The Poetry Princess Project — September 2016

I think we all shared mixed feelings over this month’s form. The clogyrnach (say that 5 times fast!) ended up seeming kind of limericky to us. It’s a Welsh form that requires a certain number of lines (either 5 or 6), a certain number of syllables (32) and a very clear-and-simple aa,bb-type rhyme scheme. But something about the prescriptive nature of this form as opposed to the prescriptive nature of other forms felt a tad too, well, sing-songy and prescriptive to us.

Still, we did as we were told and wrote the darn things. Well, ok, I didn’t follow the end-line requirements to the letter of the law. In fact I pretty much broke the rule that there should be a b rhyme in the middle of the last line as well as an a rhyme at the end. I kind of did that once. So. Let’s call mine Variations on Clogyrnachs.

According to our researchy sister Sara Lewis Holmes, this form was traditionally trotted out for weddings and funerals. She did a string with a wedding theme so I decided to tackle the other end of the spectrum — the funerals. Here goes….


Variations on Clogyrnachs for a Funeral
Liz Garton Scanlon

Who lies under suburban lawns?
A grumpy dog, all bark and brawn,
guinea pigs, two birds,
a frog. Whispered words:
good-bye, good boy, go on.

Who rests in peace in such a place?
It’s noisy, smoggy, there’s no space!
But wait, a headstone
so overgrown.
This smooth green breath like grace.

Who’s in the hearse that’s driving by,
that oh-so-silent long black sigh –
Someone’s first-born son?
Someone’s precious one?
Someone who hears us cry?

Who’s in the wardrobe down the hall?
Who wears a ghoulish grin, a shawl?
Are you ghost or dream?
Are you what you seem?
Memory tricks us all.

If you’d like to read more of this quirky form, visit my pals!

Sara Lewis Holmes
Laura Purdie Salas
Tanita Davis
Andi Jazmon
Tricia Stohr-Hunt
Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

And for more poetry in general, check out Poetry Friday this week at my pal Penny’s blog A Penny and Her Jots!! Enjoy, all!

Posted on 09/02/2016 04:30 am


  1. My heart is just still tender from that first stanza – and I don’t think I ever recover the whole way through. You’ve written so beautifully of your dogs I honestly am considering having one, isn’t that funny? And yet: knowing that the lawn awaits – I’m already heartbroken.

    This is why I have snakes.


  2. Ok, composed myself. I love how you’ve taken the “other end” as you say and done so many variations of it. They are all lovely, but “good-bye, good boy, go on” is just the most heart-BREAKING line. Gah. Well-done, you.


  3. You Poetry Sisters are a talented group! Loving these Clogyrnachs. And your Variations on Clogyrnachs…wonderful.
    Hope all is well with you 🙂


    • Oh, thanks, Penny. We have fun with our challenges, that’s for sure. Thanks for hosting today!


  4. Kelly Ramsdell Fineman

    This is SO heartstopping. And heartstoppingly beautiful. The last line of the first stanza absolutely slays me, in part because it calls to mind another poem that killed me once, and left me a hollowed-out shell. It’s Dog’s Death by John Updike. Probably there should be a pet-related trigger warning posted with it.


    • Oh MY. I didn’t know that poem. “her heart was learning to lie down forever”!!!!!!
      and that image at the end.
      Oh wow. Wow….


  5. That first stanza grabs me too – I am about to bring home my very first dog, and not at all sure I am ready. I’ve always been a cat person, and then completely fell for this foster dog. Don’t tell me about goodbye!

    But your poem moves from intense, to lighthearted, to chilling in just the right way. You’ve used this simple, clacky form to go deep, and I am so impressed with your skill!


  6. Oh, my. The dog stanza and the hearse stanza are heart-breaking. I was in a cemetery this morning (following three sandhill cranes) and have been thinking of death lots lately. Those two stanzas especially are ones I want to sit with for a while. Wonderful, Liz.


  7. Wow, impressive how many stanzas, each with its own theme and rhyme scheme. Not limericky at all. Once you introduce the unseen, the sing-song fades away.


  8. Oh, those whispered words got me, as did the John Updike poem. Thank you for introducing me to the form and for sharing your lovely variations!


  9. A difficult subject combined with a tricky form, and you nailed it. Such a lovely poem, Liz.


  10. THAT was amazing. It’s almost Walter de la Mare-ish, gently creepy and sad.


  11. Lovely–especially the first stanza which brought me back to burying our old beagle in the backyard.


  12. Irene Latham

    Oh the death of our beloved pets and that long silent sigh… lovely and sad and perfect fodder for poetry. Thank you for sharing.


  13. Also buried in the back yard — one classroom goldfish.

    Each of your stanzas could stand alone, but they make for an interesting meditation on death. (Now off to read the wedding-themed version.)


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