Week Eighteen: The Somonka


If you enjoyed last week’s form, The Tanka, you should enjoy The Somonka twice as much! It is simply two tankas written in conversation with one another. Traditionally, the somonka reflects upon a theme of love and is written by two authors. But you may find modern somonka written by a single author in two voices. The theme of love may also be adapted and expanded beyond purely romantic sentiments to include love of friends and family, a precious object, or even the world itself.


“Sugar,” by Robert Lee Brewer

I’m waiting to die;
I think it will happen soon–
this morning, I saw
two bright hummingbirds battling
over some sugar water.

I know; I was there.
I chased after them for you
until thirst stopped me.
Fetch me some water. I have
a little sugar for you.

Requirements of the Form


– Consists of two five-line tankas for a total of ten lines


– Usually revolves around a theme of love
– The second tanka responds to the first in some way

~~For all other requirements, see last week’s post~~

An Original Somonka


You love the winter,
the delicacy of snow.
I love your warmth,
the lightness of your fingers,
your perfect paper snowflakes.

You love the autumn
a golden world unfolding
I love your growth
dexterous like a spider
weaving into creation

Notes on Our Original Somonka

Special thanks to my lovely wife, Emily, who contributed the second tanka of this somonka.

Links to Online Resources

Somonka – Writer’s Digest
Somonka – Poet’s Collective
American Tanka
Tanka – Writer’s Digest
Tanka – AHA Poetry


–Creative works are owned by the author and subject to copyright laws

Week Seventeen: The Tanka


The Tanka is a Japanese form closely related to the haiku. It’s a slightly longer form–made up of a quintet rather than a tercet–but maintains the haiku’s somewhat strict syllable restrictions. While some of the conventions associated with the haiku are still present–such as the focus on imagery–the tone of the tanka may be more conversational. Restrictions on the use of poetic devices such as metaphor and personification are also more relaxed.

Tanka burning Buddhist statues – Wikimedia Commons

Two Paths to the Tanka

There are two ways to approach the syllable requirements of a Japanese form such as the tanka when composing outside of the original language.

One approach uses the syllable requirements of the English haiku (the well known 5-7-5 rule) as a guide. Following this pattern, the syllable count for the tanka would become 5-7-5-7-7. Strict adherence to this method would result in a tanka of exactly thirty-one syllables. Since the way that syllables are counted in the two languages are not directly comparable, this is only an approximation of the original form.

The second approach is to use what I’ll call the short-long-short method, in which the length of the lines, and the difference between them, is more important than the actual syllable count. Using this method, the lines of the tanka would be written short-long-short-long-long. Using this method, the tanka is often shorter than thirty-one syllables (the number of syllables per line is more likely to be lowered than raised). Some would argue that this method is more in the spirit of the original Japanese form.

*Visit American Tanka for more on the history of the tanka.*

A Tanka by Saigyo*

Beside the roadway
a flowing of clear water
in a willow’s shade
I thought for just a short while
to linger and take a rest.

*12th century Japanese poet and priest

Requirements of the Form


– most often made of a single quintet


Similarities with haiku
– focus on brevity, immediacy
– use of natural imagery
– often features an unexpected “turn” in the final lines of the poem

Differences from haiku
– allows figurative language such as metaphor
– may have relaxed, more conversational tone

Syllable Count

– Option One (Based on English Haiku): 5-7-5-7-7
Option Two (Truer to Japanese Form): Short-Long-Short-Long-Long


– not typically metrical


– not usually rhymed

Requirements Breakdown

[Line 1] 5 Syllables (short line)
[Line 2] 7 Syllables (longer line)
[Line 3] 5 Syllables (short line)
[Line 4] 7 Syllables (longer line)
[Line 5] 7 Syllables (longer line)

Three Original Tanka

The Artist Knows

The artist knows
the bee in the sunflowers
shares a great lesson:
keep collecting that nectar
and the honey will come.


The volcano,
long covered by the blue
ice of the glacier,
will soon strike out with fiery
eruptions of consequence.

Like a Child Moving

Like a child moving
endlessly from game to game
without tiring–
in the hummingbird’s garden
our hearts dance from joy to joy.

