Form

The art of poetry written in the constraints of few words is an elegant one. The variations are both steeped in tradition as well as always evolving.

Here is a brief list of forms used on this site. It is by no means exhaustive and will be updated incrementally. The purpose of this page is a brief introduction to the terms used in my categories. If you are interested in a form there are many fabulous resources on the internet for delving further.

Please remember that the definitions here are my opinion.  I have written this page for a background in understanding my poetry. I am sharing it here, but it is mostly designed for my personal use as a bookmark for what I have learned from research and exposure. And that is always growing and changing.

I do not guarantee their accuracy on any particular level. I may or may not mention where experts disagree. I may or may not mention where I have sided with one or more experts. I may or may not mention that a form is very new or the person it is attributed to.

I usually use terms generally accepted, but I might even change those. If you are interested in a form, please do your own research.  I will post some links to sites which I recommend as a starting point. But I am not interested in arguing academically about what is and what is not a haiku. I have made up my own mind. It’s all about the poetry for me. That being said, let’s begin with the forms.

*Syllable count is mentioned on each entry here. The forms by my definition do not rhyme unless specifically noted. They also are titled unless specifically mentioned.

*Brazilian:

The Brazilian version of haiku rhymes. Although the rhyme scheme is not dictated, so I imagine it can take any structure. It is for this reason that when I use a form which does not rhyme normally, and have not found another version which does rhyme, I will call it Brazilian if I choose to rhyme.

Bina

This is a very short version of the sestina with only two keywords. It is written in five lines.  Normally, a sestina is a poem written with the constraint of using the same words on the end. There are six, and they are rotated in a specific sequence throughout the poem. The end word pattern for a bina is 1-2, 2-1, with a 1-2 envoy. This means that there should be two stanzas of two lines and one final line after, although usually a bina is written without stanza breaks. So the end word of the first line is the same as the end word or the fourth and should be found within the last line. The end word of the second line is the same as the third and shoul also be on the end of the last line.

Brevette:

This modern and extremely brief form is only three words on three lines. Syllable count is not specified, however similar is good. The first line is a noun, the second a verb, the last an object. The verb has spacing between the letters for emphasis. Examples of this form are both titled and not titled.

Cinqku:

This form merges the cinquain with the haiku (or tanka, or senryu, depending on the choice of content). It is an extremely new form. It has a strict syllable count of seventeen syllables. They appear within the lines as 2,3,4,6,2. similar to the Japanese forms, it should have a turn in line four or five.

Cinquain:

: A poem written within the framework of five lines originally developed as an answer to haiku. It is considerably longer than most answers to haiku. Perhaps it was blending haiku and tanka together. It has developed a sense and feeling all its own. In my opinion, the feel of a cinquain is colored more by the cultural concepts of the American inventor of it, rather than trying to reproduce the feel of a haiku. I think this predecessor of many haiku offshoots, is more an attempt to redirect traditional metered style into impressions and curb it in length as well as veer from rigid meter. Cinquains are also titled.

Crapsey Cinquain:

Adelaide Crapsey was the inventor of the form which is most commonly referred to as the cinquain. In this form there is a strict syllable count of 2-4-6-8-2.

Didactic Cinquain:

This version of the cinquain counts words rather than syllables. The first line is one word, a subject. The second is a pair of adjective describing the subject. The third line is a three word phrase giving more specifics about the subject. The fourth line is four words which are more emotive about the subject. It ends with a one word synonym of the subject.  This type of poetry does suffer in reputation from its use to help schoolchildren learn about grammar.

Cinquo:

This form is similar to the cinquain, only trimmed down. Some experts say it is the origin of the cinquain. It can be about any topic and is written in five lines. The syllable count is: 1,2,3,4,1. It is very similar to the Japanese lanturne form.

Coin Poem:

This form is written in only two couplets. It is syllabic. The first line of the couplet is seven syllables and the second is five. There are two choices for rhyme scheme. Each couplet may rhyme, or the second lines of the two may rhyme. The first stanza should present an idea, and the second another side to that idea.

Crystalline:

This form is an image poem in two lines. It should total seventeen syllables. The most important aspect of the poem is euphony. Sometimes this form rhymes and sometimes it does not.

