The Ercil was created by James Gray in honor of Arkansas poet Ercil Brown. It appears to be an exercise in meter.
The Ercil is a:
- Decastich written in one single stanza on any subject.
- Rhythm: iambic
- Meter: lines 1,5 dimeter; lines 2,6,9,10 trimeter; lines 3,7 tetrameter; lines 4,8 pentameter
- Rhyme scheme: ababcdcdee
The meter is not so tricky if you think of it this way:
In order, the lines each have 2-3-4-5-2-3-4-5-3-3 metric feet.
Below are two samples for you. I generally try to stick strictly to the rules for the samples, even if I decide to deviate when I continue to use the form. However, I ended up bending the rules slightly below, and I’ll explain where I deviated from what Mr. Gray intended.
The Secret of Writing Good Poetry, Part 1
If you would write
Good poetry, then you
Must first your mind and thoughts ignite.
How so? By reading books, and not a few.
Read other poets,
The classics and the new.
Read a dictionary, though it’s
Taxing. Read a poet’s handbook too.
In order to succeed,
You must make time to read.
© 2017 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved
The Secret of Writing Good Poetry, Part 2
For you who wish to write
Is: Daily write! Don’t slip, don’t skip.
Write something every day. However trite
This kind advice
May seem to you just now,
I truly hope it will suffice
To motivate you and to show you how
To realize and redeem
Your highest poet-dream!
© 2017 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved
About My Deviations… Plus a Little Extra
Metric Feet and Rule Bending. In the first poem, I have an extra syllable at the end of line 5, which led me to slip into a bit of trochaic rhythm in lines 7 and 8, but then I went back to iambic. Not sure what the difference is? In iambic rhythm, you have an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable (i.e. ig-NITE). The trochaic foot is the reverse of the iambic foot, where the stressed syllable comes first (i.e. PO-et). And here’s some bonus information for you: on line 5, where I added the extra syllable at the end, that turned my iambic foot into an amphibrach (i.e. to-MA-to).
In the second poem, I squeezed in the word “realize” on line 9 when a 2-syllable word would have worked just fine. Technically speaking, I substituted an anapestic foot for the iambic foot in that place. I really liked how “realize” and “redeem” sounded together and believed the consonance I achieved was worth having the extra syllable. This is my only deviation from the rule in this poem. And for the record, an anapest is a foot with two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable (i.e. an-y-MORE).
Enjambment. I also have several examples of enjambment in both poems. Enjambment occurs when a sentence is carried over onto the next line in the poem without a pause (i.e. comma or any other form of punctuation). Enjambment can also occur when a sentence continues from one stanza to the next. In the first poem above, you see enjambment at the end of lines 1, 2, and 7; and in the second poem, lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 are all enjambed.
NOTE: Not all free verse is truly enjambed. It has become quite common to leave punctuation marks off, but that does not necessarily mean that the thought continues from one line to the next without a pause. Sometimes the pause is suggested by the space itself. I would say, when looking for enjambment, check to see if punctuation is used at all. If it is, then you clearly have enjambment where you have no punctuation, as in the samples above. But if you have no punctuation to show you where to pause and where to keep going, then you must look for other contextual clues.
Nuts & Bolts Article Coming Soon. Do these words sound like a foreign language to you? Are they calling back distant memories of English classes long gone? I am in the process of writing a nuts & bolts article that will deal with some of the finer details of writing poetry. And in that article I’ll also include a video demonstration of how I wrote one of my poems! So you get to pick my brain. Hopefully this will help you to see that writing a decastich is not hard after all, and you will accept my challenge and join me in putting out some 10-liners.
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 an Ercil. Either stick with the rules or feel free to bend them a little, like I did. Then when you are ready, share your masterpiece with the rest of us.
Don’t know how? Follow these simple steps…
- Write your blog post.
- Optional: Include the tag Decastich Challenge
- Include a link to this post in your post so I can find you.
- Publish your post.