How to Write a Duoquat
     While we might like the self-discipline imposed by the haiku, with its fixed number and length of lines, we have occasion to desire a poetic fixed-form that offers substantially more room, allowing for more complex reflections, an anecdote, or perhaps a miniscule narrative.
     Four lines, even if limited in syllable length, could contain over twice the content of a haiku, since the lines would be expected to be longer (perhaps 10+8+10+8=36, or 10+10+10+10=40 syllables, versus haiku’s 5+7+5=17 syllables). But to make an appreciable difference, something at least three or four times the length of a haiku (60 to 80 total syllables) may be in order.
     This suggests two four-line stanzas, or quatrains (thus duo-quatrain, or duoquat for short). By making the second quatrain slightly shorter than the first, the whole is given a built-in crescendo— when read, the poem seems to speed up, building to a climax. Then to smoothly yet quickly brake to a stop, one extra syllable is tacked on at the very end.
     This is the format: in the first stanza, line lengths of ten, eight, ten, and eight syllables respectively; in the second, line lengths of ten, six, ten, and seven syllables. Thus even counting the odd end-syllable, the second stanza is three syllables lighter than the first— enough to make a difference, while not enough to detract or consciously notice.
     Rhyming is optional, the form seems to carry fine without it (I rhyme probably less than 2% of the ones I write). As with haiku, there is wiggle-room in the syllable count, especially with the varying lengths of syllables when pronounced, variations in pronunciation from reader to region, and punctuation (real and implied) if any, particularly within a line.
     Personally I like to be strict with myself on syllable counts, feeling that once you become lax, it’s hard to determine where to draw the line. While novelty is sometimes nurtured by the breaking of rules, sooner or later what you have must cease to be considered a duoquat and called simply an eight-line poem. But there are real borderline cases in number and nature of syllable divisions within words.
     In such instances the arbiter for me is how I would say it if I were reading the poem out loud. But beyond these restrictions, there are no guidelines in content. In duoquat, all bets are off; be as wildly creative— pretentious, petty, saucy, even silly— as you want.
     (Since in at least traditional haiku, certain types of content that I often eschew— such as forms relating to nature— seem to be encouraged over others, I call my three-liners HiKues.)
     In conclusion the following HiKue encapsulates what is too easily forgotten, especially by form nuts like myself— and not only in writing, but painting and other creative forms as well—
Art is measured in
  content— style is after all
a mere cosmetic.
     Note— If you write a duoquat (or HiKue) that you want to share with others, feel free to post it on either of the two discussion boards at this site or in the guestbook. These are all accessible via the Home Page.
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© 2003 Warren Farr, revised 9/11