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February 25, 2011

oh, the glosa. the scientific splicing experiment of the writing world, a grafting test, the fanfiction of poetry. form poetry usually gives me the shudders. i’ve never felt much love for the villanelle. the ghazal really turns me off. the sonnet – it’s iffy. when my poetry teacher here at UBC told me that i had to have a form poem in my portfolio, i immediately thought of the glosa.

i like the glosa so much because it’s so odd. it mainly allows you to enter into a dialogue with another poet. with the glosa, you’re taking a portion of another writer’s words, but you are usually trying to merge yourself with them, not necessarily overtake them. i find that the glosa works best if you do it with most emotion removed, because if you write it in anger or obsession (if you take al purdy’s words like a major fangirl and try to bend them to your will without really thinking of how the writing is going to turn out) then something is going to go wrong.


the rules of the glosa (these change, i suppose, but this is how i have always written them) –

– one quatrain of four lines from a poet (a stanza. the lines should appear next to each other in the original work, not be drawn from all over)

– four ten-line stanzas

– the last line of each stanza is one of the lines of the original quatrain, in order

– the sixth and ninth lines have to rhyme with the 10th line.


you really, really have to pick your lines carefully. you have to think about whether you’re going to be able to rhyme things. so while you are appropriating another writer’s voice, they are also driving you. the original work has a lot more power over the glosa than people first realise. it determines the theme, the rhyme scheme, the full flavour of the new piece.

and the glosa can be offensive. i’ve had experience with this before. because when you, the poet, take on another writers’ words, there is always a possibility of misinterpretation. it’s best to do this with dead writers. they can’t spit back at you.

and the glosa is a creepy form, to be honest. because while you enter into a dialogue with another writer, you are also taking on their words like a mantle, a piece of clothing. it’s odd. you wear them. you have to burrow inside and try to speak through them – like a puppet, but at the same time so much more than a puppet. you become a parasite, but if you pull it off, the result is beautiful. the rhymes become seamless and unobtrusive. the rhythm becomes subtle.

and what is more beautiful than that? than taking words that aren’t your own and somehow turning it into something great. it’s rude and it’s inappropriate and it’s totally sketchy, and it creates these beautiful pieces. i like to challenge myself with the idea of the glosa. i like to pick writers whose writing is so very opposite from mine, because to try and speak in their voice works a whole new section of my brain.


pk page wrote a whole book of glosas.


just a short post today. nobody wants to read a 1000 word post on form poetry. well NOT MANY people.


i’ve been on a reggae kick lately.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 25, 2011 9:46 pm

    I like the glosa. Thank-you for reminding me of it.

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