#TheWombwellRainbow #Poeticformschallenge last week was a #Quatern. Enjoy examples by Tim Fellows, Yvonne Marjot, Jenny Brav, Robert Frede Kenter, Jane Dougherty and Ian Richardson read how they felt when writing one.

Lost stars

The spirits of deep sea creatures
weep in jars of embalming juice.
Wave-roar of long-dead ocean tides
vibrating in pale fleshed corpses.

The bright lights of museums hide
the spirits of deep sea creatures
whose lives were blind to sun and moon
laced in dark of endless fathoms,

seas despoiled by heat and acid.
Only silence now embraces
the spirits of deep sea creatures
curled in bellies of shining glass.

Look at their soft off-white remains,
the alien shape of stark limbs.
Imagine the salted grace of
the spirits of deep sea creatures.

How Did It Go?

I found it a challenging form, constructing verses around a single line in
a changing position. I almost felt it needed rhyme as well, but that would have made it even harder!
Happily, every new form is exercising the poetic muscles.

Lesley Curwen

Taffeta Veil

We celebrate the body, the
Slate grey sky is over our heads.
Kinetic dance in a white field.
Fingers, the night, sand in our hands.

The leap of touch, we celebrate.
We celebrate the body, the
Flowers, the dance gravitas.
Of reach, reasonably unhinged.

The buckle of the sky, aching.
The hinge of the archway — to bliss.
We celebrate the body, the
Sunlight over slate black stages.

The hidden lips of the sun rise.
Breath in the arc of a half moon.
In front of us, fingers, night wheel.
We celebrate the body, the.

How Did It Go?

A friend of mine sent me a great video of edgy dancers; I started to write a kind of incantatory improvisational piece. When I started working on the Quatern form – 16 lines, 8 syllables per line, first line repeating refrain (as you shall notice) I realized it was a great structure for what I was writing, r.e. the dance poem. I enjoy the push pull of exhalation, exclamation breath and repetition flow, this form lends to. Like to experiment with it more.

Robert Frede Kenter

Dawn Song
A quatern

The light, the light is coming back,
shaking the sky awake again.
Slowly the world is born from black;
the wind begins its dark refrain.

While tired eyes wake slow from sleep,
the light, the light is coming back.
Morning has promises to keep;
the birds are nature’s almanac.

First light glimmers along the track.
I set my feet to chase the dawn.
The light, the light is coming back:
blackbirds call in the new-made morn.

The mountains rise beneath my heels.
The will to walk is all I lack.
Cold on my face, the wild wind heals;
the light, the light is coming back.

Isle of Mull, 19 February 2023

How Did It Go?

I hadn’t tried quatern before, and it was a challenge, especially sticking to the 8-syllable line count (I tend to vary line lengths, and I have a preference for odd syllable counts). The key was in deciding on the repeated line, which set the tone for the whole poem. Then I dug myself into a corner, because I’d started with rhymes and I didn’t want to give that up. It was a struggle to find enough fresh-feeling end-rhymes. But I was pleased with it in the end. I might even use the form again.

Yvonne Marjot


If I died unexpectedly
a heart attack perhaps, or stroke;
some medical emergency
swallowing food that made me choke

would anybody make a fuss?
If I died unexpectedly
I’m fit enough but I could be
hit by a car, a train, or bus.

Where would all my money be?
all passwords hide inside my head.
If I died unexpectedly
those bank accounts might too be dead.

Your life is in the cloud, you say;
a facebook page just history.
My digital life wiped away
if I died unexpectedly

How Did It Go?

Give me a format with 8 syllables and 4 line stanzas and I’m going to be obliged to make it rhyme and have cadence. I can’t help it. I didn’t use the lines “in some way I did not foresee” and “please wipe my browser history”, but I’ve reserved them as I might work on thai a little bit more. I’ve also started another one with the refrain “the cold came back again this year” which is not rhyming but also not finished. If I finish it I’ll send it in.

Tim Fellows

Awakening unto Myself

On the brink of awakening,
suspended in liminal space,
I cling to my dream’s residue,
want to sleep a little longer.

I emerge from meditation
on the brink of awakening.
Mind silent, my heart opening,
I’m connected to all beings.

I let myself fall, hard, quickly
breath shaking, my pulse quickening,
on the brink of awakening
into this impossible love.

I come back to myself slowly
my soul broken open in love
suspended between states of me
on the brink of awakening.

How Did It Go?

While the refrain came to me right away (inspired by the #vss365 daily prompt of “brink”, I found sticking to the 8 syllable count per line tricky, and couldn’t really find a good flow between the different stanzas. They end up being vignettes, except for the last two which follow each other. The title is really what I would add to the last line if I could.

Jenny Brav


Anybody can write quaterns,
Somebody told us way back when.
Nobody really disagreed,
Everybody picked up a pen.

