Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Prompt: Catawamp Poem Form and/or the concept of "Catawampus"

Here's a new poem form that came to me this morning. It's called a Catawamp.

A catawamp is a multiple-stanza poem. Each stanza has unique rhyme endings, let's call them A, B, and C (or it could also be A, B, C, and D), which appear in cascading sequence in each stanza. Each rhyme family, A, B, etc. has its own metaphor or body of metaphors it draws from that inform the content of each line A, B, C. No syllable constraints. The Catawamp is about change. It has a transformation point, or describes, within the often contrasting or elemental bodies of metaphors, a transformation. Often the rhyme scheme somewhat changes during or after the transformation in the poem to signify the transformation. (I'll respond with an example to make it easier to understand). Please write a Catawamp or otherwise frolic with the concept of mountain lions, wild animals, or things askew, as the term itself "catawampus" conveys...

Here's how Leif in Washington describes the meaning of catawampus, in case you'd either use the word itself as a prompt, or just because it's interesting to learn new things:

A "catawampus" can be a fierce, imaginary animal, the sort of vicious critter that jumps you in the woods shortly before you're never seen again. But "catawampus" can also mean "askew" or "out of whack," as in "Larry's elopement with Eloise knocked Cindy's wedding plans all catawampus." Neither meaning can be definitively traced, but "catawampus" in the eat-you-alive sense may well be a variant on the American folk term "catamount," short for "catamountain," or mountain lion.

The "askew" sense of "catawampus" is a real puzzler. The first element of the word, "cata," may be related to "cater," also found in the related word "catercorner" (or, as many folks know it, "cattycorner" or "kittycorner"). "Cater" in these words comes from the French "quatre," or "four," and "catercornered" originally just meant "four-cornered." Today "catercorner" means that two things are diagonally across from each other. The "wampus" part may have come from the Scots word "wampish," meaning "to wriggle or twist," which would certainly seem to fit with "catawampus" meaning "askew" or "crooked."
Prompt tags: poem, catawamp, [poet's moniker]

Picture Credit: Lion Cub by Beverly Joubert

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