25 March 2013

SleuthSayers, SleuthSayers

by Robert Lopresti

In today's advanced poetry class we are going to deviate from our continuing examination of post-Plutarchian limericks and contemplate, instead, the form of verse known as the double dactyl, or higgledy piggledy.   It is so rigidly structured that it makes a Shakespearean sonnet look like free verse, and so devoid of meaning that it makes a knock-knock joke look like bomb disposal instructions.

A double dactyl has eight lines; most of which consist of two dactyl feet (LONG-short-short, LONG-short-short).  LInes four and eight consist of one choriamb (LONG-short-short-LONG).  The first line is always nonsense.  The second is a proper name.  The sixth is a single word.  And the fourth and eighth lines rhyme.  Easy-peasy, no?

To make it more of a challenge each of the examples I created below relate to mystery fiction. I encourage you to put your own contributions in the comments. Unless... you're chicken.

Higglety Pigglety
President Kennedy
Told a reporter he
Liked to read Bond.
007 gained
Boosted by Camelot's
Magical wand.

Higglety Pigglety
Gilbert K. Chesterton,
Raised as an Anglican
Under the crown,
Made a conversion most
After inventing that
Clergyman, Brown.

Higglety Pigglety
Sitt Hakim Peabody
Solved all Elizabeth
Peters' wild schemes,
Murders and mysteries
Aided by Emerson,
Man of her dreams.

Higglety Pigglety
Michael Z. Lewin writes
Books about you,
Starring a private eye,
One Albert Samson, un-
Lucky but true.


  1. Good grief, Rob! These are much harder than limericks.

  2. Michael Z. Lewin25 March, 2013 12:21

    I am flattered to be the subject of one of these, Robert, as well as dead impressed by your fluency with the form. Thank you, and thanks to Terry Faherty for calling my attention to it. Mike Lewin

  3. Fran, you betcha.

    Mike, honored to have you on board. Thank you for many hours of reading pleasure - see http://lbcrimes.blogspot.com/search?q=lewin

  4. Higgelty Piggelty
    Robert (MIDDLE INITIAL) Lopresti
    Wrote of Mike Lewin, but
    Not in a vaccum.
    His posts go up on-line.
    Wasn’t expected, so
    Robert . . .

    DAMN! What means was surprised, but rymes with VACUUM !?! LOL


  5. Thanks, Rob!

    Now, if you could just ransack that brilliant Librarian Gray Matter, and give me a two-syllable word that rhymes with vacuum . . . LOL

    On a more serious note: Fran’s right. This is tougher than limerick writing. I think my syllable count is about right (except for incomplete line 8, of course), but I don’t think I have the feet quite right; suspect my longs vs. shorts are off. Must be why I seldom write poetry – I can’t even carry a rhythm in a bucket!


    P.S. My wife just read this over my shoulder and said, "Ha, ha! You just said your shorts are off!"

  6. I had a fifth about James Moriarity until my friend Peter Berryman pointed out that the dread professor had only one I in his name, and was therefore short a syllable.

  7. I do so enjoy when you do poetry and I absolutely love poems that have an actual forma nd meter. Thanks so much for this post.


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