Links to Online Resources

American Tanka
Tanka – Writer’s Digest
Tanka – AHA Poetry


–Creative works are owned by the author and subject to copyright laws

Week Sixteen: The Haiku Sonnet


A unique experimental form born of the mashup of eastern and western poetic traditions, the Haiku Sonnet combines the syllable count and three-line stanzaic structure of the English Haiku with the fourteen-line structure of the sonnet. I first learned of the form –and many of the forms collected for this challenge– from David Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest, but the form appears to be an invention of Chicago poet David Marshall.

David Marshall on the Haiku Sonnet

Conceptually, it’s an attempt to wed two like and unlike forms. To me, the sonnet seems the quintessential western poetic form, defined by the order and rationality of its problem-resolution organization. Depending how you see it, the haiku might be just as organized—haiku certainly have strong rules and conventions. Because haiku can rely, just as a sonnet does, on a sort of reversal—a “volta” in sonnets, a “kireji” in haiku—they may be distant cousins. However, haiku are eastern, and, where sonnets are rational, haiku are resonant. Where sonnets solve—or attempt to solve—haiku observe.

David Marshall – Haiku Sonnets

A Haiku Sonnet by David Marshall


I remember winter
now that it’s here—the next word
in a song, a plea

for love you forget
until a character speaks.
Now I remember—

outside this window,
one leaf clung all winter. Wind
set it fluttering

like a hummingbird.
Its sociable flicker was
like life. One day

it flew away, and I thought—
it wouldn’t ever come back.

Requirements of the Form


– Four three-line stanzas (tercets) followed by two-line stanza (couplet) for a total of fourteen lines


– Written in the present tense
– Syntax may be incomplete to maximize power of brevity
– Refers to time of day or season
– Focuses on a natural image
– ‘Show, don’t tell’ approach
– May contain a ‘volta’ or turn of thought
– Captures essence of a moment
– Aims at sudden insight, spiritual illumination

Syllable Count

– Begins with a sequence of four tercets with a syllable count of 5-7-5
– Ends with a couplet with a syllable count of either 5 or 7 syllables per line


– No meter


– Unrhymed

Requirements Breakdown

[Line 1] 5 Syllables
[Line 2] 7 Syllables
[Line 3] 5 Syllables

(repeat for lines 4 – 12)

[Line 13] 5 or 7 Syllables
[Line 14] 5 or 7 Syllables

An Original Haiku Sonnet

Among Cottonwoods

The autumn wind blows–
the storms of summer did not
drown the cottonwood.

From the hollow trunk,
monarchs fly away from death
and the coming frost.

They will return when
the soft white snowdrifts of seeds
burst forth in April.

The artist seated
at the roots will have to wait
to carve the soft wood.

Among cottonwoods,
the soul climbs and reaches out.

Links to Online Resources

Haiku Sonnets – David Marshall
Haiku Sonnet – Writer’s Digest

Week Fifteen: The Lune


The Lune–also known as the American Haiku–is a thirteen-syllable variation of the English Haiku created by American poet Robert Kelly (it may also be referred to as the Kelly Lune). Kelly’s adaptation of the better-known English Haiku–which also features a tercet, but with the 5-7-5 syllable count we all learned in school–shortened the syllable count from seventeen to thirteen and opened up the form by not requiring some of the haiku’s distinguishing features, such as the focus on nature.

One source proposes that Kelly chose the word lune (the French word for moon) to describe his adapted haiku form because the syllable count matches the thirteen lunar months of the year.

A Lune by Robert Kelly:

thin sliver of the
crescent moon
high up the real world

Requirements of the Form


– Consists of any number of tercets, though a single tercet is most common


– Open, but generally has a sense of immediacy
— Often lacks punctuation, capitalization

Syllable Count

[Line 1] Five syllables
[Line 2] Three syllables
[Line 3] Five syllables


– No requirements


– Typically not rhymed

Three Original Lunes

the woods by the creek

the woods by the creek
all our best
silences were there


she watches, wonders

she watches, wonders
in silence
the child in the leaves

who will comfort her
as she cries
as her forests burn


from ancient darkness

from ancient darkness
sudden light
galaxies of soul

Links to Online Resources

Lune – Writer’s Digest
Lune – Poets Collective
Poetic Forms: Haiku, Senryu, Tanka, and Lunes – lestersmith.com
Robert Kelly – Poets.org
Robert Kelly (Poet) – Wikipedia
The Lune and Robert Kelly – The Line Break
Various Moons – Poetsonearth.com


