|Writing couplets is childishly simply ... or is it? ... Yes, it is. Apparently.|
(photo by Alec Couros)
Noun. Late 16th century.
[Old & modern French, diminutive of couple noun.]
1 A pair of successive lines of verse, especially when rhyming together and of the same length. L16
2 generally. A pair, a couple. E17
3 ARCHITECTURE. A window of two lights. M19
4 MUSIC. A duplet. L19
coupleteer noun a writer of couplets; a versifier. E19
An occasional slam poet in my teens, I once came third in a competition held at the Oxford Playhouse. The two poets that beat me had tied scores, however, so the judges announced that they would have one minute to write a couplet, and the best would be declared the winner. In an instant, my disappointment turned to abject horror - I didn't know exactly what a couplet was. I mean, I kind of knew, but what if there was more to it? Does it have to rhyme? Mustn't it? Does it have a particular metre? Is it always supposed to be funny? I had a horror vision of me, having progressed to the final, still sitting there when the bell rang; frozen, mortified, begrutten with humiliation that I, yes I, had insolently entered a poetry slam without even knowing the true meaning of couplet. Oh for shame!
As I was reliving this imagined horror over and over, one of the finalists put up his hand and asked in a loud, ridiculously posh voice: "Excuse me, but what's a couplet?" A perplexed pause filled the room, before it burst into uproarious laughter, a laughter that said: "Oh! As if an Oxford poet wouldn't know what a couplet is! How atrociously absurd! Ho ho ho!" As if, indeed. And yes, that poet went on to write a brilliantly witty couplet and win the competition. And I was left sitting there thanking my sweaty brow that I hadn't been a finalist.
Well, now, posh Oxford poets, I do know what a couplet is, OK? And I did then too - I just wasn't 100% on all the details and I got a bit flustered, right? So, quite simply, a couplet is two lines of roughly equal length in a poem. Sometimes they rhyme, sometimes they don't; sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's not. Generally, though, a couplet expresses a complete thought, even if it's part of a longer piece. So:
As a hobby and blog I'm reading the great OED
But it's a bloody long slog, as I'm only on C
See? Easy. Oh ... except ... oh no ... I rhymed blog and slog in the middle. And there's some assonance going on there. Does this mean it's not a couplet!? Aaargh! It's like I'm 17 in the Oxford Playhouse all over again! I need help. I can't go back there ... I just can't ... Aaaaaragh!
Do please have a go at writing a couplet in the box below.
(the best one posted within a week might just win a Lexi t-shirt)
Coupleteers - go!
(and by the best I probably mean funniest)