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This week I’d like to introduce Susan Judd and an amazing article on a form I never knew until I read on her blog. I know you will enjoy. Welcome Sue!

Hello fellow poets, Sue Judd here in my first stint at manning the bar…I’m honoured to have been asked to host this evening’s Form for All. I consider myself adaptable, and equal to most challenges that come my way, but we shall see how I fare during the course of this evening…

Tonight I’m going to be talking about the Englyn, a form of poetry that I was introduced to by fellow poet Sally J Blackmore in one of her Summer Poetry workshops this year. It is an interesting form, and one that I was initially drawn to because of it’s brevity (I have been known to write the odd Haiku). I always find it interesting coming across new forms, and having a go at writing to expand my horizons. Sometimes, once is enough to see whether a particular form feels possible or not. Some just go on the ‘tried, but not for me’ pile…..but it’s always worth making that journey, it can be very surprising.

Celtic Knot – courtesy of istock.com

So, without further ado, onto the Englyn (plural Englynion). This is an ancient form of Celtic poetry, and one that was particularly used by the Welsh.  It seems that from around the 14th century, Welsh poets had 24 strict bardic metres available in their toolbox, amongst which were included the various forms of Englynion. In the course of finding out more about this poetry form, it became apparent to me that one of the difficulties the English have with this form is the fact that English and Welsh have different ‘sound patterns’, the Welsh having a ‘sing song’, melodic quality to it.  A Welsh Englyn translated into English will lose much of its eloquence and beauty. That said, some modern poets have been successful in adapting the traditional forms.

Traditionally the Englyn was used to praise or mock someone well-known. Because of their brevity, they can distil ideas or emotion in a concise verse.

There are eight different forms of Englyn, varying in the number of lines and/or syllables, but I shall restrict descriptions in this overview to the three most commonly found, and provide links to further information for the other 5 forms.

Englyn milwr

This is the soldier’s Englyn, which consists of three seven syllable lines, all of which rhyme.

_ _ _ _ _ _a
_ _ _ _ _ _a
_ _ _ _ _ _a

An example in Welsh can be found here http://www.benybont.co.uk/triolet/englyn.htm

An example of the way multiple stanzas using this form is used:


Englyn penfyr (short-ended Englyn)

Also comprising three lines, but the first line is ten syllables, followed by two of seven syllables each. The last word in the first line must have more than one syllable, and it links to the first word in the second line, using rhyme, or alliteration or assonance.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _a
a _ _ _ _ _ b
_ _ _ _ _ _ b

Englyn unodl union (straight one-rhymed Englyn)

This Englyn has four lines, and one main rhyme. The syllable count is 10, 6, 7, 7 and the rhyme first occurs in the 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th syllable of the first line (although this seems to vary depending on source you are checking, some say 6th or 7th only) and is repeated in the final syllable of the remaining lines. The second rhyme appears at the end of line one and repeats in the first half of line 2.

_ _ _ _ _ a _ _ _ b         a in the 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th syllable is the main rhyme
_ _b _ _ a                    b  repeats in the first half of this line
_ _ _ _ _ _a
_ _ _ _ _ _a

An example in Welsh here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Englyn#Englyn_unodl_union
English example by Bob Newman: http://www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/englyn.htm

And one from our Summer poetry group, with a bit of humour –

She holidayed in Cancun – flash trollop!
Met a wealthy tycoon
Danced and drank beneath the moon
Flew back to Luton 4th June
© Sandra Curtin 2012

The other 5 Englyn forms are:

Englyn unodl crwca
Englyn cyrch
Englyn proest dalgron
Englyn lledbroest
Englyn proest gadwynog

Details of these can be found at the following links

Other Englyn forms
The novelist Robertson Davies had his own ideas about writing Englyn, and wrote an example, The Old Journalist, which can be seen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Englyn#Other_forms

Having gone into the different forms of Englyn, I think it is important to point out that Welsh poetry has rules of rhyme and use of consonants, designed to embellish the natural rhythm of the Welsh language  – known as Cynghannedd. Therefore, although Englyn are very short poems, they can, using Cynghannedd in their construction, be very complex. There are three basic types of Cynghanedd, two with rhyme and consonantal correspondance, and one with rhyme only. The simplest  (rhyme only) is the Cynghanedd Lusg with internal rhyme within the line. Each line contains two emphasised words, one of which must be the last word of the line. there are also rules around syllables, which I am not going into here! There is an excellent overview by Katherine Bryant in Gwenllian’s Poetry Primer which will save me going into all the complex detail!

However, it is important to note that Cynghanedd relates to the style of vowel formations and consonant use within the Welsh language, which are less common in English. As a result, it is extremely difficult to implement it in English language poems!  Therefore, I wouldn’t expect you to attempt use of Cynghanedd in your Englyn unless you feel super-confident/masochistic…

I’m looking forward to seeing how you all come up with new, unique, interesting, exciting, poems when you attempt this form for the first time if it is unfamiliar to you..

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Englyn
Gwenllian’s Poetry Primer: http://home.comcast.net/~bryant.katherine/part2.html#englyn
The Poet’s Garret: http://www.thepoetsgarret.com/celtic2.html#eng1