Hooray!  A new form!  A QUATERN has sixteen lines, divided into four quatrains.  Each line has eight syllables; there are no rhyme or iambic requirements.  The poem’s first line is a refrain.  In the second stanza, the refrain drops down to the second line.  In the third stanza, it drops down to the third line.  In the fourth stanza, it serves as the final line.

Anyone who writes poetry has family, friends, and coworkers who are eager to alert her to potential subjects.  They will point at a blooming dahlia, a birthday boy blowing out his candles, a striking sunset, even a multi-car pile-up on the highway and exclaim, “There’s a poem for you!” as if artistic inspirations were somehow transferable.  I used to pick up the ball and run with it…  I would drag my pen across the page, spend a couple hours thoroughly frustrating myself, and wonder why such a fantastic idea was going nowhere.  Here’s the reason:  if you can’t see the poem, you can’t write it.  And looking is not the same as seeing.


Someone says, “There’s a poem for you”
while pointing at a butterfly,
writing in cursive in the sky,
verse in need of a translator.

My ego snaps at the bait when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you,”
keen to decipher the insights
in those ephemeral contrails.

But the monarch’s secrets belong
to the seer alone.  So when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you,”
avert your eye, stay your pencil.

You well know the glittering voice
of his muse will turn to pyrite
in your ear so pay no mind when
someone says, “There’s a poem for you.”

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14 thoughts on “QUATERNALLY YOURS

    • Just Joan October 2, 2018 / 10:30 am

      Thanks, Muri. It’s a pet peeve of mine when people say that. Most poems (mine anyway) aren’t inspired by the spectacular, but a unique way of seeing the everyday. 🙂


  1. Tippy Gnu October 6, 2018 / 9:50 am

    This reminds me of the creative writing classes I took in high school and college. I could never feel satisfied following the assignments, and always had to deviate from instructions in order to write something I liked. Everyone seemed to enjoy what I wrote, when read aloud for the class. But my teachers always lowered my grade to a B, for failure to follow instructions. And yet for some reason they’re called “creative” writing classes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 7, 2018 / 11:22 am

      Creative Writing 101 is more appealing to students than Lackluster Writing 101, Tippy. If all the writers in the class followed instructions and took the head-on approach, you’d all end up at the same place and the teacher would have 27 remarkably similar (and probably boring) papers to grade. I’m always impressed when a writer moves to the fringe of a topic or addresses it in an oblique way. “B” is for bold and beautiful. If you and everyone else enjoyed what you wrote, it was good–don’t let some teacher rain on your parade. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tippy Gnu October 7, 2018 / 11:41 am

        Thanks, Joan. I accepted my B’s proudly, as I figured they were issued out of jealousy.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. L. T. Garvin, Author October 9, 2018 / 9:44 pm

    Thanks for introducing us to a Quatern, Joan. Nobody ever tells me that, haha. The Rock Guy does; however, point out a lot of stories for me to write. I love the verse about the butterfly, “But the monarch’s secrets belong to the seer alone.” Now that is one true line, for me, it really has to be something that touches me emotionally and that I can connect with. Otherwise, someone pointing out a field of daisies or a cemetery can just point or go write their own poem!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan October 10, 2018 / 8:12 am

      That’s exactly it, Lana. Without that emotional connection, that special way of seeing, there is no poem. When I suggest the seers should write their own poem, they are quick to remind me that I am the writer in the group. (And therefore responsible for writing everyone else’s poems?) To me, stories are even more complicated. You need just the right mix of things for a good story, a strong start, relatable characters, realistic dialog, the element of surprise, an ending that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Maybe Mr. Monkey Pajamas needs his own notebook and pen. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. circumstance227 February 23, 2019 / 4:28 pm

    Imagine you lived back in Shakespeare’s time and some nobleman told you what to write about all the time . . .
    I just got the notifications of you liking my comments in real time – so I guess you know now that I am blog-stalking you. Hope that’s ok. It’s so nice to be catching up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan February 23, 2019 / 4:58 pm

      I don’t mind. Glad you’re enjoying dusty, long-forgotten rooms of the JJ42 Castle. 🙂


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