by David Watt

I recently came across the following “square poem” attributed to Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carrol). Please note that each of the six lines may be read horizontally, or vertically from top to bottom.

 

I often wondered when I cursed,
Often feared where I would be—
Wondered where she’d yield her love,
When I yield, so will she.
I would her will be pitied!
Cursed be love! She pitied me …

 

Out of curiosity, and the desire to tackle an unusual form, I wrote the following square poem:

 

Squarely Behind Me

I saw no need to stay,
Saw nothing good may follow on;
No good could find me there—
Need may find a better way.
To follow me, better lay behind!
Stay on there, way behind me!

 

In case you still don’t get it, see this visual guide. The lines work how they normally do, left to right, top to bottom, but are also mimicked vertically, such that the first line is recreated from the first word of each line, the second line is recreated from the second word of each line, and so on:

 

I saw no need to stay,
SAW nothing good may follow on;
NO good could find me there—
NEED may find a better way.
TO follow me, better lay behind!
STAY on there, way behind me!

 

In a similar vein to Amy Foreman’s “Poetry Puzzle” of March 2018, fellow contributors are invited to post their own “square poems” in the comments section below. There is no set requirement for the line length and number of lines.


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28 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    Here’s my off-the-cuff attempt to rise to the challenge, an odd-numbered square of sevens:

    Take my love, my life, and take
    My heart and all that’s in me.
    Love and hold it as your own;
    My all! It begs you, own me!
    Life that’s as you will; heart-set,
    And in your own heart, love me.
    Take me! Own me! Set me free!

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Hello James. For an off-the-cuff attempt, your poem is very good. Also, the greater square number increases the level of difficulty.

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        David,

        I appreciated your reference to Amy’s A-Z challenge last year. There were a host of submissions added that I hadn’t seen, including some from the past few weeks! A gift that keeps on giving! Also, one of Amy’s comments includes her attempt at what I now know to be a “Square Poem.” I’m not sure she even knew what it was at the time. Thanks for the challenge.

  2. Nancy Weber

    I often worry when I verse–
    Often fear my words won’t rhyme,
    Worry meter will be worse.
    When to hear? Midnight–late! “Dear mate, averse to reciting one more time?”
    “I won’t be averse to delighting your ears and mine.”
    Verse, I’m writing, mere verse; sweet liar, he avers a mid-May Valentine….

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Thanks Nancy,

      You have highlighted the perennial concern of all formal poets: consistent rhyme and meter.

      Reply
  3. Angelic

    Daydreaming of days in the day
    Of the days, I dream of
    Days I daydream of the day
    In the day I daydream of
    The day, I daydream of days
    Day is the day I daydream

    Reply
  4. David Watt

    Thanks James,

    Amy’s highly successful A-Z challenge has generated much interest, and continues to do so. You’re right in pointing out Amy’s poem, which is quite close to being in the form of a “Square Poem”.

    Reply
  5. Mark Stone

    Here are two poems.

    No collusion, no obstruction.
    Collusion, frame-up, basis unproven.
    No basis for charges.
    Obstruction, unproven charges, vindication.

    No justice, no peace.
    Justice denied, consensus impossible.
    No consensus, swelling anger.
    Peace impossible, anger explodes.

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Hahaha, thank you, Mr. Stone, I enjoyed the first square poem! Very timely.

      Reply
      • Mark Stone

        Evan, You’re welcome. And, just to be clear, the two poems are not intended to be connected. The first is about President Trump and the second relates to perceived injustices in our criminal justice system in general.

  6. Avery Miller

    Dolls have eyes like daughters.
    Have eyes like daughters they.
    Eyes like daughters they pass;
    Like daughters they pass away.
    Daughters, they pass away, alas!

    Reply
  7. James A. Tweedie

    Nice mathematical solution, Avery. No doubt Dodgson would be pleased!

    Reply
  8. Amy Foreman

    What fun, David! And you are right, James, that I wrote a “sorta” square poem in the comments section of the ABC poetry puzzle a year ago! Now I know what it’s called.

    Here is this morning’s attempt–making all the lines rhyme leaves the last line with ALL rhymes, but it’s kind of fun that way:

    Shakespeare (Gets Burned) In Love

    I have fought both long and hard.
    Have a look; my hands stay scarred–
    Fought. Look, dear one: Hold! En Garde!
    Both my one-time loves now barred.
    Long hands hold love’s pain-ful shard,
    And stay on, now full though charred:
    Hard-scarred guard, barred shard, charred Bard.

    Reply
  9. James A. Tweedie

    rofl “Both my one-time loves now barred” I’ll be chewing on that line (with a smile) for a long time!
    Bravo, Amy!

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Haha, . . . Thanks, James! Well, far be it from me to speculate on the Bard’s love-life, but if there WERE more than one, then this line has them both covered. 🙂

      Reply
  10. David Watt

    Amy, what an amusing, and creative look at the bard’s long-lost loves!
    You have also come up with a novel variation on the ‘square poem.’ Well done!

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      Thanks, David. So glad to know what this sort of poem is called!

      Reply
  11. Ronald C. Goldblatt

    ATTENTION ADDICTION May Be What’s Wrong?
    Addiction itself can kill your song
    May you always feel you belong
    Be as gentle as King Kong
    What’s the answer, bang-a-gong
    Wrong as old people wearing a thong!

    Reply
  12. Dylan R. T. Gibbons

    I Heard the Bells Ring Merrily

    I heard the bells ring merrily,
    Heard their lofty cry from above:
    The lofty song from metal flower
    Bells cry from restless steeple nests.
    Ring from metal steeple of gold
    Merrily above flower nests’ gold blessing.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Nicely done Dylan! You’re square poem definitely has a ring to it.

      Reply
  13. Martin Rizley

    Where night withdraws, bright light there shines!
    Night flees where day floods over men,
    Withdraws where dawn fills in dark mines;
    Bright day fills up midnight’s dim den!
    Light floods in midnight’s pen, streams then
    There over dark dim streams. The day
    Shines! Mens, mines, den then day display!

    Reply
    • David Watt

      Top work Martin! The first line has a Shakespearean ring to it, and sets up the remaining lines beautifully.

      Reply
  14. R Linelle G

    In The Light

    Enjoy the sun shine utterly, while you can,
    The next light calls for the delayed return.
    Sun light calls to the sound with brilliance,
    Shine calls to mind bright rays coming forth.
    Utterly, for the bright glow, may they observe,
    While the sound rays, may you stay heard.
    You delayed with coming, they stay without limits.
    Can return brilliance forth, observe heard limits warmth.

    Reply
  15. Ojo Emmanuel Olumide

    Surround yourself with good eggs
    Yourself, myself let’s make a pair
    With all our sync as one
    Good, dusted, never to be rusted
    Eggs may break, but that’s friendship.

    Eggs signify trust

    Reply
  16. Ojo Emmanuel Olumide

    Surround yourself with good eggs
    Yourself, myself let’s make a pair
    With all our heart sync as one
    Good, dusted, never to be rusted
    Eggs may break, but that’s friendship

    Eggs signify trust

    Reply

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