Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Double Dactyl

I was going through an old poetry notebook last week and found some notes on double dactyls, along with attempts at the form. I've come across a few words lately that sound like they belong in a double dactyl, so this seems like a good time to have another go at this one.

What is a dactyl you ask? A dactyl is a foot in a line of poetry that contains three syllables, one stressed followed by two unstressed (/ _ _ ).

double dactyl poem consists of two quatrains that follow these guidelines:
1 - double dactyl nonsense phrase (like Higgeldy Piggeldy)
2 - double dactyl of a person's name
3 - double dactyl
4 - one dactyl plus a stressed syllable (/ _ _ / )

5 - double dactyl
6 - double dactyl
7 - double dactyl
8 - one dactyl plus a stressed syllable (/ _ _ / )
Here are some other helpful notes.
  • Somewhere in the second stanza is a double dactyl formed by a single word (usually).
  • The last lines of the quatrains (4 and 8) must rhyme.
  • Like the clerihew, these are generally written about famous people and are meant to be humorous.
Phew! I hope this makes sense to you. Writing it in this way helps me to see what the poem should sound like. Here is an example.
Hans Christian Andersen
Wrote of a mermaid who
Swam up on shore.

There she became somewhat
Less than amphibious;
Drowned in the sea-foam 'mid
Morals galore.
If my notes aren't helpful, you can find a description of double dactyls at Poetry Base and

I hope you'll join me this week in writing a double dactyl (or two) . Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Lady G

    Here again, there again,
    combing her hair again,
    Lady Godiva went
    riding through town.

    Leofric’s taxes were
    levied most maximus
    till his wife’s nakedness
    brought them back down.

    —Kate Coombs, 2015

  2. LOL to both of yours. I wrote this a while ago:

    Emily Dickinson: A Double Dactyl

    Emily Dickinson
    Dressed all in white while she
    Eschewed all prose.

    Scribbling poems that
    Nobody would publish
    That all could be sung to
    The tune “Yellow Rose.”

    ©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

  3. Higgledy-Piggledy
    Abraham Lincoln, he
    Kept us a nation
    But gave up his life,

    Taking a box
    in a theater and thinking
    Twas the best could do for
    His so crazy wife.

    ©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

  4. Honkedy-Gronkedy,
    Mother Goose riding
    Upon a good rhyme
    with political ease.

    Giving us children
    Our first look at poetry,
    steering that goose
    with a squeeze of her knees.

    ©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    They are compelling. Like potato chips.

    1. Oh, "Honkedy-Gronkedy"--so goose-ish!

    Hoboken, Hoboken
    Francis Sinatra
    Thin as a beanstalk,
    Strong as a tank,
    Melodious vocals
    Had Bobby-soxers screaming
    His nickname, “Frank!”

    (c) Charles Waters 2015 all rights reserved.

    Humina Humina
    Lady of Gaga
    Freakishly dressed up
    No matter what day
    Like fellow monsters
    A chameleon of style
    She was born that way.

    (c) Charles Waters 2015 all rights reserved.