Before and After
Who says a rhyming couplet has to be at the end of a poem? When you suddenly rhyme, a new chapter begins in the poem, because a shift in sound is made. I wrote “Pink Underpants” to try to explain to myself an event that happened when I was nineteen that has nagged me for half a century.
At first, I tried to rhyme the whole poem, but I had too much of a story to tell to keep to a strict scheme. I switched to free verse (but kept in whatever rhymes I already had.) Even in free verse it was still so hard to cram a situation that took place over years into a single effort. I kept going back and forth in time and getting events confused. But a leftover rhyming couplet saved me.
We don’t speak that year. All fine.
I bury him like a symbol in a line.
These two simple rhymes--fine and line—let the poem fall into a time sequence. Suddenly I had a Chapter one and a Chapter two—all because of the dead-stop emphasis of two rhymes.
Prompt: If you’ve got something with a Before and an After, try making a poem with a rhyming couplet to end the Before event. Then the After can blossom on its own.
Molly Peacock is a widely anthologized poet as well as a biographer and an arts activist. Her latest poetry collections are The Analyst: Poems and Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton and Company). She is co-founder of Poetry in Motion on New York City’s subways and series founder of The Best Canadian Poetry. Her latest ventures are The Secret Poetry Room and The Timeless Project. One of the subjects of the documentary My So-Called Selfish Life, about women who choose not to have children, she is also the author of the biography The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 and the forthcoming Flower Diary: Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Manages a Threesome. A former New Yorker, she lives in Toronto, a dual citizen with both Canadian and American roots. She teaches at the 92St Y.