5 Unusual Poetic Forms You Should Try
Looking for ways to stretch your poetic muscles? Try some unusual poetry forms to pique your inspiration.
The crux of form poetry is a mathematical pattern of syllables, words, lines, or stanzas — separately or in combination depending on the form.
There’s a wide array to choose from, but here are five that are simple but challenging enough to make it interesting:
Not so much unusual as out of fashion, Limericks are short humorous poems, often silly or naughty, with a lyrical quality. Consider writing one with an ironic or philosophical statement.
Five-line poem consisting of a triplet split by a couplet (aabba)
Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme and average 7–10 syllables each line
Lines 3 and 4 rhyme and average 5–7 syllables each line
There once was a girl named Joan who was constantly on her cellphone she’d text, and she’d talk sometimes film a Tik-tok Yet, spent most of her time alone
Likely a more contemporary version of traditional Japanese poetry, like haiku or tanka, the nonet poetic form has a simple group of nine architecture. There is no direction on subject matter or rule around rhyming, but there is a specific syllable and line count.
9 line poem
Syllable count per line is 9–8–7–6–5–4–3–2–1
A lone penny lying on the ground does not know its value is less than the nickel beside it since both are discarded among the street trash trampled over by so many all day long
Introduced by Phillip Larrea, this contemporary poem is all about the power of three. A simple form, there are no rules about rhyme or meter, the focus is all on the number three.
Each line contains three syllables
Each stanza contains three lines
Each poem contains three stanzas
He found her once again lost in dreams
She surmised he forgot her nature She’s always a dreamer lost in thought
4. Fibs or Fibonacci Poems
Created by Gregory K. Pincus, Fibonacci poetry (commonly known as fibs) uses a mathematic pattern derived from the Fibonacci Sequence which was developed by the mathematician Leonardo Bonacci in the 1200s CE. The sequence is found throughout nature in shells, leaves, flowers, and even the human face.
A 6-line poem formed by adding the previous two numbers of the sequence together
The syllable count per line is 1–1–2–3–5–8
Light hides among the darkest dreariest places inside a melancholy heart
Created by Adelaide Crapsey and inspired by haiku and tanka poetry, the cinquain poem has an easy syllable structure laid out in five lines. Vivid imagery is used to inspire a feeling or emotion.
5 line poetry
Syllable count per line is 2–4–6–8–2
Cowboys riding the plains on sun-swept summer days are steered by a tanned river of sharp horns
Though poetry forms are fun brain-work, don’t limit yourself. Break the rules or even create your own form. Get adventurous and try combining forms into one poem (e.g. a Fib followed by a Nonet). Create longer poems by repeating the form in subsequent stanzas. Or insert a stanza of form poetry among a free-form one to create something lyrical.
Let the structure feed your imagination.
*All examples are written by Bonnie J Davies
**Originally published in Mental Painting on Medium