Everybody was so sure that
Anybody can write quaterns
Somebody would surely show us
Nobody said we could all learn.

Nobody couldn’t get started
Everybody seemed to misfire
Anybody can write quaterns
Somebody said, full of satire.

Somebody wanted to give up
Everybody kept pushing pen
Nobody no longer argues
Anybody can write quaterns.


How Did It Go?

When I saw the brief for a Quatern with its repeating lines in #poeticformschallenge I was reminded of the weaver Pantoum’s I had written several years ago for both the Eildon Tree and Paisley Arts. At that time I’d found that the repeated lines suited a narrative approach as they created different meanings with each repeat.
The four lines in four verses structure made me consider writing about four different things that developed with each verse. I was going to name them One, Two, Three Four, then I changed that to Once, Twice, Thrice, Fourth.
For various reasons, that will become obvious, I changed them again to Anybody, Everybody, Nobody, Somebody. I felt that I should develop these characters in my narrative from line one – Inciting Incident, to line sixteen, – Final Climax, both of which had to be the same in a Quatern.

Difficulties faced

I wanted to use all four names in each verse and, as Quaterns have eight syllable lines, and the names now had three of four syllables, that meant that nearly half the line was taken up by the names. Because I’d decided on a narrative poem I wanted each verse to be a complete scene with a positive or negative climax.
Eventually the main value that turned these four scenes became Enthusiasm / Disillusionment which are parts of the humorous but rather cynical ‘Six phases of a project’
At that point I gave up on the optional rhyming scheme although some of it remains in the final version, I feel now that I should have spent more time on literary devices to make it a better poem.


While discussing this challenge with friends (you know who you are) it was dissed as ‘Anybody Can Write Quaterns’ – Pantoums and Villanelles are a real challenge. So the first part of that sentence became the first and last line of a poem that played with grammatical sense and semantic nonsense.
After resting the poem for a day and some editing I decided on the title ‘Quaternonsense’ because we’d also been discussing the film Quantumania which was a coincidence that I couldn’t ignore.
I often think that I write quickly but already the weekly deadline is here and I still want more time to work on this poem.

Ian Richardson


A last rose

This is the dying of the light,
the sluggish slipstream’s muddy blight,
this sliding from the river’s flow,
a fish-mouthed sucking afterglow,

but city sky’s glare-strung, despite
this is the dying of the light,
in ooze that rises frothed with scum,
the boozing, garish, deadbeat drum.

Jerusalem, boots trample on
the faces crying, Babylon!
this is the dying of the light,
beyond lies only endless night.

A rose is dreaming on a stem,
in sun’s last rays a thorny gem,
as petals, crucibled, ignite—
this is the dying of the light.

A last rose

This is the dying of the light,
this sliding from the water’s flow,
slipstream drowning whatever shines,
fish-mouthed, sucking the sun’s goodness.

City sky’s still strung with glare, though
this is the dying of the light,
sinking into yellow-frothed ooze,
the discordant rattle of trams.

They scream, Jerusalem! Their boots
stamp faces crying, Babylon—
this is the dying of the light,
nothing waits for us but the end.

A rose dreams on a thorny stem,
in the sun’s last rays, its petals
cupped, catch the shrinking brilliance.
This is the dying of the light.

How did it go?

The quatern is a French possibly Medieval, form, four quatrains of 8 syllables with the first line acting as refrain, sliding down one line in each stanza. For modern purposes, there is no set rhyme scheme, but most examples seem to use one, and most use iambic tetrameter to give their 8 syllables a rhythm. It seems counter-intuitive to drop rhyme and rhythm, keeping only the number of lines and the number of syllables per line, but I wrote a second version of my original quatern to see how well it worked. Result, my ear tells me that when all the lines are the same syllabic length, not to let the words fit a rhythm sounds like discord in a classical style of music.

Bios and Links

Robert Frede Kenter

is a pushcart nominee, a visual artist, editor and publisher with work in journals, print and on-line, books, exhibitions, theatre and performance, traditional and non-traditional spaces, across time, with an ongoing interest in the potential of hybridity. Website: http://www.icefloepress.net

Jenny Brav

is a writer and holistic healer. Writing has always been her way of processing the world. While her poems are often an intimate expression of her deepest self, her upcoming novel explores themes of individual and collective trauma.

Ian Richardson

has been reading for a long time. Eventually, inevitably he began to write and has had many poems published online and in print.
Some have won prizes.
Ian writes micropoetry, many examples of which can be found on Twitter. @IanRich10562022

Yvonne Marjot

is a lost kiwi living on the Isle of Mull. Poet, author, librarian, escaped botanist and now water treatment operative: her poems are intimate and personal, and often link the natural world with mythological themes.

Her first poetry collection, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, won the Britwriters Prize for Poetry in 2012. She is fascinated by the interface between the human mind and the physical world, and her poems often have a scientific or mythological theme.

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