10-line Poem Challenge #31: Sonnetina Due

Welcome to week 4 in our study of sonnetinas, or “little songs.” We are counting down from the Sonnetina Cinque, Sonnetina Quattro, and Sonnetina Tre. All of these forms have quite a bit of flexibility within the general framework, and you will find that the Sonnetina Due is no different in that regard.

The Sonnetina Due is a bit mysterious to me, for I’ve found some conflicting information regarding this form. All sources agree that the Sonnetina Due is formed from five couplets, but the conflict comes with the rhyme scheme. Some say it has a rhyme scheme of aabbccddee, while other sources say that rhyming is optional, and that any couplet form may be used. For the sake of my tutorial, I am going to side with those who allow any form of couplet, and that your choices for rhyme are either the rhyme scheme above or no rhyme at all. After all, as I worked with the following the couplets, such was the pattern that developed.

Since the couplet is the foundation for the Sonnetina Due, let’s look at some couplets. The couplet may be classified by its type and by its form. You will also see the words iambic and trochaic used below. If you don’t remember what they are, you may refer back to my earlier article, The Nuts and Bolts of Poetry.

Couplet Types

  1. Closed couplet — a poetic unit of 2 lines that expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a poem in its own right. Meter and rhyme are at the poet’s discretion.
  2. Open couplet — a couplet that cannot stand alone or does not express a complete thought. The endings are enjambed (i.e. commas or no punctuation at all), allowing the thought to continue to the next line.

Couplet Forms

  1. Short couplet — two rhyming lines written in iambic or trochaic tetrameter (8 syllables)
  2. Heroic couplet — a rhyming couplet written in iambic pentameter (10 syllables). It may be either open or closed.
  3. Shakespearean couplet — a closed heroic couplet that summarizes the theme of the entire poem.
  4. Alexandrine couplet — two rhymed lines of iambic hexameter (12 syllables)
  5. Split couplet — rhymed 2-line form with the first line in iambic pentameter (10 syllables) and the second line in iambic dimeter (4 syllables).
  6. Alpha couplet — The first line is formed from four words that all begin with the same letter. The second line rhymes with the first and has the same meter. The final word of all lines must be a noun.
  7. Chinese [antithetical] couplet — When written in Chinese, both lines must have the same number of characters, with one character per word; the tone pattern of one line must be the inverse of the other. The meanings of the two lines must be related, as must the corresponding characters. In English, each line must have the same number of words, and each word in line 1 should correspond in meaning and grammar to the words in line 2, with line 2 creating a counterpoint to line 1. Rhyme is optional.
  8. Rhophalic couplet — a poem in which the nth word of each line has n syllables. For example, the first word has 1 syllable, the second word has 2 syllables, etc. There is no limit to line length, and rhyme is not required.
  9. Seven-eleven couplet — Stanzaic, with any number of rhyming couplets. Each couplet has a line length of 7 or 11 syllables, in any possible combination (i.e. 7-7, 7-11, 11-11, 11-7). The only stipulation is that lines 6 and 11 (if there is one) are always 11 syllables.

There may well be more, but these are the forms I have come across up to this point. And to be honest, I think we have plenty to work with right here.

In summary, the Sonnetina Due is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written in five couplets, usually with no spaces between.
  • There is no set line length or rhythm, although they are usually written in iambic tetrameter or pentameter.
  • They may be unrhymed, but if rhymed, the rhyme scheme is aabbccddee.

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #31: Sonnetina Due”

10-line Poem Challenge #30: Sonnetina Tre

This is week 3 in our study of sonnetinas, or “little songs.” Previously we have tried our hands at the Sonnetina Cinque and Sonnetina Quattro. Both of these forms have quite a bit of flexibility within the general framework, and you will find the same to be true for the Sonnetina Tre.

