Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to Write a Ballade

 Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     First of all, I'm teaching you how to write a ballade, not a ballad. A ballad has much fewer rules and is much more well-known, though they are both known for their use of refrains. Ballade is pronounced "baa (like the sound a sheep makes) laid". So, on to how to write one of these things.
     A ballade is make up of four stanzas. The first four are long, with seven, eight, or ten lines (but apparently never nine) and the last one is short, four or five lines. Each stanza ends with the same line, or refrain. Now, keep in mind that though the first three stanzas can be seven, eight, or ten lines long, they all must be the same length. Now for my example.

Hot Chocolate

I never had much care for coffee shops
My brother and I, we hated the smell
Of those ground dark beans everyone adores
Some people every day make their stops
At these legal addiction stores, and shell
Out money galore, at which I laugh, except
When sitting at Starbucks, with a cup of hot chocolate

It was a long time before I liked the idea
Of going into any coffee shop, despite
How much my elders loved these stores
Why chose a drink shop over a pizzeria?
Even into my teen years, I had a child's appetite
Which disliked anything of coffee, though I loved
Sitting at Starbucks, with a cup of hot chocolate

More recently I have found the tranquility
Of a coffee shop, is quite nice, though still
I am not so fond of the scent behind the doors
But in them I find there is an odd sincerity
Of musty darkness, and the people who fill
My cup, and so now a new place that I dream
Is sitting at Starbucks, with a cup of hot chocolate

It is another place where I know what to expect
A place to regroup when the world has shoved
And this place I now like is, it would seem,
Sitting at Starbucks, with a  cup of hot chocolate

     Okay, to be clear, you don't have to use the wacky rhyme scheme I used. (If you're confused, I used ABCACD(Ref)  EFCEFG(Ref) HICHIJ(Ref) DGJ(Ref)) (If you're even more confused now, I don't blame you.) Anyways, the only important part of the rhyme scheme was the refrain. Seriously, the rest of it can just not rhyme, as long as you've got the refrain. And normally, you wouldn't mess with the refrain like I did with the added "When" and "Is", but I sort of wrote myself into a corner. Honestly, that's why the rhyme scheme is so weird. I had planned on ABCABC(Ref) DEFDEF(Ref) GHIGHI(Ref), but I couldn't get the third and sixth lines to rhyme and still make sense with the refrain. There's a tip to be learned here. When your rhyme scheme fails: complicate!
     Anyway, I hope I have left you informed rather than confused, and once again, I hope to see the cool poetry you guys come up with.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

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