7:33 a.m. — Atlanta
Hello all.Yes, it is a form: the Idyll. Rare, nowadays, but I say let’s invent a contemporary idyll poem. The idyllic form has something for everyone. I promise. For those who hear quatrains and rhyme and say “Yippee!” and hear metre and say “Whoo hoo!” the idyll is for you. For those who prefer free verse, thank you all the same, there is something for you. And for those who feel a little out of sorts and don’t want to write about nature [which they are pretty sure this deals with] there is something for you.
Etymology: 17c: from Latin idyllium, from Greek eidyllion, diminutive of eidos an image, or little picture.
Definition of idyllic poetry:
Poetry that either depicts a peaceful, idealized country scene, or a poem telling a story about heroes from a time past [see above, those who don't want to write about nature].
Idyll: refers to short poems of a pastoral, or rural, character in which something of the element of landscape is depicted or suggested… brief poems on simple subjects in which the description of natural objects is introduced, scenes from everyday life, with a rural edge. The contemporary might focus on a garden.
Eclogue: considered a form of idyllic poetry, a short pastoral poem, usually in dialogue, on the subject of rural life and the society of shepherds [something we can probably leave out or modernise]. Where the strictly idyllic is concerned, the poem can focus on simple things, but the eclogue takes the idyllic a step further when it uses the rural to depict a life free of the complexity and corruption of a more urban life.
Note that nowhere does the definition state the structure we should endeavour to employ. The idyllic is more a question of focus and mood than anything structural.
Synonyms for idyll: charming, picturesque, idealized, pastoral, peaceful, rustic, delightful, happy, heavenly, innocent, picturesque, unspoiled.
Sorry for the long set-up, but for this form you need to know what it’s about, to know how to write it. The first thing to do is to list all the things you consider idyllic for you — and now we are talking contemporary, so that the synonyms above might take you to a different place than past poets. My list takes me to the shore, by an ocean, sandy beach, shells, no people, tranquil, climbable rocks, tide pools, hills in the background…I might simply describe it and set a serene mood, or I might use it as metaphor.
Next, choose what you want to do. Do you wish to describe your idyllic spot? Do so. Do you wish to set your idyllic spot up as a contrast to the problems of towns and cities? Do so. Do you wish to make a statement about idyllic spots in general? Do so. Do you want to write about a hero from the far past, or not so far past, portraying the hero as an idyll, of sorts [idol, ideal -- same root, all three words]? Do so.
Now, choose a form: sonnet, quatrains, free verse, dialogue… something else.
Waiting for an Answer Winslow Homer
If you wish to read an idyllic, or pastoral, poem, Christopher Marlowe has a dandy: “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love“. If you enjoy reading the shepherd’s attempt at seduction, scroll further down the page to read “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” by Sir Walter Raleigh. Robert Frost, a little more contemporary, wrote several pastoral poems, portraying the countryside as a better place to be than the city, even with the occasional human caused problem. Check “Birches“. For an intriguing dialogue that has pastoral elements as a positive thing, read Housman’s “Is My Team Ploughing?”
There is no wrong. Unless I say [and even then!], the form and content choice is always yours. Write the poem that wants to be written. That is far more important than writing to the prompt. Think of prompts as tinder looking for a spark.
I shall see you Thursday for the first official announcements; Friday, for the roundup; and, next Tuesday, for a prompt to do with place.
I am curious to see people’s idyllic spots and how they approach them. Happy writing.