Dixdeux:

This brief form is written in three lines. The first two lines are ten syllables each. The last line is only two.

Dodoitsu:

A Japanese form written in four lines. The syllables count is seven for the first three lines and five for the last. It is often humorous or written about love.

Epitaph:

An epitaph is a brief poem inscribed on a tombstone praising a deceased person, usually with rhyming lines. The form is rather flexible and might be considered more of a genre, but since it is brief I will include it here.

Essence:
This form is a short, structured form of two-lines, six syllables each with an end rhyme and internal rhyme. There are no constraints for how and where the internal rhyme falls.

Goethe Stanza:

This is a unique poetry form. The stanzas are strange, similar to a quatrain but with the first and last lines broken off by a space in between. It rhymes a ba b. There is no set meter.

Haiku:

This is probably the most famous of the brief forms. It originated in Japan but many variations have sprung up from other cultures attributing their inspiration to it.  There are several schools which argue about how the form should be used in English since the Japanese language can not be reconstructed and plays a part in the poetry.

Generally, I prefer to stick to the rules dictated by consensus, unless otherwise noted. This viewpoint writes haiku in a strict syllable count of five for the first line, seven for the second, and then five again for the final. It also dictates that the subject matter should be nature or season oriented, with a type of turn similar to volta in a sonnet or a kind of epiphany moment.  There seems to be some flexibility in where this turn appears, but generally is expected in the final line. The seasonal context can be found in what is called a kigo or season word. But this again is very open to interpretation in English versions. Season or nature may be then insinuated or spread among more words than one.

A further challenge from traditional haiku is found in the cutting word, or  kireji. This idea breaks the stream of the haiku and brings the reader back to the beginning. It can also be used in the middle of the poem to break it into two distinct thoughts. If this is desired by the poet, it can be done in the middle with punctuation as another option.

Traditional haiku is also written without titles. This is at the discretion of the poet.

Abbreviated Haiku:

There are some distinct variations from the schools which focus on an attempt to recreate the feel evoked from the Japanese language in haiku. Most words in Japanese are one syllable. The comparison puts a lot of restraint on the poet writing in English. This might be frustrating as it excludes a lot, and yet poses a challenge.

The focus in abbreviated haiku is on syllable count. There are three basic variations: 3-5-3, 2-3-2, and 7-2. Of course these are again dictated by consensus and certainly can be altered at the discretion of the poet, particularly when a poet becomes more confident in the essence of writing haiku.

Haikuette:

This invented form has some semblance of haiku with many differences. The total syllable count is seventeen syllables or less, but it does not matter how they are distributed within the lines. It is written in three lines, but without any verbs. Each line should be a separate entity, and still contribute to the whole. Unlike haiku, it should be titled.

Hay(na)ku:

This form is similar to a haiku, but does not have a syllable count restriction. The first line is one word, the second two, and third three. There are also no restrictions in content

Japanese 357:
This is a family of syllabic forms. They are written in three lines, but the order varies. The titles suggest the syllable order. For example trisepquin is 3-7-5.

Kimo:

The kimo is most often referred to as an answer to haiku which developed out of Israel. It follows a syllable count of 10-7-6. It is not usually noted when this form is defined whether or not it should follow the seasonal content restrictions of haiku. Nor is it mentioned if there should be a turn or not.

Lanturne:

This is a Japanese form written in five lines. The first four lines ascend in syllable count. The last line returns to one syllable and should be a synonym for the first line. The first line should suggest a topic, and the lines afterward describe it. It is also preferable to have some sort of nature theme similar to the rest of traditional Japanese poetry. This distinguishes the form from the Spanish syllabic form; cinquo.

Limerick:

This is either a nonsense or humorous poem made of five lines. Although meter and length are not important, there is a set rhyme scheme. The last line should rhyme with the first two lines. The third and fourth lines rhyme with each other

Lune:

The lune is a three line poetry form inspired by haiku and created for the English language.  Although generally, lunes are written with brevity being the main focus and content and feel are not mentioned.They may or may not rhyme, based on the preference of the poet.