–Original creative works are owned by the
author and subject to copyright laws

Week Fourteen: The Bop


The Bop may be the newest form on the list and it won’t have you counting syllables or even rhyming–this one is all about structure. With a total of twenty lines, it’s also the longest form so far. It’s got a set number of stanzas and line count with a refrain between stanzas, but beyond that, it’s pretty open. The problem/solution aspect of the poem (more on that below) adds an interesting twist to the form.

The Bop was invented and developed by celebrated Baltimore poet, Afaa Michael Weaver, winner of many prestigious awards including a Fulbright Scholarship and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His most recent poetry collection, Spirit Boxing, was published in 2017.

Caption: Afaa Michael Weaver–acclaimed poet, short-story writer, editor, and inventor of The Bop.

Example – “Rambling”

“Rambling” by Afaa Michael Weaver – 1950-
                in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary

In general population, census
is consensus—ain’t nowhere to run
to in these walls, walls like a mind—
We visitors stand in a yellow circle
so the tower can frisk us with light,
finger the barrels on thirsty rifles.

I got rambling, rambling on my mind

In general population, madness runs
swift through the river changing, changing
in hearts, men tacked in their chairs,
resigned to hope we weave into air,
talking this and talking that and one brutha
asks Tell us how to get these things
They got, these houses, these cars.
We want the real revolution. Things…

I got rambling, got rambling on my mind

In the yellow circle the night stops
like a boy shot running from a Ruger 9mm
carrying .44 magnum shells, a sista
crying in the glass booth to love’s law,
to violence of backs bent over to the raw
libido of men, cracking, cracking, crack…

I got rambling, rambling on my mind

Requirements of the Form


– Made of three stanzas, each followed by a single-line refrain.
— Stanza 1 contains six lines
— Stanza 2 contains eight lines
— Stanza 3 contains six lines


– Poet’s choice, but often a problem or conflict is introduced in the first stanza, which is then expanded up in the second stanza, and resolved (if possible) in the third.

–Don’t forget the single-line refrain after each stanza.

Syllable Count

– no requirements


– no requirements


– no requirements

An Original Bop

We were born between rivers [an original bop]

We were born between rivers in the green
heart of the fertile valley. Our skin grew rich
with sun and deep black soil. We saw a light
and recognized a soul. Our dark eyes grew
wide and pulsed with power. Our hands
grew strong and eager and began to drum.

I do not know what it is—but I know it is in me.

In the chant we found a human voice; we cried
and sang. We danced and the rhythm overtook
our feet. Our feet that could not stop began
to wander. In our wandering we found a world
unconquered and in our new restlessness set
to test our will against it. We marched from
war to war–war within and war without–
and we forgot the soul, the voice, the dance.

I do not know what it is—but I know it is in me.

When we remember our soul like water
flowing, our eyes like oceans swimming
in starlight, our hands like branches reaching,
our feet like roots plunging, seeking a center,
We will then remember the strength of stillness.
We will then remember the power of peace.

I do not know what it is—but I know it is in me.

A note on my original bop

My refrain is taken from the following quote:
“There is that in me—I do not know what it is—but I know it is in me.”
— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, Part 50

Links to Online Resources

Afaa Michael Weaver – Time Magazine
Afaa M. Weaver – Wikipedia
The Bop – Writer’s Digest
The Bop: Poetic Form – Poets.org


–Original creative works are owned by the
author and subject to copyright laws

Week Thirteen: The Kyrielle


Two French forms in as many weeks? C’est fou! Good thing they’re a joy to write! The kyrielle is said to have originated in troubadour poetry, which would place its emergence somewhere between the 11th and 14th centuries. It is also associated with and adapted from the kýrie of Christian liturgy. Like many French forms–including last week’s Triolet— the kyrielle features a simple rhyme scheme, uniform syllable count, and a repeated line in each stanza.

Caption: The troubadour Perdigon playing his fiddle (Wikipedia).

