Friday, October 27, 2023

Poetry Friday: Let's play with Bouts-Rimés

Quotes fill the walls
at Planet Word,
Washington, DC 
(highly recommended) 

This month's challenge is another game, or as Mary Lee puts it, "a word puzzle."  Bouts-Rimés is an old game, played by poets since the early 17th century.  The name means "rhymed ends" and the game is played by giving a poet a list of rhymed end words, and challenging her to write a poem to fit.  Supposedly, the harder the end words, the better the game.  We weren't too cruel to ourselves, but the list did have a few doozies: 

A: profuse/abtruse/chartreuse/truce

B: incline/shine/resign/supine

C: various/gregarious/hilarious/precarious

D: ceasefire/quagmire/higher/dryer

E: transform/barnstorm/uniform/conform

F: humility/futility/nobility, tranquility

G: perturb/superb/reverb, disturb

We also decided to use these rhymes in any form of a sonnet. I always have to look up the variations, so here they are: 


Shakespearean: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG



And of course, we should try to work in our theme for the year of transformation (conversion, alteration, metamorphosis, mutation, growth, evolution, revision, modulation, change) 

Whew.  Enough with the rules...on to the game! What would you do with these words and that theme and these rhyme patterns?  I chose to pick an A word, ask a question with it, and use the "other" sonnet form to think out my answer. 

My solution is below:

Change (no, you change)

What is the nature of our truce?
Is our pause deadly quiet or sharply profuse?
If we decide to lie, hand in hand, supine,
unspeaking, could we still re-sign
with anxious fingers passionately gregarious
the terms to end this battle; quit this precarious
stumbling over words, un-mine this quagmire
and declare, with silent volumes, a ceasefire?
Or must we open with a hail of words, barnstorm
mutual defenses, stun by direct apology, and with uniform
speed, sheath every confession with disarming humility,
and wordily, warily, negotiate renewed tranquility? 
Either—but choose, no truce lasts undisturbed,
Speak then the piercing language of love, superb.

                                                        ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My poetry sisters' solutions to this poetry puzzle can be found here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Carol Labuzzetta at The Apples in my Orchard


  1. Were you a lawyer in another life? Because this argument. Wow. It is the daily turmoil in my heart and brain -- is it better to speak out about the world's atrocities, adding to the noise, or stay quiet on the sidelines processing everything and looking for valid ways out? Your last line, though. "...the piercing language of love..." -- that's what we need most of all.

    1. My mom always thought I'd be a lawyer. I prefer arguing in poetry rather than in a courtroom.

  2. I appreciate the questions here and love the way they move the poem along. I especially appreciate the alliteration and rhythm of "wordily, warily, negotiate renewed tranquility." It's a mouthful, but fun to read. And the title? Perfect.

  3. There is a lot packed into this poem. You captured the turmoil of dispute and brought it into a personal relationship – while following the prescribed set of rules. Impressive!

  4. I always regret a little that we have to confine our poetry to the vagaries of blogging sites. I want to see this laid out with various sizes of type and fonts. The vocabulary is intense and multisyllabic and that gives it the crunchy texture of dispute - pulling our mouths one way and another to masticate the meaning. You made our world list dance to your own drum. Superbly done.

  5. Wow. I wish I had read this poem last night before sharing dinner with a very stubborn friend!

  6. Holy moly. This feels like a dance: "could we still re-sign
    with anxious fingers passionately gregarious" There is so much packed into this short text. Astonishing, Sara.And in a world-wide view, I feel the melancholy of "no truce lasts undisturbed."

  7. Wow - that's all I can say! Congrats on a job well done! I'll be saving your post for self-instruction as well as inspiration, Sara! Thank you!

  8. Thank you Sara. What an amazing poem for our time

  9. Another big wow from me! I keep reading this over and over, loving all the "crunchy texture" of it (stealing from Tanita's spot-on comment!). And oh for the "piercing language of love!" So well done!!!

  10. Would we, could we change? It feels like you've written the dramatic choices of our world, Sara, poetically, adamantly - "stumbling over words" but ending with the only answer. It's beautifully presented, wishing all the leaders could read this.

  11. This absolutely should be performed out loud, Sara. I love this, and that last line made me think of this hip-hip/improv show in NY called Freestyle Love Supreme. This would fit there. It is, indeed, divine. And superb.

  12. Sara, your have a superpower for choosing words that bring life to thoughts in a fluid way. The following is not only an example but a call to action.
    quit this precarious
    stumbling over words, un-mine this quagmire
    and declare, with silent volumes, a ceasefire?
    Thank you for sharing the Planet Word Museum. It is intriguing and I would love to visit because Words Matter!

  13. Amazing! I had not seen the Other form... a good one to choose! Thanks.


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