Selected by Alex Chaffee
6 February, 2003 - a dactyl sighting by no less an author than Neil Gaiman
20 January, 2003 - D. Mesher is teaching Double Dactyls in his Humanities course at San Jose State University. His students have contributed many Greco-Roman poems!
7 February, 2002 - Jan D. Hodge has dactylized Shakespeare, Napoleon, and Jack Sprat!
A dactyl, as you may know, is a poetic foot of the form >-- (ON-off-off). For example, interstate, realize, microphone, cereal, limerick, etc. etc. A double dactyl, naturally enough, is two dactyls in a row.
A double dactyl is also a poem, a form invented by Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal. Quite like a limerick, it has a rigid (if peculiar) structure. Two stanzas, each comprising three lines of dactylic dimeter followed by a line with a dactyl and a single accent. The two stanzas have to rhyme on their last line. The first line of the first stanza is repetitive nonsense. The second line of the first stanza is somebody's name -- strictly speaking, a proper noun. Note that this name must itself be double-dactylic. E.g. Gloria Vanderbilt, Jesus of Nazareth, Gilbert and Sullivan, Archangel Gabriel. In the second stanza, one entire line must be a double-dactylic word. E.g. biopsychology, geopolitical, gastrointestinal, abecedarian, etc. etc. There are a few more rules but here's an example, based on the inventor of microscopy, Anton Von Leewenhoek (whose surname is pronounced "LAY-ven-hook").
Small ProblemHiggamus Hoggamus "Anton Von Leewenhoek Has a small problem," con- Fided his wife. "Microbiology Doesn't disturb me; his Microanatomy's Blighting my life!"
Theodore L. Drachman
This actually goes above and beyond the call of double dactylic duty; note that he uses two dd's in the second stanza when all he really needed was one. Note also that, like a limerick, it should be clever -- there should be a punchline. And it should, of course, have something to do with its subject.
The definitive double dactyl reference is Jiggery-Pokery: A Compendium of Double Dactyls, Anthony Hecht and John Hollander eds., Athenaeum New York, 1967. Some of the following poems are lifted without permission from that book.
In the introduction to Jiggery Pokery, pp. 14-22, the story of the invention of the form is told in full. Janet Pascal writes:
[T]he inventors are Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal (my father) with a little help from Naomi Pascal (my mother). The form arose when the two of them were resident at the American Academy in Rome, and my father pointed out that *schistosomiasis*, being dactylic, did not work as a line in an otherwise iambic poem. - Janet B. Pascal email@example.com
To this I can add that my uncle always told me that schistosomiasis was a fatal disease for which there is only one cure, which is also fatal.
Here's a great self-referential example of the form by Roger L. Robison:
Dactyls in dimeter,
Verse form with choriambs
One sentence (two stanzas)
Challenges poets who
Don't have the time.
Other Double Dactyls:
If you find or, God forbid, compose any new double-dactyls, please let me know.
Hallelu, Ballyhoo Jesus of Nazareth Said to the semi- Diaphanous Ghost: "Holy, your gig needs more Audiovisuals; Check out the act of the Heavenly Host."
Waspiest wasp, says, "Black
People I love.
"I've designed jeans that the
Fits like a glove."
Higgeldy, piggeldy, Anna Karenina Went off her feed and just Couldn't relax. Then, quite ignoring the Unsuitability, Threw in the sponge and was Scraped off the tracks.
Was, and as such,
Served between Clevelands and,
Save for this trivial
Didn't do much.
Gave up the ghost on the
Fourth of July.
So did John Adams, which
Shows that such patriots
Know how to die.
Higgledy piggeldy Archangel Rafael, Speaking of Satan's re- Bellion from God: "Chap was decidedly Turgiversational, Given to lewdness and Rodomontade."
"Patty cake, patty cake,
What do you think of the
Duties require my
Presence in Egypt. Ya
Know what I mean?"
Ibbety bibbety Anna L. Plurabelle rivering seaward par swerve and per bend, lapsed, till rejoyceaments philolinguistical mythed her and founded her, words without end.
Higgeldy piggeldly Mary of Magdela Said to the dolorous Mother of God: "Parthenogenesis I for one left to the Simple amoeba or Gasteropod."
Belted two dames with a
"I am the wictim(*) of
"Beaten," said he,"By re-
"Legion and sax."
(*) Dialectologists will no doubt be offended by this, as no Russian-speaker would ever so distort the voiced labial fricative, "V;" however, it must be remembered that the the dialect here spoken is Standard Middle Hollywood Central European.
Havelly pavelly, Czechoslovakia's Federal president Finally quit. Now they'll be joining the Geopolitical Global community, Lickety split.
Here's another by me. I wrote it a few days after the arrest. If you prefer, you can start it, "Higgeldy piggeldy, Unabom Theodore".
Unabom Unabomb Teddy the terrorist (or, "Unabom Theodore") Cut himself off from his Country and kin. Now he's the star of the National media: Antifraternally, Kin turned him in.
(for another of my attempts at dactylry, see The Blind Date From Hell)
Higgledy, piggledy, First Lady Hillary, Walking by doorways in Neighborhoods near, Noted a curious Replicability: Plaques reading "President Clinton slept here."
(for more of Cybergeezer's dactyls, click here)