like (the vicious bird of prey & heavier-than-air flight); I almost wrote it cummingsesque: “s/kites.” I just remember driving through Indianapolis beneath gray skies that seemed very hard. I was trying to capture some of that in my language. Though I am an extreme traditionalist, I am nevertheless an incorrigible neologist.

    Reply
  4. Wilbur Dee Case

    Mr. Anderson brings up the important topic of form. He is correct in stating that “new forms are still arising…from the native inventiveness of persons committed to writing verse.” I am thankful he has shared Mr. Carter’s alexandroid with us, of which he has written hundreds “of the damn things.” Though, as Mr. Carter himself points out, “they have been used occasionally in English verse for the last few centuries,” he rightfully gave the structure its name, as I suspect his use is the most profound at this point in time. There is an abrupt, taciturn quality to the music of the alexandroid, which appeals to the tight-lipped; and, as well, I think, it would be a nice place to lay those brief thoughts we have. Mr. Anderson was also correct to find fault with my futile first attempt at the alexandroid; and though I won’t change the two beginning stanzas, I have revised the latter stanza—and gotten rid of skites.

    while traffic flies beneath slate skies
    in pressing lines,
    there, Jared Carter’s jarred replies
    touch porcupines.

    What I was trying to capture in that small poem was the single poet (who linked to nature) writing quietly, is nearly lost amidst the massive, loud, modern metropolis. I am reminded of the disappearance of Booth Tarkington’s Magnificent Ambersons, the locale of which is near to where Mr. Carter dwells.

    Reply
  5. Jared Carter

    Kudos to Mr. C. B. Anderson for giving us this concise, practical definition of the alexandroid – a nascent poetic form that I’ve been fooling around with for the past few years. He’s done a fine job of summing it up, and adding some wrinkles of his own. Two of his points seem especially important.

    First, that the six odd-numbered lines – he conveniently labels these “major” lines – should not end with feminine rhymes. I agree, if by feminine rhyme he means allowing an extra syllable to appear at the end of the conventional eight.

    I agree that this should probably be avoided in the “major” lines throughout, for the reason Mr. Anderson states – it “would result in a metrical infelicity.”

    Yet an occasional feminine rhyme – an extra unaccented syllable at the end of the line – has been accepted throughout poetry in English, especially in quatrains, ballads, limericks, and other short lyric forms. For that reason it probably should be tolerated occasionally at the ends of the alexandroid’s “minor” lines in a particular stanza.

    Even there, however, since such a device can be overdone, I would suggest that this be allowed to happen only once in the course of the three stanzas.

    Second, Mr. Anderson’s remarks on enjambment support my own belief that it is the motor that drives the alexandroid. An entirely end-stopped alexandroid would risk becoming a dreary affair.

    Mr. Anderson is in my opinion among the contemporary masters of poetic enjambment, which may be why he has been drawn to the new form. As his own alexandroids demonstrate, he is already an excellent practitioner of the form.

    If I may offer a couple of additional insights into the form, the first would be to point out the curious fact that while the alexandroid has now been fairly well defined as a fixed form, and basically an iambic one, it has not yet been noticed that it can also be considered an instance of syllabics.

    If the formula for the alexandroid is followed to the letter, it yields a poem of 72 syllables – only two more than half the number of syllables in a standard sonnet composed of regular iambic lines.

    Counting syllables is far from being the best way to compose a poem in English. But it is not the worst way, either. Approaching the alexandroid as a syllabic form is simply another way of looking at this deceptively simple little poem.

    True, syllabics do not involve regular rhythm, and the alexandroid does. But the alexandroid at the same time permits a wide variety of substitutions and inversions in its basically iambic lines. In such a brief poem, counting syllables can sometimes be an aid in the handling of such variations.

    While the properly formatted and executed alexandroid on the page or screen may look like a traditional, almost old-fashioned, poem, it is still capable of offering some post-modern surprises.

    My second observation: if we think of the traditional sonnet as consisting of eight lines of proposition and six of resolution, the successful alexandroid attempts something similar, but in a much more fluid and unpredictable way.

    The turn in a sonnet usually occurs after the eighth line or octet. It can occur almost anywhere in an alexandroid – in the first stanza, or in the last line. This unpredictability makes the alexandroid a rather different reading experience compared with other lyric forms.

    But it is a form still in its infancy. The stanza form itself can be glimpsed here and there over the last several centuries of poetry in English. Dickinson happened upon it once or twice.

    The stanza pops up now and then in anthologies of nineteenth-century verse, but there are almost no instances of a three-stanza version. If any are to be found, it can be concluded that at the time each was considered to be nonce, and established no precedent.

    Swinburne’s tribute to Landor, on the latter’s gravestone in Florence, employs two such stanzas – excerpts from a longer poem written on the occasion of Landor’s death. (A link to my own alexandroid written after a visit to that grave may be found here — https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/landor-3/ )

    But defining the alexandroid proper as a form consisting of three such stanzas, with a line space between each, and taking into account the features and requirements Mr. Anderson has described, is something new.