As you might guess from the title, this form is created from three stanzas: 2 quatrains and 1 couplet. It is usually written in iambic tetrameter (8-syllable lines) or pentameter (10-syllable lines). The normal structure concludes with the couplet, making it just one quatrain short of a Shakespearean sonnet. But it is possible to have the couplet in the middle or even at the beginning. Regardless of the order in which the stanzas appear, they are written together, as a 10-line form, with no space in between.

In addition to the placement of the couplet, there is also flexibility in the format of the quatrains. As defined by their rhyme, they can be:
• a series of couplets (aabb)
• alternate line rhyme (abab)
• envelope rhyme (abba)
• partial rhyme (xaxa)
• free verse (no rhyme)

The couplet itself is also flexible. In other words, it may rhyme or not. According to my sources, it can also rhyme with the adjoining quatrain (though to me that contradicts the definition of the stanza). The key is that the couplet contains the theme of the poem. In prose terms, the couplet is like the topic sentence in a paragraph.

If you want to know more about couplets, go to my article on the Sonnetina Cinque.

You may have noticed that the Sonnetina Tre is very similar to the Miniature, another form we have studied. It too is made from two quatrains followed by a rhyming couplet. The difference is that the Miniature has varying line lengths, as specified in the form, whereas all the lines of the Sonnetina Tre are of a uniform length (isosyllabic). The line length is up to you, the writer, but once established, you must use the same meter / syllabic count for every line.

In summary, the Sonnetina Tre is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written in three stanzas, two quatrains and a couplet, with no spaces between.
  • Usually iambic tetrameter (8 syllables per line) or pentameter (10 syllables per line).
  • Rhyme scheme options: abab cdcd ee, abba cc deed, xaxa xbxb ab, etc.

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #30: Sonnetina Tre”

10-line Poem Challenge #29: Sonnetina Quattro

This week we are continuing our study of sonnetinas, or 10-line sonnets. Last week we started with the Sonnetina Cinque. That form is made by doubling a quintet of any form (two 5-line stanzas), which may be written together or with a break in between.

The Sonnetina Quattro is a sestet (6-line stanza) and a quatrain (4-line stanza), usually written in iambic tetrameter or pentameter, with alternating rhyme. The sestet is normally first, although the order could be reversed.

I did not notice any particular restrictions or instructions regarding the content of the poem, like a volta (sharp turn in the thought). The volta may be understood, as that is one of the characteristics of the sonnet, or it may be totally unnecessary.

In summary, the Sonnetina Quattro is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written in two stanzas, a sestet and a quatrain.
  • Usually iambic tetrameter (8 syllables per line) or pentameter (10 syllables per line).
  • Rhyme scheme: ababab cdcd

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #29: Sonnetina Quattro”

10-line Poem Challenge #28: Sonnetina Cinque

You may recall that a sonnet is a 14-line poem. A sonnetina therefore, is an abbreviated sonnet, having the form of a sonnet, but only 10 lines long.

The more I uncover about the Sonnetina Cinque, the more I learn just how versatile this form can be. The Sonnetina Cinque is written in two parts (though not necessarily two stanzas). The first part presents a question or statement, and the second part answers the question or counters the statement. Beyond this requirement, the actual form of the two parts can be any quintain (5-line stanza), including but not limited to the quintilla, limerick, lanturne, tetractys, oddquain, cinquain, tanka, blank verse, and free verse.

All the following forms have 5 lines and could be used, when doubled, to form a Sonnetina Cinque:

Quintain — general term referring to any stanza of 5 lines
Quintilla — 8 syllables per line with rhyme scheme: ababa, abbab, abaab, aabab, or aabba
Limerick — anapestic trimeter/dimeter with rhyme scheme: aabba
Lanturne — unrhymed verse with syllabic count: 1-2-3-4-1
Tetractys — unrhymed verse with syllabic count: 1-2-3-4-10
Oddquain — unrhymed verses with syllabic count: 1-3-5-7-1
Cinquain — unrhymed verse with syllabic count: 2-4-6-8-2
Tanka — unrhymed verse with syllabic count: 5-7-5-7-7
Blank verse — unrhymed verse in iambic pentameter
Free verse — unrhymed verse with no particular meter or line length

You may be thinking that we have already studied the Double Tetractys, Mirror Cinquain, and Mirror Oddquain. What’s the difference between those and the Sonnetina Cinque? I’m glad you asked. There are two differences.