Featured Kyrielle

by Theodore Roethke

O what’s the weather in a Beard? 
It’s windy there, and rather weird, 
And when you think the sky has cleared 
— Why, there is Dirty Dinky. 

Suppose you walk out in a Storm, 
With nothing on to keep you warm, 
And then step barefoot on a Worm 
— Of course, it’s Dirty Dinky. 

As I was crossing a hot hot Plain, 
I saw a sight that caused me pain, 
You asked me before, I’ll tell you again: 
— It looked like Dirty Dinky. 

Last night you lay a-sleeping? No! 
The room was thirty-five below; 
The sheets and blankets turned to snow. 
— He’d got in: Dirty Dinky. 

You’d better watch the things you do. 
You’d better watch the things you do. 
You’re part of him; he’s part of you 
— You may be Dirty Dinky.

**A note on “Dinky”**

Roethke doesn’t stick exactly to the formal requirements presented for the kyrielle below. Traditionally, all lines would contain the same number of syllables.

Requirements of the Form


– Made of at least three four-line stanzas (quatrains). The last line of each stanza repeats, acting as a refrain. Minor variations in the refrain are allowed to emphasize meaning.


– no restrictions, though historically often with a religious theme

Syllable Count

– traditionally, eight syllables per line


– poet’s choice, though in English the eight-syllable line requirement works nicely in iambic tetrameter


– historically written as couplets, or aabb pattern, with the fourth line in each stanza repeated as a refrain. Other possible rhyme schemes: abab, aaab, abcb.

An Original Kyrielle

What She’s Due [a Modern Kyrielle)

She chose the way the rivers run,     
The bubbles burst, the drops of dew
Evaporate in morning sun–
The Earth won’t ask for what she’s due.

Where multitudes are cut to one
And forests shrink where once they grew,
There she will end what we’ve begun–
The Earth won’t ask for what she’s due.

This war on nature can’t be won–
Where skies are black that should be blue–
She takes control, she turns the gun–
The Earth won’t ask for what she’s due.

The web of life will be re-spun.
The natural cycles will renew.
When acts of man can’t be undone,
The Earth will take just what she’s due.

Links to Online Resources

Kyrielle – Writer’s Digest
Kyrielle – Wikipedia
Troubadour – Wikipedia
Kyrielle – Suzie’s Sanctuary

Week Twelve: The Triolet


The Triolet (pronounced TREE-oh-LAY) is a 13th century French form notable for it’s emphasis on repetition and rhyme in a fashion similar to that found in the rondeau or “round” poem. The form remained popular among French poets for several centuries, eventually inspiring English and German attempts and variations through the 18th century and beyond.

Triolet in French means, clover, or clover leaf, more directly translating as three-leaf. In my research I was unable to discover an exact explanation for why this particular form is called the triolet. Perhaps it was because it was often written in French in a meter similar to iambic trimeter. Or perhaps it is a reference to how the first line is repeated three times.

The King of Triolets

This untitled triolet by 17th century French poet Jacques de Ranchin is perhaps the most famous ever written and is often referred to as “the king of triolets.” English translation by Hikaru Kitabayashi.

Le premier jour du mois de Mai
Fut le plus heureux de ma vie.
Le beau dessein que je formai!
Le premier jour du mois de Mai.
Je vous vis, & je vous aimai.
Et ce dessin vous plut, Sylvie.
Le premier jour du mois de Mai
Fut le plus heureux de ma vie. 

The day that came the first in May,
No happier day my life has seen since.
The plans I made were good that day,
The day that came the first in May.
My eyes with love about you lay,
And, Sylvie, you became my queen thence,
The day that came the first in May.
No happier day my life has seen since!

~For a refresher on the hazards of translating poetry, see my previous post “Week Four: The Ovillejo”.~

Requirements of the Form


– composed of a single eight-line stanza (octave)


– no restrictions, though poets often aim for the repeated lines to take on additional significance as the poem progresses

Syllable Count

– see meter (below)


– in English, often written in iambic tetrameter. In French, some lines a variation of iambic trimeter tagged with an amphibrach.
(see Wikipedia for more on this).


