How To Write a Triolet

Quill3“How To Write a Triolet”
by Morgan Rowanwaif

Here’s the first line of your triolet
With tricky, wicked, rhyming schemes that tease
The a-b-a-a-a-b-a-b way.
Here’s the first line of your triolet,
The second line repeats and ends your lay.
Pentameter, tetrameter – both please.
Here’s the first line of your triolet
With tricky, wicked, rhyming schemes that tease.

How To Write a Villanelle

Quill2“How To Write a Villanelle”
by Morgan Rowanwaif

Here, you see, your first writ line will go.
As you compose your newest villanelle.
And this line ends the current verse like so.

The first line of each verse you write below
Will rhyme with both the first and third as well.
Here, you see, your first writ line will go.

The second line of every stanza, though,
Will rhyme with all the others, truth to tell.
And this line ends the current verse like so.

The rhythm may take any form, although
A four or five beat scan will serve you well.
Here, you see, your first writ line will go.

Thus on and on your villanelle will flow,
Alternating end lines like a bell.
And this line ends the current verse like so.

Then finally your sixth verse will forgo
The three-line pattern with a final swell.
Here, you see, your first writ line will go.
And this line ends the current verse like so.

How To Write a Sonnet

“The Penning of a Sonnet”
by Morgan RowanwaifQuill

The penning of a sonnet is a chore.
The rules of rhyme and meter are precise.
It must command attention and not bore
Your listeners, for bombast is a vice.

Pentameter iambic calls for five
Unstressed and five stressed syllables in turn.
Tetrameter, while valid, doth derive
From holding to a standard less than stern.

Three quatrains, each with alternating rhymes,
Develop thoughts that with a couplet close.
But if your mood Petrarchan-wise inclines,
An octet and a sextet cast your rows.

With all these rules that hold us in their thrall,
It’s amazing sonnets e’er get writ at all.


SeussThe Barony of Caer Galen once held a “Speaking For-Seuss-ly” competition where entrants were challenged to write an SCA appropriate bardic piece in the style of the Good Doctor.

So with the holiday season approaching, I would like to present to you the epic Icelandic saga of Beowulf – as told by Dr. Seuss.

by Morgan Rowanwaif

Every Dane down in Heorot liked to revel a lot
But the monster who lived just north of Heorot did not
Grendel hated the Danes and all manly races.
He hated their homes! He hated their faces!

He stared from his lake with a sour, Grendel frown
At the warm lighted windows above in their town.
For he knew every Dane in that gold-timbered spot
Was busy now, planning a post-viking blot1.

“They’re roasting their cattle!” he snarled with a sneer.
“Tomorrow’s the blot! It’s practically here”
Then he growled, with his troll fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop men-folk from coming!”

For tomorrow, he knew, every Dane-man and Swede
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their mead!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!

Then the Danes, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they’d feast! And they’d feast!
They would feast on nut pudding, and fruit, and smoked beast
Which was something that Grendel couldn’t stand in the least!

And THEN, they’d do something he liked least of all!
Every Dane up in Heorot, the tall and the small,
Would sit all together, with drinking horns swinging.
They’d hark to the skald. And the Danes would start singing!

They’d sing! And they’d sing!
And they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!
And the more Grendel thought of this hall-shaking sing,
The more Grendel thought, “I must stop this whole thing!
“Why, for many a year I’ve put up with it now!
“I must stop this revel from coming! … But HOW?”

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
The troll got a terrible, awful idea!
“I know just what to do!” Grendel laughed dark and deep.
“I will wait until all the Danes pass out asleep.”
And he chuckled and clucked, “What a great Grendel spree!
“With the Danes all asleep, they’re like nuts off a tree.”

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Danes were all dreaming sweet dreams without care
When he snuck to the hall of King Hrothgar’s Great Chair.
“This is night number one,” Grendel said there and then
And he raised up his claws, and he slew thirty men.

The Danes tried to fight, but he brushed them aside.
No sword-point or arrow could pierce his thick hide.
Then he slunk through the deer-covered doorway with glee.
“Pooh-pooh to the Danes! If you’d just let me be.”

And so things were – for twelve long, dark years.
Until Hrothgar’s story reached Beowulf’s ears.
So he gathered his friends with tales of great gains,
And left the land of the Geats for the land of the Danes.

“You’ll see, my good men,” he was happily humming.
“They’re finding out now that Beowulf is coming!”
“When we meet with Hrothgar, I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“Then the Danes down in Heorot will all cry WOO-HOO!”

When they reached the far shores, they met with the guard.
Their manner was grim and their faces were hard.
They didn’t cry “woo-hoo” to welcome the Geat,
“Look,” they said. “More warriors for Grendel to eat.”

They led Beowulf to the hall to meet with the King
(Who had saved Beowulf’s father at a long ago Thing2).
Hrothgar welcomed the hero and called for a feast.
“This young man will help us get rid of our beast.”

They boiled beef and chicken. They baked some fresh bread.
They brought apples and cheese until all were well fed.
And after the King and his jarls did their toasting,
They settled on down and started in boasting.

