• Christine Delea

April 9 Poetry Prompt: Jericho Brown's Duplex Form

As a poet, I am always excited to learn of a new form (these are usually traditional forms from other nations that are being used in the US) for poetry. I enjoy the challenge of trying forms myself and reading translations of the forms and finding new poets and poems.

I am also so impressed when a contemporary poet creates a form, and that is the prompt for today. Jericho Brown has invented a form he has called the Duplex, and he has a wonderful essay, "Invention," about it on the Poetry Foundation website:

Definitely read his essay, even though I am going to summarize this form's rules here. He has 2 examples of the form there (one is below), and he explains how he came up with the new form.

A duplex:

It's a ghazal and a sonnet and a blues poem (his definition). A duplex should be 14 lines, written in couplets, and each line should have 9-11 syllables.

The first line and the last line are the same.

The second line turns the poem in a direction that is surprising, given the first line.

The third line is the second line with a change of some kind.

The fourth line, like the second line, should usurp the reader's expectations.

Repeat, paying particular attention to the weight the penultimate line will carry as it sets up the last line (which is the first line repeated).

Below is a duplex by Jericho Brown called "Duplex." It is from his book, The Tradition.

Duplex by Jericho Brown

A poem is a gesture toward home. It makes dark demands I call my own.              Memory makes demands darker than my own:              My last love drove a burgundy car. My first love drove a burgundy car.  He was fast and awful, tall as my father.              Steadfast and awful, my tall father              Hit hard as a hailstorm.  He’d leave marks. Light rain hits easy but leaves its own mark Like the sound of a mother weeping again.              Like the sound of my mother weeping again,              No sound beating ends where it began. None of the beaten end up how we began. A poem is a gesture toward home.

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