ABaAabAB, with capital letters representing lines repeated exactly

Requirements Breakdown

Line 1: first line, A rhyme
Line 2: second line, B rhyme
Line 3: third line, a rhyme
Line 4: exact repeat of Line 1, A rhyme
Line 5: fifth line, a rhyme
Line 6: sixth line, b rhyme
Line 7: exact repeat of Line 1, A rhyme
Line 8: exact repeat of Line 2, B rhyme

An Original Triolet

Let’s move this town to higher ground

Let’s move this town to higher ground     
We know these plains will flood again       
We are not bound to stay and drown       
Let’s move this town to higher ground     
A home more sound may yet be found     
These window panes will fill with rain       
Let’s move this town to higher ground     
We know these plains will flood again       

*A Note on My Original Triolet

The internal rhyme located on the second stress of each line is not a formal requirement, but a creative choice by the author. I began the poem with the first line, where the internal rhyme felt natural enough, and decided to challenge myself to see if I could carry the pattern through to the end.

Links to Online Resources

Triolet – Merriam-Webster.com
The Triolet – Writer’s Digest
Triolet – Wikipedia
17th Century Triolets – hkitabayashi.blogspot.com

Week Eleven: The Blackout Poem

Blackout Introduction

Blackout poetry is a type of erasure poetry that features a strong emphasis on visual presentation. In a blackout poem, a found text is altered in a visually interesting way, emphasizing certain words in order to make a kind of artistic statement. The design of a blackout poem can be as simple or elaborate as the poet pleases.

Notes on Using Found Texts

There are two important things you need to consider before sharing a blackout poem. First, make sure that your original source is cited in some way to avoid potential risk of plagiarism. Second, the original found text must be significantly altered. Robert Lee Brewer at Writer’s Digest states, “If you’re not erasing more than 50% of the text, then I’d argue you’re not making enough critical decisions to create a new piece of art.”

An Original Blackout Poem

August 5, 2019

Links to Online Resources

Erasure and Blackout Poems – Writer’s Digest
5 Tips for Creating Blackout Poetry – powerpoetry.org
Erasure (Artform) – Wikipedia
How to Make Blackout Poetry – Medium.com
Trump Statement on Mass Shootings – Rev.com

Week Ten: The American Cinquain

Adelaide Crapsey (1878-1914)

The life of American poet Adelaide Crapsey was both brilliant and brief. Intensely interested in the metrics of poetry, Crapsey had great compact admiration for the meticulousness of the Japanese haiku, and developed her own version of the form, now known as the cinquain (sometimes referred to as the American cinquain to differentiate it from the several variations Crapsey’s original form inspired.) Literature–and poetry in particular–loves a tragic figure, and Crapsey’s fame came after her death from a terminal disease, from which she suffered for many years and greatly influenced the content and tone of her poems. Her first volume of poetry, Verse, was published in 1915.

“Amaze” from Verses (1915)

Variations of the Cinquain

The Didactic Cinquain

The most popular variation of Crapsey’s form is known as the Didactic Cinquain. In this form, words are counted instead of syllables, greatly simplifying the form. Along with the American haiku, didactic cinquains may be one of the first poetic forms you learn about in school. Certain grammatical elements are often assigned to each line to help students learn about grammar at the same time. For more on the didactic cinquain, visit Poet’s Collective.

Requirements of the Form


– Consists of a short title, followed by a single five-line stanza. The title is not repeated and can be seen as a sixth line. Lines are often enjambed.


– Poet’s choice. However, Crapsey’s cinquains commonly used potent imagery to convey intense mood or feeling.

Syllable Count

– Both syllables and metric feet are carefully counted. The syllable count by line is 2, 4, 6, 8, 2.


– Poet’s choice, but iambic is generally preferred in English. Since one iambic foot equals two syllables, it fits well within this form.


– Traditionally un-rhymed

Requirements Breakdown


[Line 1] Two syllables, one iambic foot
[Line 2] Four syllables, two iambic feet
[Line 3] Six syllables, three iambic feet
[Line 4] Eight syllables, four iambic feet
[Line 5] Two syllables, one iambic foot

The Cinquain

You see,
This form is not
As hard as it might be.
And once you get the hang of it,
It’s fun!