    I’m happy to report that already the form is being taken up by others, as in a charming alexandroid, by Ms. Lori A. Claxton, that may be found here — https://medium.com/@loriclaxton/on-the-injured-bird-i-couldnt-save-c5a2a2f6262a

    A final observation: the titles of the 150-odd alexandroids I have published to date have been limited to one word. I chose to do this because I did not wish such a brief lyric poem to be overwhelmed by a long title that might divert attention from the spatial balance and visual simplicity of the lines that followed.

    But the length or brevity of a poem’s title cannot be considered part of its form, so a single-word title cannot be prescribed for the alexandroid. Those who give it multi-word titles are perfectly justified in doing so.

    It might be useful in this context to mention that in online venues, some editors and webmasters may claim that their programming will not allow an alexandrine’s even-numbered lines to be indented. This might have been the case a few years ago, but more recently I have found that most editors can provide the necessary code to indent the lines. (Comment boxes, however, such as this one, may also prove unable to format such lines.)

    It has been suggested by the Society editors that if I were to comment on Mr. Anderson’s article, I might also provide links to a few of my own alexandroids. I appreciate the offer.

    My experiments with the form have been encouraged by many editors, both in print and online, to whom I am most grateful, although I could not begin to list them all. A Google search associated with my name will reveal their web sites and ‘zines.

    As samples of such poems immediately viewable online, I might suggest the following:

    Peacock Journal
    http://peacockjournal.com/jared-carter-five-poems/

    Clementine Unbound https://clementineunbound.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/jared-carter-ice/

    Indiana Voice Journal
    http://www.indianavoicejournal.com/2016/04/three-poems-by-jared-carter-zhengzai.html

    Trinacria
    http://www.trinacriapoetry.com/trinacria11.pdf

    My thanks to Mr. C. B. Anderson for his fine essay, and to Mr. Evan Mantyk for hosting this discussion.

    Reply
  6. Wilbur Dee Case

    It is so nice to hear of Mr. Carter’s lenience toward syllabics; my syllabics have, in general, been met nothing but negativity. The reason I fell into syllabics was because I was attempting kinexion with the Ancient Greeks and Latins—for me, the most important poets of all—but I really couldn’t make my syllabics work for all my work. Like Spenser’s and Tennyson’s, my results were a failure; however, it has given me a unique feel to the English language (as perhaps it did for them), in the same way that my failure in writing English phonetically for many years has also given me an alternate perspective of the language (not entirely dissimilar to Realist, Modernist and Postmodernist vernacular writing). I wonder if Mr. Mackenzie’s saturation with French and Latin is one of the reasons I am so impressed with his poetry and prose.

    By the way, I have been so scalded for my syllabics, when attempting an alexandroid, I didn’t dare not use iambics. I can’t remember the title of the recent Mr. Carter alexandroid I read in Mr. Salemi’s Trinacria; but it was about a woman receiving a folded flag. I thought it was so well done I thought it blew out most of the competition in that volume with its finely-drawn setting and heartfelt, crystaline quality, which I would call classical, not unlike that which writers, like Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle, were striving for at the beginning of the last century. I think that particular alexandroid of Mr. Carter’s is superior to Swinburne’s verbose “In Memory of Walter Savage Landor.”

    Although it is not an alexandroid, notice what Emily Dickinson’s titleless, near-alexandroid accomplishes.

    The Soul selects her own Society—
    Then—shuts the Door—
    To her divine Majority—
    Present no more—

    Unmoved—she notes the Chariots—pausing—
    At her low Gate—
    Unmoved—an Emperor be kneeling
    Upon her Mat—

    I’ve known her—from an ample nation—
    Choose One—
    Then—close the Valves of her attention—
    Like Stone—

    She contrasts her feminine endings on the odd-numbered lines in the last two stanzas with the masculine endings in the even-numbered lines. Ever a rebel, in her own practice, she breaks the very patterns she creates. She starts with an iambic pentameter line, and that’s it—she will have no more of that. What her feminine rhymes create in stanza two is an unsettling quality. And the exactitude of tone, and tightening of the meter in the third stanza is truly remarkable. She gets additional effects from capitalization, metrical variance, pauses, exact and approximate rhymes, and impeccable diction. I am sure that part of the greatness of her art comes from the depths of her feeling.

    Reply
  7. Rebekah Hoeft

    Oh dear. -droid just only brings one thing to mind. My apologies to George Lucas. And Jared Carter–I’m certain this is not what you had in mind.

    In Which the Droids Say Enough Is Enough

    So far away and once upon
    a time there were
    Four Droids. With varied brains and brawn
    the foe deter.

    The Empire, vile, oft crippled by
    brave, valiant crews;
    Their vict’ries claimed with robots sly
    whose charms amuse.

    ‘Twas thought the Jedis would outlast
    the Empire’s sins,
    But Dark Side’s end will come at last:
    Droid Dream Team wins.

    Reply
    • Satyananda Sarangi

      Dear Rebekah ma’am,

      I loved these lines. I remember that very beautiful pantoum ‘ Michigan Dune’ by you. Looking forward to reading more from you. 🙂

      Regards

      Reply

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