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 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 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