10-line Poem Challenge #7: Decathlon

The Decathlon was created by Anne Pendleton as a teaching tool or writing exercise. The name comes from the Greek, meaning “contest of ten.”

The Decathlon is a:

  • Decastich written in one single stanza on any subject.
  • Rhythm: iambic (soft-strong – ̆ ʹ – i.e. per-FORM)
  • Meter: lines 1,2,4,6,7 tetrameter; lines 3,5,8 dimeter; lines 9,10 pentameter (heroic couplet)
  • Rhyme scheme: axbxaccbdd


Below are two samples for you. Let me warn you that the subject I chose for both of these samples is death, although I took two different approaches to it. The first one is somber while the second is hopeful. This form might work with humor (I haven’t tried), but it doesn’t say humor to me. Granted, my other decathlons are not about death, but all of them have a more settled, if not serious, tone. Some are love poems and others are about God.

To be honest, I’ve never written anything like this before. I was flipping through my rhyming dictionary, looking for inspiration, when I came across clap, tap, and rap. Saying the three words together in my mind sounded like someone knocking in earnest upon a door, and I knew right away I wanted to use them together. The rest of the subject came from a combination of things. I happened to be sitting in the hospital at the time, waiting for my husband to come out of anesthesia after minor surgery (not near death, just in a lot of pain), and a dear friend of mine had just lost his daughter to cancer and was planning her funeral. In fact, she was laid to rest yesterday. The first poem was based upon the Black Death of the 1340s, while the second poem was written with my friend’s daughter in mind.


Near breathless ran the little chap
Pell-mell along the city streets.
The church bell sang
Its somber, too-familiar toll.
A clap-tap-rap
Upon the heaven wooden door.
Again, now louder than before,
His bang-clang rang
Until at last the door creaked on its hinge,
Assailing him with scent of death and dinge.

© 2017 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved

It Is Not Death

There comes a time for everyone,
Whoever was of woman born,
To taste of death.
But those who die in Christ fear not
When life is done,
Because it is not death to die
When one is sure to heaven fly
With life’s last breath.
Complete surrender, death’s prerequisite—
Into the hand of God your soul commit.

© 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 Decathlon. This form is actually quite simple to write, yet it sounds so very eloquent. Go ahead and give it a try! And perhaps you can succeed at giving it a lighter mood than I did. 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 Decastich Challenge
  3. Include a link to this post in your post so I can find you.
  4. Publish your post.

6 Replies to “10-line Poem Challenge #7: Decathlon”

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