Syllabic Poetry Form Cheatsheet

This tutorial will help poets learn the ten different forms to use for Colleen’s Weekly Syllabic Poetry Challenge.

Remember, if you are entering syllabic poetry challenges/contests/or submitting for publication into literary collections, these forms often change into less or more syllables in Haiku, Senryu, Haiga, Tanka, Gogyohka, and Haibun poetry. READ the rules and examine the poetry from their publications so you know what to expect before you submit your work. ~Colleen~

Image by Thought Catalog from Pixabay

HAIKU IN ENGLISH: 5/7/5, 3/5/3, or 2/3/2 syllable structure. A Haiku is written about season changes, nature, and change in general. Read this post for more information: 5/7/5 vs 3/5/3 & 2/3/2 Haiku & Senryu Styles

SENRYU IN ENGLISH: 5/7/5, 3/5/3, 2/3/2 syllable structure. A Senryu is written about love, a personal event, and should have irony present. Read this post for more information: 5/7/5 vs 3/5/3 & 2/3/2 Haiku & Senryu Styles

What is the difference between a Haiku and a Senryu?

HAIGA IN ENGLISH: 5/7/5, 3/5/3, 2/3/2 syllable structure. Haiga is called observational poetry because it contains an image with either a Haiku or Senryu written on it or near it. There are a few hard and fast rules for creating Haiga. The Haiku is the most important part and must standalone.

In short, the poem itself must be worthy to be considered independently, before inclusion in a Haiga. Images cannot ‘complete’ the haiku. If the image is necessary to understand the poem, then both the poem and the Haiga have failed. No matter how beautiful an image is, the poem is ‘the thing’ to trigger the reader/viewer in their appreciation of the Haiga. If all the image adds is a pretty picture of the poem, but adds no higher level of appreciation to it, then you may as well just publish the poem by itself.

TANKA IN ENGLISH: 5/7/5/7/7 syllable structure. Your Tanka will consist of 5 lines written in the first-person point of view from the perspective of the poet.

The last two lines of your Tanka are where you use the metaphors or similes that complement the first three lines. Click the links and look up the meanings to these words. They are important. Use words you are comfortable with from everyday speech. Avoid ending your lines with articles and prepositions.

When writing a Tanka, we consider the third line your “pivot,” but you can let it happen anywhere or you can exclude it. It is not mandatory. If you use a pivot, the meaning should apply to the first two lines, as well as to the last two lines of your Tanka. Remember, great Tanka poem can be read both forward and backward.

GOGYOHKA IN ENGLISH:  is a five-line, untitled, Japanese poetic form. Unlike tanka (5/7/5/7/7 syllables), Gogyohka has no restrictions on length. (Wikipedia.com)

The Gogyoka in English syllabic poetry form is the only form that does not require a syllable count per the five lines. Please be mindful that each line should be the duration of a single breath or a phrase. Choose your words carefully. (DeviantArt.com/the-haiku-club Blog)

Five rules of Gogyohka by Enta Kusakabe (1983):

  • Gogyohka is a new form of short poem that is based on the ancient Japanese Tanka and Kodai kayo.
  • Gogyohka has five lines, but exceptionally may have four or six.
  • Each line of Gogyohka consists of one phrase with a line-break after each phrase or breath.
  • Gogyohka has no restraint on numbers of words or syllables.
  • The theme of Gogyohka is unrestricted.

HAIBUN IN ENGLISH: The rules for constructing a Haibun are simple.

  • Each Haibun must begin with a title.
  • Haibun prose is composed of terse, descriptive paragraphs, written in the first person singular.
  • The text unfolds in the present moment, as though the experience is occurring now rather than yesterday or some time ago. In keeping with the simplicity of the accompanying Haiku or Tanka poem, all excessive words should be pared down or deleted. Nothing must ever be overstated.
  • The poetry never attempts to repeat, quote or explain the prose.
  • Instead, the poetry reflects some aspect of the prose by introducing a different step in the narrative through a microburst of detail.
  • Thus, the poetry is a sort of juxtaposition – seemingly different yet somehow connected. It is the discovery of this link between the prose and the poetry that offers one of the great delights of the Haibun form. The subtle twist provided by an elegantly envisioned link, adds great pleasure to our reading and listening.

CINQUAIN: A CRAPSEY cinquain is a form of shape poetry and is always centered on the page. The required syllables needed for each line give it a unique shape. The cinquain (aka the quintain or the quintet) is a poem or stanza of five lines.

CINQUAIN VARIATION DESCRIPTION

Reverse Cinquain: A form with one 5-line stanza in a syllabic pattern of two, eight, six, four, two.

Mirror Cinquain: A form with two 5-line stanzas consisting of a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain.

Butterfly Cinquain: A nine-line syllabic form with the pattern of two, four, six, eight, two, eight, six, four, two.

Crown Cinquain: A sequence of five cinquain stanzas functioning to construct one larger poem.

Garland Cinquain: A series of six cinquains in which the last is formed of lines from the preceding cinquain five, typically line one from stanza one, line two from stanza two, and so on.

ETHEREE: The Etheree poem consists of ten lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 syllables. An Etheree can also be reversed and written 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The trick is to create a memorable message within the required format. Poets can get creative and write an Etheree with more than one verse, but the idea is to follow suit with an inverted syllable count.

Reversed Etheree Syllable Count: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Double Etheree Syllable Count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10, 9, 8, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

NONET: A Nonet is stanzaic and written in any number of 9-line stanzas with the following syllable count per line: 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 syllables per line. It can be written on any subject and rhyming is optional, although they are usually unrhymed. Because of the hourglass shape of a double nonet, it’s often used to represent the passage of time.

SHADORMA: The Shadorma is a poetic form comprising a six-line stanza (or sestet). Each stanza has a syllable count of three syllables in the first line, five syllables in the second line, three syllables in the third and fourth lines, seven syllables in the fifth line, and five syllables in the sixth line (3/5/3/3/7/5) for a total of 26 syllables with no set rhyme scheme. It is a syllabic poem with a meter of 3/5/3/3/7/5.

When writing a Shadorma I would concentrate on a specific subject. The brevity of syllables is perfect for that kind of structure.

A Shadorma poem may consist of one stanza or an unlimited number of stanzas (a series of shadormas). This form can have many stanzas, as long as each follows the meter.

INVESTIGATE these forms in more detail. Have fun!

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