I was recently reminded I’m getting old,
a greying guest of nature, mother and wife.
In an attempt to solve the riddle of my soul,
I gnaw and chew life out of life.
Stiff fingers falter, they fumble,
writing is a spidery scrawl on a page;
as I peck at the keyboard, words tumble,
I wrestle with them before they’re erased.
Every poem’s a prayer to memories,
each story I write is a magic spell,
and novels knot friends and family
in the fabric of fiction I know so well.
Kim M. Russell, 11th April 2017
On Day 11 of The Poetry School’s NaPoWriMo prompts, it’s Old English Day. I’ve linked my poem to Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Tuesday Platform.
Old English or Anglo-Saxon verse is fascinating and powerful. To write in a typical Anglo-Saxon way, you need:
- lines with 4 stresses (though it doesn’t matter how many feet, i.e. your line can be as short as ‘Hold. Stay! Hold, hold!’ or as long as you want providing it only has 4 stresses)
- an optional central caesuraor pause between stress 2 and 3
- alliteration of 3 of the 4 stress words (this doesn’t have to be on the first syllable if the stress is on a later syllable, e.g. although would alliterate on ‘th’).
It’s all very flexible though. If you want to alliterate 2 of the words, or all 4, or you want to skip your caesura, that’s absolutely fine.
To make it easier, they have provided as an example a few lines from Simon Armitage’s translation of ‘Gawain’ (which is actually a Middle English revival of the alliterative style). The stresses are indicated in bold:
as he heaped his hair to the crown of his head,
the nape of his neck now naked and ready.
Gawain grips the axe and heaves it heavenwards,