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A Sapphic of Death Row

His hair singes, blazing, warm: smoulders musk tongued—
swollen, clumsy, searching the cavity of gums;
hands encased in leather, sweaty grip tightens.
The electric chair whirrs.

Style / type: 
Structured: Western
Review Request (Intensity): 
I want the raw truth, feel free to knock me on my back
Review Request (Direction): 
How was my language use?
What did you think of the rhythm or pattern or pacing?
Is the internal logic consistent?
Last few words: 
My first attempt at a Sapphic, I would love to know how I could improve this and make it work as a poem! It has recently been suggested to me to make it longer with a few more stanzas, does anyone think that would help? Please feel free to help me with the Sapphic rhyme scheme and structure, as it definitely needs working on!
Editing stage: 


Not that familiar with the sapphic form myself, gonna have to re-read a bit. As I recall it is almost entirely meter-based, rhyme strictly optional.

First read is impressive and courageous write. I don't know about the extras, my sense is that it is the moment you want.

First crit is "whirrs". You know what I went away with? Not the stench of scorched flesh in my nostrils but someone about to find himself surrounded by gentle Eloi.

A rather unorthodox suggestion- burn some hair and make yourself sniff it- find an ending from there.

Like Bee, I'll need to get back to you on this one. It's certainly worth the effort.

A new workshop on the most important element of poetry-
'Rhythm and Meter in Poetry'

Thanks Jess! I'm beginning to think it definitely needs a second stanza.

You're right, ' whirrs' really needs to be changed. I'm going to go and read over some of Sappho's translated work again and some other poets who dabbled in sapphic form.

Just need to get few the first few weeks of uni until I can start thinking about poetry again.

author comment


my initial thought is that this piece does not need a further stanza. You have captured the image and feeling of the electric chair and its victim. You have given enough for the reader to create the visual in their head and leaving enough space for them to add their own detail. If you must add in another stanza, then I would suggest the graphic analysis of the victim after the 'shock'.

I have worked with this Sapphic style before and always worked to a strict:

11 syllables
11 syllables
11 syllables
5 syllables

this is what I was taught at school by my poetry teacher who seemed to always push me harder than anybody else...he told me I had the ability to be a great poet...just needed to lose my attitude...I proved him wrong. I didn't have the ability and I never lost my attitude...but I'll never forget his poetic teachings.

Assuming you worked with the same syllable count as I have, then your piece needs a tweak. I have tweaked it as an example:

his hair singes, blazing, warm: smoulders musk tongued - 11
swollen, numb, searching the cavity of gums: - 11
hands encased in leather, sweaty grip tightens - 11
The chair sparks to life - 5

Obviously if you are working a different sequence, then my example isn't important.

I took out 'electric' from the last line as I felt you'd made it pretty clear it was an electric chair and it made sense to give the line an action of the chair rather than an explanation. Also 'electric' has 3 syllables which doesn't give you much space for much else! Lol!

I swapped 'clumsy' with 'numb' which I didn't think took away from the feeling you were portraying, and reduced the syllable count by one.

Great subject matter and well described with the Sapphic rules of engagement.

I hope you post some more. You have me thinking about writing some in this style thanks for the inspiration.

kind regards,


Workshops are now open:
With all that I am and all that I could be, I walk this earth, yet nobody sees me.


you seem to have a good understanding of this form, so i wouldn't assume you were now redundant in offering suggestions. I am no master of sapphic...although a google search of sapphic does throw up some intersting porn sites!!

I liked the chair sparking to life as it was the life of the chair that takes the life of the victim.



Workshops are now open:
With all that I am and all that I could be, I walk this earth, yet nobody sees me.

Hi Mean Bee,

I was using the scheme with trochees and dactyl's that you're speaking of, but I was also using the long and short sounds in the words rather than the traditional stressed and unstressed syllables in the ancient Greek.

Do the scheme seem to work with the long and short sounds? This work still needs lots of work and as suggested by everyone I need to really mull over the syllable scheme in sapphics.

Thanks so much for your critique and suggestions!

author comment

I read some info on the Sapphic poetry form. Too much for my poor brain to comprehend though I have great respect for those endowed with the ability to write poetry in strict forms such as this.

I enjoyed your first write as intelligent and brash, though I am woefully incompetent to critique this form.

Don't know about *encased*, seems *tethered, manacled or shackled* would be more appropriate as syllable count would not change.

***5/26/11 manacled is 3 syllables, duh!***

The end word has me perplexed. Whirr is somehow too *neutral* a world yet it gives me a feeling of the moment before the final jolt.

Welcome aboard, Michelle. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work as I, an old bitch, enjoy learning new tricks and taking my mind out for a walk now and then.


I find sapphic to disciplined, though i also admire the skill involved. I would like to welcome you to neopoet, and promise to find out more about sapphic.Then maybe, be able to give an outsiders opinion. Regards Roscoe...

Roscoe Llane,

Religion will rip your faith off, and return
for the mask of disbelief that's left.

we need to smell burning flesh for this poem to be truly effective.

A new workshop on the most important element of poetry-
'Rhythm and Meter in Poetry'


the chair chars the flesh (for the 5 count)


First of all I bow to anyone with the skill to follow lines laid down whether haiku, senryu, sonnet form, and now Sapphic. My only contribution here would be to think more on descriptive lines, smell, taste, lines that evoke the senses within a poem I think can really make your work come alive. Thanks for posting. You certainly enrich this site with your poetrry.


Please tell me what is a Sapphic Poem? All I can think is the ancient Greek poetess Sappho please excuse my ignorance.


No that's exactly right! A aapphic poem is based on the very tight structure that the ancient Greek poet Sappho wrote in. Her poems were once larger works but when the library of Alexandria was burnt down only fragments or random stanzas of her work her left. So the idea of a sapphic is have the idea of something unfinished permeating the work.

You're not ignorant at all :)!

your friend,

author comment

interesting to read about the Greeks
whose love of reading poetry and
the arts was well known
I wonder what she sounded like
reciting her works
I too am ignorant ot style beyond
free verse and some rhymne
but now I now of this
and I like the fact that someone
took the time to sift through the
ruins and salvage her works
and kept them stripped as they
found them with just specific

amazing this poetry business!

a hardy effort that reads well

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