Not unlike the Shakespearean sonnet in trajectory, the Bop is a form of poetic argument consisting of three stanzas, each stanza followed by a repeated line, or refrain, and each undertaking a different purpose in the overall argument of the poem. Like a Shakespearian sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem.
The first stanza (six lines long) states the problem
The second stanza (eight lines long) explores or expands upon the problem.
If there is a resolution to the problem, the third stanza (six lines long) finds it. If a substantive resolution cannot be made, then this final stanza documents the attempt and failure to succeed.
Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition. This is a recent invention, the Bop was created by Afaa Michael Weaver during a summer retreat of the African American poetry organization, Cave Canem. Although it is a young form, the Bop already existed in variations.
Here’s an example of a Bop poem written by Weaver, and here’s another by the poet Ravi Shankar.
In addition to the three-stanza Bop, some have added a six-line fourth stanza, still ending on the refrain. A good example of how a Bop introduces the crisis at hand, is a poem by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, whose first book, Black Swan, features three Bop poems. One of them, called “Bop: Haunting,” begins:
In the evening she comes, her same unsatisfied self,
with the hard, smug look of salvation. Mama,
stop bothering me. When we argue, she says
what you’re saying is not scriptural.
You need to get back in your Bible.
In one dream, I slap her. I’m tired of her mouth.
I hate to see the evening
Sun go down
In this case, the refrain “I hate to see the evening / Sun go down” appears at the end of the subsequent two stanzas, suggesting the mournful, blue tone of the speaker who, at the end, seems not to have found the solution to her “conjuring” woes.