#mumpoemprompts September Challenge: Alliterative Verse

By Nicola Dellard-Lyle

Next up in our September challenge, Mum Poet Club member Nicola Dellard-Lyle explains alliterative poetry and asks us to have a go with her. 

If you fancy sharing your alliterative poem with us, use the hashtag #mumpoemprompts so we can find and share your work.  

Alliterative writing uses the repetition of a particular letter or sound within most of the words within the piece. With roots in Old English writing, alliterative verse was the original dominant form of English poetry up until around the 14th century, ahead of rhyming poetry. Examples of historical Finnish and Estonian writing also show alliteration drawn from folklore. The idea was always to use one chosen sound (often a particular letter) to emphasise or stress the pattern of the poem. Originally, the conventions of this form would be to include 4 instances of the chosen consonant sound within the first 2 lines, with many more rules attached including the specific positioning of alliteration and which syllables were to be emphasised. Interestingly the introduction of rhyming forms apparently forced out the previously reigning-popular alliterative form... although I can’t see anything wrong with mixing the two together!

 Of course nowadays there is freedom in all things creative, so there really are no rules! The first time I was inspired by alliterative poetry was after reading F is for Fox by Carol Ann Duffy, which led me to write my own poem called B is for Baby.

 As a starting point, an alliterative poem could aim to predominantly use words that start with a particular letter or sound, broken up with function words and other meaningful additions. It could also be that a specific consonant sound is somewhere within most words in the poem, not necessarily the first sound of each word. Either way, it’s the repetition of the same sound that brings the piece together – maybe creating something quite humorous, or other times building up for high-impact.

 You could also think about writing a poem where each line starts or ends with words beginning with the same letter/ sound. Or maybe choose a letter and list the alliterating feelings that come to mind when you think of your chosen theme.

Begin with a stand-out word describing a topic, emotion or moment and roll with that letter to see what associations come up that happen to be alliterative!


F is for Fox by Carol Ann Duffy

The fox fled over the fields away from the farm
and the furious farmer.
His fur was freaked.
His foxy face was frantic as he flew. A few feathers
fluttered out of his mouth.
The fox
had broken his fast with a feast of fowl!

The farmer had threatened to flay the fur
from his frame.
The frightened fox flung himself
at a fence.

The fox found himself in a fairground,
with a Ferris Wheel, flashing lights, fruit machines, fish
in plastic bags.
Furtively, he foraged for food- fragments of candy floss, french fries-
but a fella folding fivers into his fist
flicked a fiery fag at the fox and the fox foxed off.

Further and further fled the fox, through Forfar, Fife, Falkirk,
forests, fields, Fleetwood, Fazakerley, thunder and fog,
famished and fearful;
forcing his furry features into family bins, filching thrown-away food.

Thief fox, friendless fox, thin fox.

Finally he came at first light to a faraway farm...
where the fox fed himself full till his face was fat
and forlorn feathers floated away on the frosty air.


B is for Baby by Nicola Dellard-Lyle

 A boy born on the bottom of the bed.

He’s bright, I’m boiling.

Baking heat on beautiful days -

July’s balmiest barometer reading,

they said, pressure that’s best for

brewing babies, they bartered.

Midwives were banqueting on

banana muffins downstairs

and we were bare in the bathroom,

breathing belly breaths.

With a big splash waters

burst into the bowl.

Bumbling into the bedroom, bent

over headboard and yoga ball,

back taking the shape of a box kite.

Bellowing breathing bellowing

bits blazing below.

Then breathtakingly, beneath the

bodacious moon,

bent to my bosom,

a boy brought us bounty.

Little did we know, about the

burps bottom wipes bibs baths

bruises bedtimes book-times

breasts and breasts and breaths

and breaths and breaths.

Boy, little did we know.

My body was basking and

my brain was blank. Except for -

Bloody hell.

I’ve just had a baby.

By Nicola Dellard-Lyle

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