The duplex is a form composed of seven couplets, with nine to eleven syllables per line. The second line of each couplet is echoed in the first line of the following couplet, and the first line of the poem is also echoed in its last.

More about the Duplex

This contemporary poetic form was invented by Jericho Brown and is known as a gutted sonnet—that is, part ghazal, part blues poem. For years, Brown meditated on the sonnet form, and through literary experimentation, he devised this poetic form, which is featured in his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). In “Invention,” a 2019 blog post published by the Poetry Foundation, Brown explains:

I decided to call the form a duplex because something about its repetition and its couplets made me feel like it was a house with two addresses. It is, indeed, a mutt of a form as so many of us in this nation are only now empowered to live fully in all of our identities. I wanted to highlight the trouble of a wall between us who live within a single structure.

Within a single structure, the duplex is comprised of fourteen lines arranged in couplets, wherein each line is between nine and eleven syllables, the second line of the first couplet is echoed in the first line of the second couplet, and so on, and the first line of the poem is also its last.

Examples of the Duplex

In addition to its inclusion in The Tradition, there is also the example of the poem “Duplex” by Jericho Brown:

               A poem is a gesture toward home.
               It makes dark demands I call my own.

                             Memory makes demands darker than my own:
                             My last love drove a burgundy car.

               My first love drove a burgundy car.
               He was fast and awful, tall as my father.

                            Steadfast and awful, my tall father
                            Hit hard as a hailstorm. He’d leave marks.

               Light rain hits easy but leaves its own mark
               Like the sound of a mother weeping again.

                            Like the sound of my mother weeping again,
                            No sound beating ends where it began.

               None of the beaten end up how we began.
               A poem is a gesture toward home.

Another example wherein the echo of repetition does not occur in the last phrase of each line is “Duplex: Black Mamas Praying” by Antoinette Brim-Bell:

               Black Mamas stay on their knees praying. Cursing
               the lies folks tell ’bout how the world don’t need you—

               “The world don’t need you” is a lie folks tell themselves
               when they step over blood gelled black and slick.

               Folks step over black blood gelled and slick to get
               on with things—don’t bring bones to the cemetery.

               Bones in the cemetery, hear the prophecy:
               —together, bone to bone—tendons and flesh—skin—

               bone to bone—tendons and flesh—skin—together,
               four winds breathe into these slain, that they may live—

               —breathe, four winds, into these slain. That they may live—
               Calling forth prophecy is no light work, No—

               but, for Joshua, the sun stood still—the moon stopped.
               Black Mamas stay on your knees praying—praying—

From these examples, one can see that the content of a duplex can vary. However, what is stressed by Jericho Brown in “Invention” are the surprises that occur within the poem, and the journey it unfolds.