10-line Poem Challenge #35: Stress Matrix Dectet

The Stress Matrix Dectet was invented by British poet Luke Prater. Like the Ten-by-Ten, this form is comprised of ten lines of verse with ten syllables per line. But this form goes a little further to include the following rhyme-scheme/structure: aBaBcBcDcD, where the lowercase letters represent iambic pentameter and the uppercase represent trochaic pentameter, resulting in a perfect checkerboard of stressed and weak syllables throughout the poem. The rhyme scheme is also mathematically symmetrical.

Our minds got a little warm-up for this exercise with the Ten-by-Ten. So, are you ready to go to work on the Stress Matrix Dectet? Good! Let’s jump in!

In summary, the Stress Matrix Dectet is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written in one single stanza.
  • It is made with 10 syllables per line, written on any subject.
  • The odd lines are written in iambic meter (unstress/stress = o-KAY)
  • The even lines are written in trochaic meter (stress/unstress = EA-sy)
  • Rhyme scheme: aBaBcBcDcD, where lowercase = iambic and uppercase = trochaic


Below are two samples for you. There really isn’t much to say about them, as this form leaves no room for deviation. It’s all or nothing with the Stress Matrix Dectet. But read them out loud, exaggerating the stressed syllables, so your ear can hear the lines of weak-STRONG alternating with lines of STRONG-weak consistently throughout each poem. It is a bit tricky to read out loud because lines that end on a strong syllable lead into lines that also begin on a strong syllable, and vice versa. Our iambic minds are not used to that, and it takes a little practice to grow comfortable with this form. But if I can do it, you can do it.

Liar, Liar

A man who often will not keep his word
Finds that when he has to deal sincerely,
He may run into trouble being heard.
Maybe folks at first will view him queerly,
And sometimes they will even think to laugh.
‘Til the truth is seen a bit more clearly,
They blow him off as if he were but chaff.
None who know him trust his commentary.
Were he to speak a word or paragraph,
They would listen more to a canary.

Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved

Ojos del Cielo

I wonder how the sky gave up its hue,
How it concentrated all its brightness
To form the orbs that you are looking through.
Glowing sun has also lent his lightness;
The moon, her mystic iridescent glow,
Filling them with cheerful spunk and spriteness,
Reflections of the girl I’ve come to know.
Gazing in your heavens, I’m ecstatic!
I knew all this when first we said hello:
Ever learning—always enigmatic.

Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved

It’s Your Turn!

Now it’s time for you to write a Stress Matrix Dectet. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Choose your topic. If you need an idea, check out the prompts at the Daily Post.
  2. May I suggest you write on a piece of paper or in a notebook.
  3. Down the left column write the number 10 ten times.
  4. Down the right column, write the rhyme scheme, with one letter per line.
  5. It might help to also circle the odd numbers in the left column to remind yourself that those lines will be written in iambic rhythm, and the evens in trochaic (or write an I and a T next to the numbers, alternately).
  6. Then carefully choose your words to flesh out your poem. Do not use filler words, but come up with exactly 10 syllables for each line. Make sure your stressed syllables are where they belong. No substitutions are allowed in this form.
  7. And of course, when you are finished, share your poem with the rest of us.

Don’t know how? Follow these simple steps…

  1. Write your blog post.
  2. Include the tag Decastich Challenge or 10LPC
  3. Publish your post on your blog.
  4. Come back here and click the blue button below to add your link to the others.

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 ~ This is where I learned about the Stress Matrix Dectet form.

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.

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