10-line Poem Challenge #12: Zeno

The Zeno is a decastich created by J. Patrick Lewis, who says of his form: “I call the form a ‘zeno,’ so named for Zeno, the philosopher of paradoxes, especially the dichotomy paradox, according to which getting anywhere involves first getting halfway there and then again halfway there, and so on ad infinitum.”

  • It is a decastich written in one stanza.
  • The lines have a syllabic pattern of: 8-4-2-1-4-2-1-4-2-1.
  • The rhyme scheme is: abcdefdghd. If this looks like alphabet soup to you, think of it this way: xxxaxxaxxa.


Below are two samples for you. I’ll have to admit this form has been the most challenging for me yet. It does seem to lend itself to a humorous setting. In fact, one sample that I saw actually hyphenated words, breaking them from one line to the next, which added to the light-hearted nature of the topic. It’s an interesting technique, but I’m not sure I’m ready to own it for myself. As for my samples, neither is particularly humorous. In fact, in “Stained Glass Window” I tried to elicit a more transcendent mood. While on the surface, it is merely a description of a stained glass window, yet I am hoping that the reader will find a deeper meaning. “Missed Kiss” is actually based on a true story, as I present a turn of events that had my daughter gasping in horror when she read it. She may not have liked how the poem ended, but I was pleased to be able to evoke such a strong emotion in ten short lines.

Stained Glass Window

Artistic work of broken beauty
Arranged within
Rainbow glow the
Symbol of sweet

© 2017 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved

Missed Kiss

A man and woman fell in love—
Soon enjoyed a
A wonder they
She’s gone now, and

© 2017 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved


It’s Your Turn!

Now it’s time for you to write a Zeno. Don’t know where to start? Allow me to make a suggestion. Looking back at the rhyme scheme, we see that only the monosyllabic lines have to rhyme. With that in mind, for each of the Zenos I wrote (some of which will never see the light of day), I began with 3 rhyming single-syllable words and created a story around them. Perhaps you will want to try breaking up words across lines like the sample poem here. It wasn’t for me, although I may try it at a later date, but it may work quite well for you. Be silly or serious, your choice. Then when you are finished, please share it with 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.

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.


5 Replies to “10-line Poem Challenge #12: Zeno”

    1. You’re welcome. I’ve been meaning to go back and update my old challenges with better explanations because you are pointing out weaknesses in my instruction, but I haven’t had time. Even so, you’re doing a great job!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh no, I’m not pointing out any weakness in your instructions, you have done a great job, and as a learner writing these new forms, I fully understand what you are saying. Just that one about the X I’m a bit lost. Hope you are not working too hard, have a nice day.

        Liked by 1 person

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