The zejel is a Spanish form which my Spanish friends have not heard of. They tell me though that it is pronounced the-hell, with the stress on the second syllable. (How the hell do they know?)
My example in this form is about how men can't help thinking about sex. I hope this doesn't offend anyone, and get me a reputation as a male chauvinist pig. As I'm always saying, the opinions expressed in the poem are not necessarily those of the poet himself. (See also my Masefield parody.)
I checked on the web how many times a day men are reputed to think about sex. The consensus seemed to be that it was about 200. The lowest figure came from the Simply Irresistible, which says 278 - apparently it uses this as a running gag. (One site actually topped this with a claim of "every 8 seconds", which works out at 450 times an hour, but I think that writer may have been shooting from the hip, as it were.), which said "4 or 5". The highest came from the film
Anyway, here's the poem:
Mostly, sex tops menís agenda.
Iím not one to buck the trend - a
Red-blooded repeat offender.
Hurrying for the morning train,
Spirit not damped by teeming rain,
Thereís only one thing on my brain:
All the time I think of gender.
At the office, deep in filing,
Boredom on frustration piling,
Even then, a woman smiling
Makes me feel all warm and tender.
Are you female and eighteen plus?
A good sport and adventurous?
We have a great deal to discuss.
Come back to my hacienda!
The first stanza, known as the mudanza, has three lines, rhyming aaa. All the other stanzas - as many of them as you like - have 4 lines, rhyming bbba, the a rhyme harking back to the first stanza. So the overall rhyming scheme for the poem is aaa/bbba/ccca/ddda/...
Colloquial language tends to be used, and 8-syllable lines are usual (though not obligatory), so that's what I've used here. I have interpreted the term "8-syllable line" to mean "a line with 8 syllables", and I suggest that you should do the same. However, in Spanish poetry syllable-counting works differently, and the term "8-syllable line" is liable to be interpreted as "a line in which the last stressed syllable is the seventh"; such a line might have 7 syllables, or 8, or 9, or even more. (I wonder whether the Spanish write haiku?) See links page for a site devoted to Spanish poetry.
I've been keen to include a few African verse forms, and for some time I've been frustrated by my failure to find any details of a Swahili form called the tendi. Now at last I understand: the word tendi is plural, and the singular is utendi. Or maybe the words are tenzi and utenzi. In Africa, as in Wales, word beginnings seem to be a source of much confusion. The Swahili word for Swahili is Kiswahili, apparently.
Anyway, having found the right name, I was soon able to discover the recipe for the form: 4-line stanzas, 8 syllables per line, rhyming aaab, with all the b lines rhyming with one another. In other words, it's like a zejel without a mudanza. So leave out the first stanza of Proposition above, and you've got a utendi. Or utenzi. Write another, and you've got two tendi (or tenzi). It's easy when you know how.
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© Bob Newman 2005-8. All rights reserved.
This page last updated 20/04/2008