Jubilee Pass, Death Valley 2019
Poems, Songs, Stories, Thoughts

A new poetic form: the Jubilee

People say “necessity is the mother of invention,” but did I need to create a new poetic form?

Maybe.

In any case, I’d like to share with you a form I came up with called the “Jubilee.” For one, I couldn’t find another poetic form that started with J (aside from the jueju, a Chinese form that at least partially relies on tones in the Chinese language, of which I don’t think there’s an acceptable English equivalent). But I also wanted to create a “celebratory” form, since most of my best poems (I think), are dark or deeply sad, or critical, or nostalgic. So, perhaps you could say that was the driving “need” to create this form. I’ve also been experimenting in existing forms a lot, challenging myself to return to the difficulty of creating good (read: technically skillful) rhyming poetry.

Here’s how it works:

  • Every Jubilee must celebrate something
  • Every Jubilee must consists of seven stanzas
    • each stanza must be seven lines
    • each line should contain seven syllables
    • the first foot of each stanza should be a dactyl (but I may flex this rule)
      • you can cheat on the first stanza if your title is a dactyl
    • the last foot of each stanza should be an anapest (may also flex this rule)
  • If the Jubilee rhymes, it must follow this rhyme scheme:
    • ababccc
    • dcdceee
    • fefeggg
    • agagbbb
    • cbcbddd
    • ededfff
    • gfgfaaa
    • bonus points if the entire poem ends with the rhyming word used in the first line

And that’s it! Simple, right? I crack myself up…

Now, here’s my first example:

Jubilee

What I have to celebrate
is both abundance and lack:
fullness of faith in the face
of vague “alternative facts,”
absence of illness and death.
Hope is my dear shibboleth
dearer than all I possess.

Difficult as life may be,
I still cherish every breath,
every opportunity
to give Weak & Weary rest.
If I can, by my one art,
soothe another’s aching heart,
I have made a decent mark.

Poetry, I pray you know,
plays a fundamental part
in fighting that subtle foe:
the ever-encroaching dark.
Even when the joys are few,
words combine to shine anew,
encourage us — tell the truth.

Critical though our earth’s state
is, in these uncertain times,
I’m glad we have made some space
to change our delicate minds
with lines that can take us back
to basics, and help us tap
into peace, and bridge the gap

Widening, although not yet
too wide for us to attack
with compassion in our chests.
Perseverance is the path
that keeps joy evergreen;
even as we’re caused to grieve
things are better than they seem.

Relative to each false start,
triumph is more than sweet —
nothing can tear you apart
once you welcome Jubilee.
Fiercely though the cold winds blow,
there’s no need to worry so,
when you know where you will go.

Fortunate are we who die
blessed by all we didn’t own,
for one glimpse of our blue sky
and a glance at green sea foam
is enough to compensate
for all life’s ills, so let’s take
every chance to celebrate.

Copyright © September 2020, Caitlin M.S. Buxbaum.

You’ll notice I used several slightly imperfect rhymes, but hopefully they are not so disparate as to interrupt the flow of your reading. You may also note that I run a little off theme at times, which I’m still working to revise. This poem took on a bit of a religious tone, which I didn’t really intend, and certainly isn’t necessary to the form, but may have stemmed from the fact that jubilee is actually a biblical term. I’m also open to a different rhyme scheme, so long as it equally employs seven rhymes (notice each of my seven rhymes appears in three stanzas).

Long forms are certainly not my strong suit (if you’ve read my work, you know I tend to write 10-20 lines per poem), and neither is rhyming (historically I’ve written mostly in free verse), but I so love the idea of this form that I am determined to master it. And, perhaps by sharing it with you, new examples will be generated which will inform my development of the Jubilee!

If you’d like to read all the poems I wrote in form last month, please visit bit.ly/8tupelopo (before they are removed October 1). If you write a Jubilee, please feel free to share it with me using the contact form on this site (and let me know if you’d like me to share it with others!) 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s