Saturday, July 8, 2017

Prompt #284 – Rimas Dissolutas

A while ago, my poet friend and colleague Diane Lockward (whom you've met here on the blog) introduced me to a form of poetry called rimas dissolutas. There are great examples of this form and a prompt on pages 234-237 in Diane's book THE CRAFTY POET II: A Portable Workshop.

Rimas dissolutas is a French troubadouric verse that was popular with 12th and 13th century French poets. There are no absolute rules for meter, line length, or syllables. The form’s only strict regulation is that stanzas must contain the same rhyme pattern from line to line in each stanza—each line in each stanza must rhyme with the corresponding line in the next stanza and all stanzas that follow.

If this sounds a little complicated, don’t worry! The form really allows you a lot of freedom. You decide how many stanzas you want, you determine how many lines each stanza will contain (as long as the number is consistent from stanza to stanza—quatrains, tercets, sixains, etc), and line lengths may be the same or varied.

In keeping with old French forms each line may be isosyllabic and contain the same number of syllables, but this is not required.

To sum up the pattern: the first line in the first stanza must rhyme with the first line in all subsequent stanzas.  Line 2 rhymes with the second line in all stanzas. This is true throughout. So, while there’s no end rhyme, there is very consistent rhyme within the stanzas, making the sound value softer and the rhymes subtler in comparison to  typical end rhymes.

For example, if you were to write a three-stanza poem with five lines in each stanza, the following would be your rimas dissolutas rhyme scheme

1-a (rhymes with the first line in the second and third stanzas)
2-b (rhymes with the second line in the second and third stanzas)
3-c (rhymes with the third line in the second and third stanzas)
4-d (rhymes with the fourth line in the second and third stanzas)
5-e (rhymes with the fifth line in the second and third stanzas)




1. After deciding what you’d like to write about, make a list of all the things you want to include.

2. Divide your list into groups of equal length (this will take a little juggling and counting). These groups will become your stanzas. Remember that each stanza must be like every other stanza.

3. If you have five lines in each stanza, you will have five rhyming sounds. Remember that each line in each stanza will end with a word that rhymes with the corresponding line in every other stanza. These may be hard or exact rhymes or off/near rhymes. Some rhymes may even be repeated.

4. Because the form is what I like to think of as structured and unstructured at the same time, experiment with it and see where it takes you. Become your own 21st century troubadour!

1. Choose a subject with which you’re comfortable. You might want to reflect on Sylvia Plath’s and Barbara Crooker's subject matter from nature and think along those lines for your own rimas dissolutas.

2. Although rhyme is important in this form, a good rhymed poem is never rhyme-driven. In other words, the meaning of your poem should never become subordinate to your rhyme scheme. Keep that in mind while writing.

3. Be sure to observe all the usual caveats of good writing especially:

a.     be conscious of creating striking imagery that shows without telling,
b.     include some figures of speech (similes and metaphors),
c.     create a sense of music through alliteration and assonance,
d.     avoid the passive voice (“ing” endings),
e.     be wary of using too many adjectives,
f.      edit out articles and prepositional phrases whenever you can,
g.     decide what details your poem can live without and remove them,
h.     don’t use up all the air in your poem on the last couple of lines,
i.      point toward something broader than the obvious content of the poem.

Of Clocks and Love by Charlotte Mandel

The radio reports conceptions of time—
that two clocks traveling at different speeds
can vary by seconds, minutes and hours.
Physicists surf waves on cosmic oceans.

A poet poor in math, I feel stymied
when scientists operate by creeds
near to religion, aiming telescopic power
to digitize mysteries of creation—

as the universe expands, space/time
swirls in a blender, milky ways bleed
ancient fires, one black hole devours
another. What simple harmonic motion

set off this wild yo-yo we call sublime?
4.3 babies are born every minute. I meet
with joy a great-grandson—and with fears
of drought-shriveled fruits, earthquake implosion.

Still, I cross off calendar days, set a time
the radio sings me awake. Little one, reach
out your arms to those who will adore
the beauty of your body/soul’s creation.
(From The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop, Terrapin Books, Used with the Permission of Charlotte Mandel and Terrapin Books)

Sylvia Plath Reading Her Rimas Dissolutas Poem  "Black Rook in Rainy Weather"

Black Rook in Rainy Weather by Sylvia Plath – Text (note the off and near rhymes)

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To see the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Lean incandescent

Out of kitchen table or chair
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then—
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor,
One might say love. At any rate, I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); skeptical,
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality. With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,
If you care to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.


  1. This is a new form to me, and I really like it! I think that its definition becomes so much clearer when one begins to write one. Thank you for this.

    And ... can't help noting that the Charlotte Mandel rimas dissolutas poem is even better than Sylvia Plath's!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jamie! So glad you like the form. I agree that Charlotte's poem is a perfect example.

  2. This is very interesting and a challenge to which I look forward! Please tell Ms. Mandel that I really like her poem and that it provides an excellent example. I agree with Jamie Morris!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sandy! I'm happy to hear that the challenge appeals to you. I've directed Charlotte Mandel to your comment.

  3. Brilliant! Always good to learn something new. I'm going to order a copy of Crafty Poet.

    1. Thanks for your comment, J. Lewis! I hope you do order a copy of Crafty. There are two volumes available, I and II. Both are excellent sources of information and inspiration. You won't be disappointed.

  4. Amita Jayaraman (Mumbai)July 9, 2017 at 10:00 AM

    Thank you for this wonderful exercise in a form poem -- so much better than sonnets and far easier than sestinas. I started with a two-stanza rimas and am now working on one with five stanzas. A challenge but very enjoyable. Please convey my compliments to Ms. Mandel -- her poem inspired me to try this form.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Amita! I couldn't agree more with your feeling about rimas vs. sestinas, and I'm so glad to hear that you're working on your second rimas. I've mentioned your comment to Ms. Mandel.

  5. I'm saving this one for the students next semester. No doubt, they'll grumble at the idea of a "form" poem, but I have a feeling they'll get into it. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Rich, for your comment! I hope your new batch of students will enjoy this one.

  6. Seasons come and go
    One blends into the other

    prompt: seasons change

    1. So glad you're posting from a previous prompt, Risa! We all enjoy your poems so much, and recalling an earlier prompt is great. I really like the subtlety of this one and the sense of implied color. Thanks for sharing! Keep 'em coming!