Sonnet or Not – The Bref Double Form

Do you write poetry in free verse? Or do you prefer the discipline of forms? Perhaps you see the sonnet form as difficult? Well, the form discussed this month is easier to use than the sonnet form. Maybe this will encourage you to try it out.

The sonnet is characterized through several key features: it has a turn or Volta, a complex rhyme scheme, regular line length often using pentameter, stanza breaks, and have fourteen lines. Right? Or only partially correct? Over centuries of use of this form, there have been many variants of the form tried by poets and many instances where these traditional characteristics do not appear for good artistic reasons. Some sonnets are unrhymed but still retain the turn or volta. Furthermore, there are forms of the same length that are not sonnets at all.

Fourteen-line poems that are not sonnets are generically called quatorzain or fourteen-liners. I have looked at some of these already, like the fourteen-line Rondel, the pairing of a decima with a quatrain, etc. They show the variety available should you wish to stray off the already wide path of the sonnet world.

I recently tried to write a Bref Double and enjoyed the form. It feels like a halfway point between an unrhymed sonnet and a rhymed one. It has a looser feel. Easier to rhyme than a sonnet. There is less of the sense of a turn or volta, although the final couplet could offer a narrative revelation or conclusion.

The Bref Double is a fourteen-line French poetic form that has four stanzas comprising three quatrains and a final couplet. It has three only end-rhymes: A, B and C instead of the seven rhymes in the English sonnet form. The A and B rhymes appear twice somewhere in the first three stanzas and once each in the couplet. The C rhyme is the final line of each of the three quatrains. For example, AxxC AxBC xxBC AB or AxxC BxxC ABxC AB or ABxC xxxC AB. With some stanzas having two or three unrhymed lines, the form makes it easier to choose more effective line endings without being constrained to find those full or slant rhymes. The lines should be the same length. Out of habit, I wrote mine in pentameter.

It is not a very well-known form. In a workshop recently, I had one person saying they thought it was a sonnet that broke the rules. I had to explain. Comments also raised the pitfall that the last couplet could easily become redundant, since it does not necessarily have the rhetorical flourish of a Shakespearean sonnet.

Why not give it a try?

Thanks to Robert Lee Brewer on his website for pointing out this form. Bref Double: Poetic Form | French Form Explained With Example Poem – Writer’s Digest (

Sonnet or Not - Bref Double 20220530

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