An Original Cinquain

Swimming lessons

For her
dark eyes are pools
for my fool eyes to swim
and all at once I feel I’m made
of waves

Links to Online Resources

Adelaide Crapsey – Poetry Foundation
Cinquain – Writer’s Digest
Cinquain – Wikipedia

Week Nine: The Horatian Ode

Horace (65 – 8 BCE)

Quintus Horatius Flaccus–better known to the English-speaking world by the mononym Horace–was a Roman soldier, lyric poet and satirist during the time of Augustus. He was a leading Latin poet of his time and is still celebrated for his odes, satires, and epistles. “Ars Poetica,” or “The Art of Poetry,” (c. 19 BC), his most influential epistle, offers advice on the art of writing poetry and drama.

Horatian Odes

Horace studied Greek ode forms–works by celebrated Greek poets such as Alcaeus, Anacreon, and Pindar–and adapted them for his own purposes, making them suitable for Latin. He not only changed the formal conventions of the Greek odes (stanzaic patterns, meter, rhyme scheme), but also modified the tone and subject matter to best highlight his own unique artistic sensibilities. While Greek odes tended to be heroic–elaborately glorifying a person or event–Horace’s odes were more personal, contemplative, and philosophical. The odes of Horace are also known for their charm, sophistication, and occasional touches of light humor.

Reading Horace

Non-Latin readers are immediately confronted with the challenge of translation. It is widely considered a fool’s errand to attempt to preserve formal conventions such as meter and rhyme when translating poetry, so you’ll need to regard any English translations of Horace’s work as approximating the art and meaning of Horace’s original odes, rather than duplicating their formal conventions.

That being said, there is a great deal to be gained by reading Horace–keeping this limitations in mind–in English and many translations are available online. For the bookshelf, I recommend Oxford World’s Classic’s Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes featuring translations by David West.

A Horatian Ode in English

Although we can’t look directly to Horace to learn the conventions of his signature odes (without first learning Latin, that is), we can, however, look to Horatian odes written in English by English poets, and there are several good examples. Perhaps the most famous of these is Andrew Marvell’s “An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland”.

The forward youth that would appear 
Must now forsake his Muses dear, 
Nor in the shadows sing 
His numbers languishing. 
’Tis time to leave the books in dust, 
And oil th’ unused armour’s rust, 
Removing from the wall 
The corslet of the hall. 
So restless Cromwell could not cease 
In the inglorious arts of peace, 
But thorough advent’rous war 
Urged his active star. 

Scanning the first eight lines of Marvell’s Horatian ode reveals several key requirements of the form. Firstly, you’ll notice each two lines feature an end rhyme in an aabbccdd… pattern. Secondly, you’ll notice that while lines 1 and 2 are written in iambic tetrameter, lines 3 and 4 are written in iambic trimeter. Thirdly, you’ll notice that–and this is an important feature unique to the Horatian ode–the pattern set in the first four lines is repeated without variation in each subsequent quatrain.

Requirements of the Form


Any number of stanzas that unvaringly follow the pattern set by the first stanza. Stanzas can be of any length, but Horatian odes usually feature repeating stanzas of two to four lines. Enjambment is allowed.


– Tone tends toward philosophical, contemplative, gently playful, tranquil
– Style is sophisticated and formal, but not restrictive


Meter is chosen at the discretion of the poet. Again, the important factor is consistency from stanza to stanza. Iambic meter is commonly used in English.


Rhyme schemes vary, but (again) subsequent stanzas must repeat the pattern set by the first stanza. Lines are always end-rhymed.

An Original Horatian Ode

A Horatian Ode to the World Goddess

The Goddess of the World, I sing–
Her many forms and faces bring
The light of fertile life,
The fear of judgement’s knife.

Like Draupadi of Indian fame,
Born of the sacrificial flame–
Where she perceives a wall,
Illusion’s palace falls.

Or Anath, golden Canaanite,
Her retribution fierce and right,
She’ll cut you with a word,
Then feed you to the birds.

Online Resources

Ode – Wikipedia
Odes: Praise Poetry! – Writer’s Digest
An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland – Poetry Foundation
Ode – Poetry Foundation
How to Write an Horatian Ode – Forward Poetry
The Horatian Ode – Poetry Magnum Opus