The Curgina


_____ A curgina is a metered, usually rhyming, poem with free verse linebreaks. The original example would be "
We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks, excerpted here:

We real cool. We
skip school. We

Lurk late. We
strike straight. We...

Of course, this is just bacchic (de-DUM-DUM) monometer:

We real cool.
We skip school.

We lurk late.
We strike straight.

We...

_____ Let's call this tack a "curgina". It isn't a form per se. It is a different treatment or presentation of existing forms. We could, for example, have curginic sonnets, curginic rondeaux or uncategorized verses like the iambic tetrameter and abcabc-defdef rhyme scheme we discover in DPK's "Joie de Mourir" (presented here with the author's permission):

Joie de Mourir (in curginic style)

Beyond this arid pit is life, lived
incognito. Dreams resist
our beckoning. Just coax the one
that's closest: I can see
my wife. A rose
corsage adorns her wrist; her iris
catches the voyeur sun.

I see her neckline, hem and slit
unfurl then gather like geese
in flight. At dusk we dance and turn
to tell the termagant wind
to end its fit. Two shadows
move at the speed of night
along the shadeless halls
of hell.

_____ Notice how, among other things, the enjambment highlights the puns on "iris" (i.e. flower and eye) and "catches" (i.e. reflects and detects).

Joie de Mourir (in normal style)

Beyond this arid pit is life,
lived incognito. Dreams resist
our beckoning. Just coax the one
that's closest: I can see my wife.

A rose corsage adorns her wrist;
her iris catches the voyeur sun.

I see her neckline, hem and slit
unfurl then gather like geese in flight.
At dusk we dance and turn to tell
the termagant wind to end its fit.

Two shadows move at the speed of night
along the shadeless halls of hell.

_____ Note how the curginic method serves to de-emphasize both the meter and, more importantly, the rhymes, making them less obvious and, perhaps, not so self-conscious ("Look! Look! I rhymed!") or overwhelming ("Okay, so it endrhymes. Do we really have to pause to celebrate the occasion?"). The essence of curgina is that most rhyme becomes internal--almost incidental. Indeed, many might read the piece without even noticing that it is rhyming metrical verse. For some writers, some audiences, some reciters and some pieces, at least, this is bound to be a Martha Stewart "good thing".

Tendancies

While it is too early in the curgina's history and the sample size is far too small to speak of "rules", existing curginas show the following tendancies:
  1. Rhymes tend to be more exact than in stanzaic verse.

    Because the curgina works to de-emphasize both meter and rhyme, the need to look for imperfect rhymes is, in theory at least, less urgent.

  2. Meter tends to be more strict than in stanzaic verse.

    As with rhymes, there is less need for substitutions in curginic verse. This is merely a matter of letting the approach do its job.

  3. ABCABC is a popular rhyme scheme.

    Such "distancing" in the rhyme scheme, coupled with the curginic approach, is often sufficient to avoid having rhyme overwhelm a piece.

  4. The language tends to be rather simple.

    This may be nothing more than a reflection of contemporary trends in verse. We need to bear in mind, though, that a curgina appears, at first glance, to be free verse. As such, grandiloquence may seem conspicuous to a modern reader.

_____ The curgina extends the "prosing" of metrical verse beyond its language to include its linebreaks. In "Joie de Mourir" DPK uses the curginic approach to enjoy the benefits of free verse linebreaking techniques. Paradoxically, in "Beans" (again, included with the author's permission) the same poet uses the curgina to avoid these benefits!

Beans (in "prosey" curginic style)

September came like winter's
ailing child but
left us
viewing Valparaiso's pride. Your face was
always saddest when you smiled. You smiled as every
doctored moment lied. You lie with
orphans' parents, long
reviled.

As close as coppers, yellow beans still
line Mapocho's banks. It
leads them to the sea;
entwined on rocks and saplings, each
new vine recalls that
dawn in 1973 when
every choking, bastard weed grew wild.

_____ Ignoring the acrostic, we see the poem signal early that the enjambment is irregular, giving the poem a "knottedness", as one critic mentioned. The speaker, fearing reprisal by either side in the political struggle, pauses before choosing euphemisms like "left us", "doctored moments" and "orphans' parents".

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