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A friend of mine, Kathleen Lynch, introduced me to Sevenlings and this explanation by the form's creator, Roddy Lumsden.  I have in turn written and published several Sevenlings and told many other poets about the form.  APJ was proud to feature "Sevenlings for Akhmatova" by Diane Thiel in its first issue and "Sevenling: Dare" by Rebecca Patrascu in the second issue. And APJ is proud to feature this essay with the author's permission. The author did wish to add that "the rules are to be freely adapted to suit the poet — it's not a strict form." Find out more about Roddy Lumsden by clicking here.

















Sevenlings by RODDY LUMSDEN

The sevenling is a poem of seven lines inspired by the form of this much translated short verse by Anna Akhmatova (1889 - 1966).

He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.

He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.

... And he married me.

                        tr. D M Thomas From Selected Poems (Penguin)

The rules of the sevenling are thus:

The first three lines should contain an element of three - three connected or contrasting statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines or be contained anywhere within them. Then, lines four to six should similarly contain an element of three, connected directly or indirectly or not at all. The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or as an unusual juxtaposition. There are no set metrical rules, but being such as short form, some rhythm, metre or rhyme is desirable. To give the form a recognisable shape, it should be set out in two stanzas of three lines, with a solitary seventh, last line. Titles are not required. A sevenling should be titled Sevenling followed by the first few words in parentheses The tone of the sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only part of the story is being told. The poem should have a certain ambience which invites guesswork from the reader.

Two Sevenlings by Roddy Lumsden

A filthy West End night, the windows wide.
Now she's been gone a month and missed a week
and ached for all day long. Her sister waits:

she flips the Magic 8 Ball, walks in circles,
spreads mushy peas on cold, unbuttered toast
in the kitchenette. The record stops. She shouts,

put on some songs by four black guys in suits.

All those buzzsaw years I ran the show,
all those kids who asked me for advice,
The Architect, the Miraclist, The Man.

The starlets kick-line, that was my concoction,
the sailor boys, the peacock feather spotlights;
till one night in a blackout, I let slip

what it is I say to all the girls.

Roddy Lumsden's first book Yeah Yeah Yeah (Bloodaxe Books, 1997) was shortlisted for Forward and Saltire first book prizes.  His second collection The Book of Love (Bloodaxe Books, 2000), a Poetry Book Society Choice, was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. Mischief Night: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2004) draws on these two books as well as Roddy Lumsden is Dead (Wrecking Ball Press, 2001), a new collection, The Drowning Man, his pamphlet The Bubble Bride, and a previously uncollected sonnet sequence, Cavali Riscaldati. He is a freelance writer, specializing in quizzes and word puzzles, and has held several residencies, including ones with the City of Aberdeen, St Andrews Bay Hotel, and in 1999 as "poet-in-residence" to the music industry when he co-wrote The Message, a book on poetry and pop music published by the Poetry Society.  He co-edited Anvil New Poets 3 (2003) with Hamish Ironside.  In 2004 Chambers Harrap published his popular reference book Vitamin Q: a temple of trivia, lists and curious words.