Week One: The Gwawdodyn

The Gwawdodyn

Welsh poetry — much like the language itself — often has a musical quality and emphasizes the sound of the words through the use of assonance and alliteration. The Gwawdodyn (gwow-DOD-in) is an old Welsh poetic form made up of a varying number of quatrains with strict syllabic restrictions and rhyme requirements.

Snowdon from Nantlle Valley 
Sir Kyffin Williams R.A. (1918-2006) 

Structure of the Gwawdodyn

Requirements of the Gwawdodyn form:

– Comprised of any number of quatrains (four-line stanzas)

– Usually features a 9/9/10/9 syllable pattern for each stanza

– Follows a unique rhyme scheme with matching end rhymes (a) on lines 1, 2, and 4, with a variable internal rhyme (b) on line 3:

1-xxxxxxxxa
2-xxxxxxxxa
3-xxxxbxxxxb
4-xxxxxxxxa

Variations on lines 3 and 4:

– The internal ‘b’ rhyme in the third line can be shifted to the left or right as needed, but is usually found towards the middle of the line

– One possible variation features a matching internal rhyme in lines 3 and 4, with no end rhyme in line 3:

1-xxxxxxxxa
2-xxxxxxxxa
3-xxxxbxxxxx
4-xxxbxxxxa

Other Variations

You may find other variations of this form featuring slightly different syllable counts and rhyming patterns, with the most variation found in lines 3 and 4.

Tips and Techniques

Syllable Count

The first major challenge of this form is the restricted number of syllables. If you’re aiming to stay true to the original form, count carefully and try to avoid compromises.

I usually begin by searching for a line I’ve previously recorded in one of my notebooks. As I flip through my notebooks, I search for a line that can be molded to fit the syllabic requirement and has an end word that isn’t too restricting.

Rhyming

As with any poem featuring end rhymes, you’ll want to choose these words most carefully. You’ll have some choices to make on the types of rhymes you’d like to use. A poem that uses only true, masculine rhymes (dire/fire) will have a different feel than one that uses only true, feminine rhymes (desire/retire) or one that uses only slant rhymes of either type (moon/doom) or any combination of these.

Once I have what I believe to be a workable first line, I list out my possible end rhyme words, using my first line’s end word as my guide. I almost always explore the possibilities within the true rhymes first. If these options are too limiting (and they often are) I’ll explore slant rhymes, staying as close to true as I can while aiming for maximum resonance. Once I believe I have a sufficient end rhyme word bank to select from, I’ll underline or highlight the words I feel are most resonant with the tone and theme of the first line.

An Original Gwawdodyn Poem

Sons of Abraham

Tell me all you Sons of Abraham
Spilling sacred blood for sacred land:
Do your daughters weep to see the slaughter
Of so many sacrificial lambs?

Commentary on my original poem

While there are no metrical specifications for this form, I often enjoy writing in meter, and you’ll find my poem is mostly written in iambic tetrameter.

Though this poem in its current form consists of a single quatrain, a traditional Gwawdodyn can be made up of as many quatrains as the poet pleases. I’ll no doubt explore options for expanding this work in the future.

I use a mixture of masculine and feminine rhymes. And although my rhymes are often slanted, I still match the sounds closely.

There is a great deal of assonance (long and short a sounds) and alliteration (s sounds) in this piece, which I believe is in keeping with the musicality often associated with traditional Welsh poetry.

Links to Online Resources:

Gwawdodyn: Poetic Forms – Writer’s Digest
Gwawdodyn: Poetry Forms – Poet’s Collective
Gwawdodyn – The Poet’s Garret

5 thoughts on “Week One: The Gwawdodyn

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