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Poetic Form: The Bop

Updated on January 19, 2013

Like most modern forms, The Bop has both contextual and structural aspects. Also, like most modern forms, the structural part is pretty loose, that is, the poet is given complete freedom concerning syllable stress, number of syllables or words, to rhyme or not to rhyme, etcetera. The contextual aspect is that the poem tells a certain kind of story in a certain order.

It goes like this:

  • First stanza, six lines, outlines a problem
  • Second stanza, eight lines long, describes the problem
  • Third stanza, six lines, solves or demonstrates the failure to solve the problem
  • Each stanza is followed by the same “refrain” line

This same contextual structure is used in novels and short stories as well. Take the Trojan War, for instance:

  • Problem: Troy abducts Helen
  • Expansion: Though the Greeks are angry, Troy is fortified and well armed
  • Solution: Trojan (actually Greek) Horse

You get the idea.

A variation on the The Bop adds a fourth six-line stanza, once again followed by the refrain line. Following is an example of a three-stanza Bop:

Me and Sisyphus


All my life I’ve rolled a big ball
Of money up the mountain
Of desire. Sisyphus and me
We are not getting any younger
Serving out sentences
Doled out by vengeful gods

Sisyphus keeps rolling that rock up the mountain.

Each day the mountain gets steeper
As I get older my knees get weaker
Wind blows some dollars away
Bandits in helicopters grab fistfuls and fly
While I continue to try, day by day
Life seems only to get worse
Me and Sisyphus, both cursed 
With endurance

Sisyphus keeps rolling that rock up the mountain.

Come a day the load gets too heavy
The knees too weak, all a body
Can do is just to let it go
Watch the big ball bounce on down
“Look,” said Sisyphus. You got no money!”
I said, “I know, pal. I’ll see you around, okay?”

Sisyphus keeps rolling that rock up the mountain.

It’s fun, sometimes, to get a mythical character involved in your work, and useful, too. They always symbolize a human trait or condition of life: heroes, victims, the loyal and the faithless, the one who rises to power, the one who fails and falls into despondency and death. This is the stuff of drama.

I think I’ll try another Bop:

All I Ever Wanted To Do Was Play


Will I ever know
If it was a lack of talent
Laziness or fear
Or a trick of the Universe
That I could not find it in myself
To be a musician

All I ever wanted to do was play

The trombone is not very
Commercially sought after
Most rock bands want a sax
If they want any brass at all
And then there is the specter
Of the synthesizer
Looming to cut the overhead
Of the band by a horn section

All I ever wanted to do was play

I found places to play
Non-professionally
As my day job and family
Took over my life
Making music
Became a hobby

All I ever wanted to do was play

I think it is a very satisfying form to fool around with. I hope other poets will fool around with it, too.

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    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Anginwu! The Bop is a lot of fun. I am very glad you enjoyed the poem. :)

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 

      6 years ago

      I have never heard of Bop too but I love the fun element involved and the refrain ties the whole poem together. Love your Sysiphus poem.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you so much, Robie!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      6 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Who knew about the Bop? But I love both poems-- especially the first one. I relate to the Sysiphus image and I love the notion of him rolling a big ball of money-- fabulous image. Voted up up up on all counts.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      I think the Bop is a good vehicle for delivering any kind of message in a powerful way, although the contextual guidelines might be limiting, Minnetonka. Keep me posted and let me know when you try it out!

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Tom-I absolutely love the pace of the "Bop" form. Can this type of poetry be any type of poetry: lyrical, prose etc... I can't wait to try this Tom so I'll be bookmarking it.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Yes, I can tell you're having fun, and that's what it's all about..Cheers

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks, Ruby. Can you tell I am having fun with this?

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Awesome, Brand new to me, very interesting...

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Ytsenoh! I also prefer free verse, but I think that working with the discipline of a form is good for a poet, for practice, and it can also be inspiring. Thanks again.

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 

      6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Thank you. I've never heard of this form, but it sounds like fun and sometimes it's fun to simply write freely and after studying the forms of poetry, I still prefer free verse.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      I think its origins are in the "call and response" tradition, often used in sermons.

      "Can I hear you say amen?!"

      "AMEN!!"

    • rai2722 profile image

      rai2722 

      6 years ago

      Very interesting hub. Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

    • joejagodensky profile image

      joejagodensky 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Very clever and entertaining. I think preachers could use this method to keep the congregation attentive. There is a consistency to this method that keeps you tuned in. Thanks.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      That's awesome, JK. What a great result. Thank you

    • juneaukid profile image

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      6 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Hey, Tom, I'm going to try this one in class regarding the subject matter they're learning.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Eiddwen! Please, if anyone does try it out, please show me. I'd love to see it.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      6 years ago from Wales

      I also have never heard of the blop form but I am going to give it a go.

      Thanks for sharing this hub.

      Take care and have a womderful weekend.

      Eiddwen.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Jerilee!

      Thank you, Cardisa. It's fun to search around for forms of poetry that aren't so commonly known. It makes me think of the incredible range of expression in human language.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      This is really fun. Never heard of this form but am certainly going to try it and your poems, especially the first one was quite funny to me.

      Bandits in helicopters.....you know the rest. Sounds like one of those weird comedy movies...lol

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      6 years ago from United States

      I'd never heard of it either and I just love it!

    • Tom Rubenoff profile imageAUTHOR

      Tom Rubenoff 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thank you, Susan!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'd never heard of the blop form before. This looks like a fun new way to write a poem. Good luck in the contest.

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