Week Six: The Décima

**Special Announcement: This week’s post will feature a bonus original poem from poet and singer-songwriter Brandon Barnett!**

Meet the Décima

The Décima poetic form is widely used in poetry and song throughout Spain and Latin America, though the requirements may vary somewhat by region. People who write and perform décimas are often referred to as decimistas or deimeros. The form is also known as the espinela in Spanish, after the creator of the modern version of the décima, writer and musician Vicente Gómez Martínez-Espinel.

Photo caption: Spanish writer and musician Vicente Gómez Martínez-Espinel

Regional Variations

A few regional variations are listed below. Pick your favorite, or try them all!

Puerto Rico: Consists of a 10-line stanza, with 8 syllables per line (octosyllabic) and an abbaaccddc rhyme scheme

Italy: The decima Italiana is a 10-line poem, with 8-syllable lines and an ababcdedec rhyme scheme

Ecuador: Here the décima is a 44-line poem made up of a quatrain and four ten-line stanzas. It’s nearly identical to the glosa poetic form

Poetry and Song

The song form of the décima usually consists of 44 lines and is often improvised. Much like the “freestyle rap battle” of modern hip-hop, Decimeros often challenge one another with dueling songs as a way to show off the composer’s wit and skill.

Requirements of the Form

The requirements listed below are for the Puerto Rican poetic form:

Form

– Single 10-line stanza

Content

-Subject matter varies widely, but common themes include philosophy religion, and politics. Satirical décimas are often humorous.

Syllable Count

– 8 syllables per line

Rhyme Scheme

– abbaaccddc

An Original Décima Poem

After Maria

The cameras flash, Trump fakes a smile;
He holds his breath, swallows a growl,
And throws a roll of paper towels.
Empathy missed by a mile
For Puerto Rico, enchanted isle.
No concern for the common health
of neighbors in the commonwealth;
Once slaving for the hacienda,
Victims of encomienda,
They fight to own a sense of self.

*An Original Décima Poem by Special Guest, Brandon Barnett*

We never knocked on rust-streaked doors
but entered like the bums we were
with hair so ragged–greased like fur–
and alcohol from every pore

The only word we spoke was “more!”
with glassy eyes on shining things
refulgent suds the evening brings
and singing out in harmony

But all that now is far from me
Though oft-recalled with mem’ry strings

Online Resources

Decima – Wikipedia
The Decima –  Puerto Rican Cuatro Project
Decima – Writer’s Digest
Decima Poem Lesson – American Collection
Vicente Espinel – Wikipedia

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