10-line Poem Challenge #1: San Hsien

When I began searching the Internet for 10-line poems, I had no idea how many forms my research was going to uncover—35 to be precise. At first I was going to present them as a tutorial, but then I thought it would be more fun to make it a challenge.

So, each week for the next 35 weeks, I’ll introduce you to a different 10-line poem, explain briefly how to write it, give you links to find where I learned what I know about it, and include my own sample poem. All you have to do is write one of your own. Nothing to it!

Then look for more to come every Friday. When we’ve exhausted the 10-line poems, we’ll move on to something else, but we will keep learning something new. Who’s up for the challenge?


Challenge #1: San Hsien

We’ll begin with some forms that were created specifically for use in the classroom as a teaching tool or a writing exercise. And while we are learning new forms of poetry, let’s also learn a new term. For some of you, this word is not new, but it was new to me. It is the term decastich, and it simply means “a 10-line poem.”

  • The San Hsien was created by Jessamine Fishback.
  • Pronounced [SAN-shee-en], the name comes from the san hsien (or sanxian), a Chinese lute with three strings.
  • It is a decastich in iambic dimeter.
  • Lines 1 and 2 are repeated as a refrain on lines 10 and 9 respectively (reversed).
  • Rhyme scheme: ABbaccabBA



Below are two samples that I’ve written for you. The first turned out a bit deep, and though it has been revised, it still needs work. The second is rather light-hearted. I deliberately kept punctuation at a minimum in the second one. At first I had punctuated it properly, but because of the short lines and its overall brevity, the punctuation seemed to take over, and it quickly got in the way, so I removed almost all of it. Since I haven’t seen any strict rules about punctuation, you may do as you like with regard to your own poems.

No Truer Friend

To condescend
Is not unkind,
But one may find
No truer friend
Than he who sees
His loss your ease.
For in the end,
He, being blind,
Is not unkind
To condescend.

© 2017 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved

Based on Romans 12:16 “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” In other words, this is the Golden Rule applied in such a way that one would be willing to do without for the benefit of another.


Sandwich Delight

I love to eat
It is no lie
On wheat or rye
Pile on the meat
The veggies too
Please, not a few
It’s such a treat
So build it high
It is no lie
I love to eat!

© 2017 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved


Dig Deeper

To find more samples and to learn from those who taught me, check out these sites. All links open in a separate tab so you can easily find your way back here.

Poet’s Collective ~ The forms on this website are not organized in alphabetical order, but he does have at least one sample poem for each form, he even has tags for rhyme scheme. He also has a visual template for every form so you can see the rhyme scheme and stress patterns, as applicable. That is extremely helpful.

Sol Magazine ~ This resource covers much more than just 10-line poems.

“Metric Forms from Pathways for the Poet” ~ This is an outline of information from Pathways for the Poet by Viola Berg (1977), a book for and by educators. This resource also includes more than just 10-line poems, but it helped to fill in the gaps where my other sources were a bit scanty with their information.

Shadow Poetry ~ This is my favorite resource for learning about poetic forms (and not just the decastich), but I have discovered that there is ever so much more to learn than what I can find here. This is, however, a very good place to start.


It’s Your Turn!

Now it’s time for you to write a San Hsien. Go ahead and strum those strings! Then when you are ready, share your masterpiece with the rest of us.

Don’t know how? Follow these simple steps…

  1. Write your blog post.
  2. Optional: Include the tag San Hsien Challenge or 10-line Poem Challenge
  3. Include a link to this post in your post so I can find you.
  4. Publish your post.

7 Replies to “10-line Poem Challenge #1: San Hsien”

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