time to sing – and enter a competition

Time to wheel out the first of my Pimping the Book competitions for time to sing before the dark. And for this first competition, your task is to write a glosa.

What the heck is a glosa? Well, according to my notes from the class I taught in 2015 on Unusual Forms:

The glosa (or glose) is an early Renaissance form that takes a quotation from another poet, and ‘glosses’ or expands upon each line in turn. It was developed by poets of the Spanish court in the 14th and 15th centuries, where it was popular in contests between poets.

Structure: the poem begins with a quotation from another author (known as the texte or cabeza), lines of which are subsequently repeated as the final line of each of the succeeding verses – the first line of the texte is the last line of the first stanza, the second line of texte ends the second stanza, and so on.

The strictest form of glosa uses a quatrain texte and four ten-line stanzas, with the sixth and ninth lines of each stanza rhyming with their texte line. Looser forms just require that each line of the texte (however long it is) provides the last line of each stanza in turn.

The stanza pattern for a (strict) glosa is:

A B C D [texte, set as an epigraph]
x x x x x a x x a A
x x x x x b x x b B
x x x x x c x x c C
x x x x x d x x d D

The best known exponent of the form in the modern era is the Canadian poet P.K. Page (1916 – 2010), whose glosa, Planet Earth, was chosen in 2001 by the United Nations to be read simultaneously at sites in New York, Antarctica, Mount Everest, and the South Pacific, to celebrate the International Year of Dialogue Among Civilisations.


So there you are. Aren’t you glad you asked?

Jokes aside, it’s an interesting form, and a nice way of making reference to another poem or poet. So for this first TTSBTD competition, your task is to use four lines from one of Helen’s poems as your texte, and write a glosa from it.  The writer of the winning poem will receive a copy of time to sing before the dark and one other book of their choice from my stash of books that Helen owned before her death. (I’ve been asked to disburse them among the poetry community, so this seems like a nice way of doing it.) The deadline is 11.59 pm on 28th February 2019.

I would have liked to limit this one to textes from TTSBTD, but there aren’t enough of her poems from this collection out there. And while I’d love to use this as an opportunity to get you all to nag your local libraries to get copies (for the record: do it), that would mean throwing the competition open for way too long.

Because I don’t want to deal with kazillions of poems arriving in my inbox, you’ll have to enter your poem into the comments field. But NOT the field on this page. So that you can use your glosa elsewhere without it being deemed ‘previously published’, we’ll take this over to a new, password-protected page. I’m not going to link to it from here (@#$&%ing spammers), but you can access it by going to the time to sing before the dark page, and then adding glosa-comp/ to your address bar after the final /. The password?The other name for the texte. (Hint: it’s in bold, and is in the description of the form.)

Have fun!

2 Replies to “time to sing – and enter a competition”

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