by James A. Tweedie The form of the “brief” ordinarily consists of a couplet of anapestic tetrameter with the first soft beat of each line clipped off (x / xx / xx / xx /). The anapest, which functions very much like a dactyl, is meant to evoke a sense of the grand and heroic, as in the dactylic Greek verse that constitutes the epics of Homer. The function of a brief is to select a famous person’s name and squeeze a terse, but cogent, description of some aspect of their claim to fame into the couplet. Beyond this, however, the challenge, is two-fold: 1. The person’s name concludes the poem, and, 2. The end of the first line of the couplet must rhyme with it. For example: “A” large Scarlet Letter by Hester was worn. Hypocrisy rules in this book by Hawthorne. Because this poem’s subject is an author, I call it an “author brief.” To further illustrate the idea, I have compiled a series I call “Artist Briefs” : Artist Briefs The rain-dappled window-screen leaves me in awe— The world as if painted by Georges Seurat. His palette subdued, not at all like a gecko, For black, white, and gray, are the shades of El Greco. The painstaking detail—make no mistake— Perfection attained by the brush of van Eyck. Self-portraits galore, and each is, you must grant, A masterpiece painted by—who else?—Rembrandt! A prismatic whimsy in fractured array Of circles and squares is the art of Paul Klee. The air is translucent, the room's clean and clear, As light permeates everything by Vermeer. His work was prolific, a man on a mission, A shade of blue now bears his name, which is “Titian.” His fresco, “Last Supper,” was sketched inch by inch. He Then went on to paint “Mona Lisa”— Da Vinci. Impressed by his Italian Renaissance clientele, The Pope had him repaint the Vatican—Raphael. A Renaissance Mannerist, not-quite-yet Rococo, A sculptor and painter, the great Michelangelo. Note how the couplets on Titian and Da Vinci utilize an extra beat to accommodate the feminine ending of their names (a solution that could also have been applied to the ending in the Hawthorne example) and those on Raphael and Michelangelo have two extra beats simply to fit it all in. Couplets could trim the first soft beat and open with a pure dactyl, as in this poet brief: Ravens and pendulums sway to and fro; Dark, yet inspired, are the writings of Poe. And whatever this is: Wheeling and dealing are where it’s all at; “R S T L N E,” Vanna and Pat. Hopefully, by now, you’ve got the idea. “Science Briefs,” “Political Briefs,” “Explorer Briefs,” they’re all fair game! Now, it’s your turn to give it a try. Post your briefs in the comments section below.