“I am Beowulf, son of Edgetho, Prince of the Geats,
“I’ve done many great deeds, and performed many feats.
“I battled a sea monster off the Island of Yarna
“And killed the great wolf that was plaguing Dawlarna
“I’ve fought many battles and won many wars,
“I’ve killed lots of monsters! Now tell me of yours.”

King Hrothgar sighed and drank from his beer,
“Whatever they say, Grendel’s worse than you hear.
“We stabbed him with swords! We hit him with bricks!
“We beat him with polearms and Celt-bashing sticks!

“But nothing we did had any effect!
“He just goes on killing my warriors unchecked.
“The gods have all left us, they don’t hear our prayers,
“And that is how once proud Heorot fares.”

Beowulf put his hand on Hrothgar’s heavy shoulder.
“I will now make my already bold boast still bolder!
“Not only will I fight this beast and prevail,
“I will fight with no weapon. I will fight with no maile.
“I will fight. And I swear I will die if I fail.”

The cheers of the Danes made the great hall’s walls shake,
And it wakened old Grendel below in his lake.
“They never will learn. No, you can’t teach a Dane.
“I will have to give them a lesson again.”

He waited ‘til darkness filled up the hall
And the sounds of the revel stilled to nothing at all.
Then Grendel said, “It’s time!” and he started on up
Toward the hall where the King lay a-snooze in his cup.

He tore down the doors, didn’t try to be silent,
Grabbed the first Geat and got frightfully violent.
Beowulf jumped up and charged with a rush
And grappled with Grendel in a side-smashing crush.

The old troll howled, amazed to find
A mere, little human with strength of this kind.
They scrapped and scrabbled, they rolled and they wrestled,
The hall’s tables tumbled and the trestles untrestled.

Grendel tried to run, but Beowulf wouldn’t let
The monster who terrorized Heorot go yet.
The other men attacked, but their swords went unheeded,
‘Till Beowulf saw the opening he needed.

He grabbed Grendel’s arm, and he gave it a wrench
When he heard a loud sound like the crack of a bench.
He turned around fast, and pulled the arm with him,
And tore off Grendel’s shoulder, like a birk3 from a chithim3.

And what happened then …? Well … in Denmark they say
That Grendel’s cruel heart lost three gallons that day.
And the moment the Geat’s grip didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed through the door in the cold, frozen night.
And all that he left on the floor of the hall
Was his arm, which Beowulf hung on the wall.


1. Blot – a Norse celebration, a sacrificial feast and gathering

2. Thing – a great meeting of chieftains to hold courts and mete justice

3. Birk, Chithim – made up words, in the Seussian tradition

On Feedback, Critique, and Mentoring

A gentleman bard in the SCA recently asked me to read over one of his pieces and offer my feedback.  As with anyone who wants me to critique their work, I asked him how much critique he actually wanted.  This is a very important question – it establishes boundaries and asks the artist to think about their relationship with their art.

Answer the aproned ferret!!

In general, I offer three degrees of critique:

  1. Encourage me and say it’s great!
  2. I’m up for some bad news, but please tread lightly.
  3. Tear it up and dissect it for every flaw.

There is no wrong option as long as you’re being honest with yourself and with me.

Tell Me I’m Pretty

There is nothing bad about simply wanting praise and encouragement to build confidence.  We humans are pack animals and are evolutionarily designed to thrive on the acceptance and approval of our group.  I understand that, and I can usually find at least one element to rave about.

Sometimes an artist needs brutal honesty, because they want to create a very specific effect for their audience.  But if a piece is less for the audience and more for the artist themselves, there may be sensitive and vulnerable feelings tied up in it.  When an artist has a deep personal connection to their piece, it feels like the art is a literal part of them.  How many artists have you heard brag, “My art reflects my soul,” or some other statement that entwines the artist’s sense of self with their work?  If someone then critiques the art, the emotionally-invested artist can’t help but take that critique personally – someone is finding fault with their art, and is in effect finding fault with them as an artist and a person.  In reality, few critics are actually critiquing the artist as a person.  (I’ll admit there are supercilious assholes out there, but most of us mean well.)

A friend with limited expertise in a medium can be relied on for enthusiastic compliments or even full blown white lies.  But there are different expectations on feedback from someone who has knowledge and understanding of the art in question.  The artist is presumably asking for ways to become a better artist.  A critic who is also a mentor or teacher may even feel a responsibility to offer “constructive criticism”, even if the artist isn’t exactly in the best mental/emotional place to receive it.  How can a critic know if the artist is looking for approval and validation, or if the artist is looking for guidance on their next steps to develop their skills?

Easy.  Ask them what they need.  And let them know that needing praise and encouragement without critique is completely ok and normal.

Into the Breach

If an artist decides they want something more aggressive, I will point out the strong points and the weak points.  For the weak points, I will try to specifically describe why it is off, but I avoid telling them how to “fix” it.  First, I don’t want to limit our conversation to how to improve this specific piece.  I want the artist to learn how to recognize weak points on their own, and to build their personal tool box of editing skills.