Robert Kelly Lune:

Robert Kelly was the creator of the lune. He developed his form focusing on the syllable count and dictated it 5-3-5. It was an attempt to make English more closely mimic Japanese. It is interesting because the general syllable count for English haiku had a much longer second line. This certainly alters the structure of the poem.

Jack Collom Lune:

Jack Collom developed his own version of the lune, however it was because he either misunderstood or confused the Robert Kelly lune. He also focused on words and not syllables. This confusion is quite understandable when taken in the context of copying Japanese. He also reversed the numerical order of Robert Kelly’s lune. His version of the form has three words for the first line. Then five. Then three.

Naani:

An Indian form of four lines. It must have a total of between twenty and twenty-five syllables. It does not rhyme and can be about any topic.

Parallelismus Membrorum:

This Hebrew form has no set length for the poem or stanza requirement, but is usually made up of three or four word lines. The content should be a profound or spiritual statement, or have an epigram quality to it. An important feature is what is referred to as parallelism. This can be done in many ways. One way is for the couplets to contain similar content or meaning. Another is for them to present a contrast with opposite concepts. It can also achieve a balance of ideas between couplets, or even whole stanzas. They are often didactic, or instructional as well.

Pensee:

This five line form is similar to the cinquain, with a different syllable count. The pattern is 2, 4, 7, 8, 6.

Quintet:

This syllablic form is similar in layout to a cinquain. It has the syllable count of 3.5.7.9.3.

Quintilla:

A five line form with two rhymes. It has a set syllable count of eight per line. The first, third, and fifth lines have the same end sound.

Quinzaine:

The name for this form is attributed to the French word “quinze” which means fifteen. The total number of syllables in this form is fifteen. This three line form  is written in 7-5-3 syllable count. The first line makes a statement. The second two lines pose questions relating to the statement. Some variations include one question instead of two, bridging the second two lines.

Senryu:

The senryu is a variation of haiku with a Japanese origin. The content of the poem shifts to being about humans rather than nature. Senryu are often whimsical or comic. There should still be an epiphany moment as well as an adherence to syllable traditions, in the opinion of many. Since our relationship to nature is multifaceted and we often relate the outside world to self, the lines between senryu and haiku can often blur. Many haiku could be called senryu because of the dominant relationship to this perspective. However, a poem written with the essence of haiku which lacks the quality of a seasonal or nature concept should be called a senryu.

Sijo:

A Korean form of three lines, fourteen to sixteen syllables each. Meter is not necessary, although a musical quality is a goal. It should generally have some kind of reference to nature. Each line is separated by a type of pause in the middle, so the first part of the line should be between six and nine syllables. The first line presents some sort of problem or issue. The second gives development. The third provides a solution. The third line also usually includes a type of twist; a surprise meaning, syntax or other type of change. This form also allows metaphor, puns and other literary devices. Some feel that the poem should be profound or witty, but that is debated among the experts

Tanka:

A Japanese form which begins with the structure of a haiku or senryu, but has two additional seven syllable lines. This form is traditionally used to record a moment in time. The final couplet is often separated from the first three lines.

Terquain:

This short form does not worry about syllable count, meter or rhyme. The first line is a one word subject. The second line is two or three words describing the subject. The third line is either a synonym of the first line, or a feeling it evokes.

Tetractys:

A very modern form created by Ray Stebbing. It has five lines with a specific syllable count. The syllables ascend from one to four and the last line jumps to ten. The poem should produce either a deep point or be humorous in nature.

Trilinea:

This brief invented form is written in a single three line stanza. The syllable count is 4-8-4. The defining feature of this form is odd; it is required to include the word “rose”. I imagine it is intended to mean the flower, but I use the other meaning as well. Line one and three should rhyme.

Trio:

This invented modern form is extremely brief. It is made of one three line stanza of one word each. The lines are monorhymed and should have some kind of clever element.

Triquain:

This short form is similar to haiku. The syllable count is 2-7-7. The first line introduces the subject. The second line expands and leads into action. The third line is the enlightenment or a question.

Vignette:

This Italian form is syllabic. It is written in five lines. With a syllable count of: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7. There are no other requirements

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