Second, I want to make sure their piece retains their voice.  When I was in college, I took a Stage Direction class.  After I presented one of my scenes, the professor started offering guidance, but wound up completely changing the entire scene around – different blocking, different delivery, different nuances – and utterly demolished any semblance of what I had wanted to say.  It wasn’t teaching.  It was replacing my vision with hers.  I wound up dropping the class.

I went on to direct plays in the SCA despite this unfortunate incident, and I have full confidence in my talents and abilities in that arena.  But when a respected teacher basically tells a student that their vision is WRONG, it’s easy to imagine that student giving up in frustration and/or shame.  Having come close myself, I don’t want to put anyone else in that position.

I may offer some suggestions, but they are only that – suggestions.  And if my ideas are way off base from what they are trying to do, I want them to tell me.  I can better help them reach their vision if I have a more clear idea of what it is.  But in the end, this is their message and their words.  And I want them to be the one who tells it.

Teaching the Teacher

It’s been a long journey from a casual artist to a serious artist to a teacher of art.  It is always an honor to be asked to help other artists on their paths.  My hope is that the people I have mentored will go on to mentor others in the future.  And I also hope that as they learn about their art, they learn something about how to help others learn about their arts too.

Whipcord Gallery

I’ve been busy since I started playing with whipcord.  Here are some of the different looks I’ve been able to create.  (Please pardon the over-exposure of some of the shots.  My only camera is my phone, and I’m still learning how to adjust things.)


Simple, 4-strand cords with a 3:1 color scheme produce a speckled cord.

Left – Three black to one red.

Right – Three turquoise to one yellow.


4-strand, single-pass cords, but with twists inserted to periodically change the pattern.  The twists that change the pattern are seamless in the finished cord.

Left – After every 10 sets of passes I swapped two of my strings to alternate between spiral and stripe patterns.

Middle and Right – After every 10 sets of passes, I inserted a double-pass.  This caused the direction of the spiral to reverse.  (It’s much easier to see on the black/white cord than the purple/yellow.  In person, the purple/yellow is actually quite nice.)


4-strand striped cords in three colors are great for showcasing a dominant color with two secondary colors.

Left – Single-passes.  Two black stripes with green and white passing each other for the other stripes.

Middle and Right – Single/Double-passes.  The dominant color (red in the middle cord, yellow in the cord on the right) is single-passed, and the other two are double-passed.  Notice  in the middle cord how the black is more prominent at the top, but the white shows more toward the bottom.  This is due to the uneven pattern of stitches formed by a double-pass – a larger stitch and a smaller one that wraps around it.  When slynging yarn, these cords make lovely trim or couching cord with a dominant, secondary, and tertiary color.  The secondary and tertiary color is determined by which side you attach face-up on your project, as they will be the opposite on the flipped side.


4-strand spiral cords in three colors.  The dominant color is still evident in the solid spiral twisting around the other colors, but it’s not as striking as the stripes.  But it’s still a pretty cord.  All of these are single-passes.


Double-passed cords.

Left – Double-passed, 6-string stripes in blue, white, and yellow.  A simple color scheme, but a deeply textured cord.

Middle – Double-passed, 4-string “spiral” in blue and green.  The string arrangement on the hands would produce a spiral if it was single-passed, but since the double-pass puts the string back on its original side, the color never carries around the cord.  It does make a neat herringbone pattern, though.

Left – Double-passed, 4-string, tri-color in white (2), purple (1), and black (1).  The white strings were in one hand, passing with the black and purple strings in the other hand.  This would produce a three-color spiral if it was done with single-passes.


6-string cords.  The string arrangements for each of these cords are shown below.

Left – In-and-Out in blue, red, and black.  I describe this pattern in a previous post.

Right – An embattled cord in black and yellow made with single-passes in an asterisk pattern.  Due to the CW twist of the black 1-4 pair (the other pairs are CCW), it looks like yellow embattlements on a black field.  If the yellow pair had the contrary twist (i.e. twined in the opposite direction of the other two pairs), it would look like black embattlements on a yellow field.


These are just a few of the looks you can achieve with whipcords.  There is much more creativity available to you than the basic stripes and spirals.

Distaff Holster

One way of supporting your whipcord distaff is by tucking your skirt or shirt into a belt and  anchoring the end in the resulting fold.  But I didn’t particularly want to risk poking a hole into or skewing the weave of my clothes.  So I devised a small holster that I could easily hang on my belt.  Having dealt with plenty of hangy-downy-things on my belts before, I also wanted to be able to remove it without having to completely take the belt off.


How To

I have a 1 ½” wide belt, and my holster will work for up to a 2″ belt.  If your belt is significantly wider, you can adjust the fastener as needed.

Start with a 16″ x 2 ½” strip of a heavy cloth like trigger or duck.  (I used a piece of trigger twice that size, and doubled it over to make finished edges without having to hem.)

Fold up the lower 4 ½” to form the holster pocket and stitch it down on either side.  Just a reminder – don’t sew the mouth closed at the top.


I used a button and button hole, spaced as shown above, to make the belt loop.

And that’s all there was to it.  It supports and stabilizes the distaff really well while standing or sitting, and is super convenient to use.  Feel free to get creative with yours.  Embroider it, paint it, or tool one in leather.  Or keep it simple and practical.  As long as it serves its purpose.