(1) To form the Double Tetractys, Mirror Cinquain, and Mirror Oddquain, the syllabic structure is reversed for the second stanza; but to form the Sonnetina Cinque, the syllabic structure is repeated in the same order as for the first stanza, such that they are not a mirror image of each other.

(2) In the Sonnetina Cinque, the second stanza provides a counterpoint to the point of the first stanza. This is not necessarily true in the other forms, and it is the distinguishing feature of this particular form.

If terms like tetrameter and iambic mean nothing to you, I invite you to look at my earlier post, “The Nuts and Bolts of Poetry: Rhythm, Meter, and Rhyme,” for some help sorting out these terms if they are foreign to you. But with all the many forms at your disposal, I don’t think writing a Sonnetina Cinque is out of anyone’s reach.

In summary, the Sonnetina Cinque is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written in two 5-line segments (quintains). They may be written as two stanzas (with a break in between), but more often it is a single stanza of 10 lines.
  • The first segment gives a statement or sets up a question.
  • The second segment gives a counter statement to the first or answers the question.
  • It is usually written in iambic tetrameter or pentameter (8-10 syllables), but it doesn’t have to be.
  • Rhyme is optional. Generally, the quintain form you choose will determine line length and rhyme.

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #28: Sonnetina Cinque”

Apologies to My Followers

Please forgive me for dropping off the face of the earth these past few days. I had planned carefully, or so I thought, in preparation for my art show last weekend. My poems were written and posts scheduled to make sure the blog would continue to carry on while I was busy in the studio and at the show. This past week’s posts were ready to go as well, but were not scheduled. Little did I know that the week after the art show would be busier still than those leading up to it. There was business to attend to, but there were also family affairs that I could not have foreseen.

I was going to simply post my weekly challenge a couple days late and then get back on schedule. However, that would only give you a few days to write your own Sonnetina Cinque. Since this one can potentially be a bit challenging, I decided instead to push all my challenges back a week. So you have a little break, and I’ll see if I can go into the linkup for the Ovillejo and extend the period for submissions to that one.

That said, I look forward to studying the sonnetina form with you over the next five weeks. And I’ll go ahead and let you know that when we have exhausted my knowledge of ten-line poems, we’ll move on to the sonnet (14 lines), and then finish out the year with some quintets (5 lines). Why did I choose the sonnet to follow the decastich? Well, frankly, I wasn’t planning to go that route, but in my preparation to write the Sonnetina Cinque, I decided to look more closely at the sonnet form, and that of course whetted my appetite to write one. I actually found fourteen sonnet forms—a fitting number for a poem with fourteen lines. If the sonnet sounds boring or too difficult, don’t write them all off just yet. You may think the sonnet isn’t for you, but stick around and I’ll show you some interesting variations that I know you will enjoy!

So, are you ready to do this with me? Enjoy your little break, or perhaps you will take this time to write another Ovillejo, then Thursday I’ll share my second sample poem for the Sonnetina Cinque, and Friday I’ll show you how to write one of your own.

Thank you for understanding, and God bless you this week.



10-line Poem Challenge #27: Ovillejo

The earliest Ovillejo was written in Spanish and dates back to the early 1600s. It occurs in Don Quixote (1605) written by Miguel de Cervantes. While there are specific guidelines for line length and rhyme, I noticed that in Cervantes’ sequence of three Ovillejos, he did not follow the rules to the letter as concerning the line length, although he did adhere to the rhyme scheme. As for me, I promise to stick to the rules for the sake of this tutorial, but may stray from it a bit when I use it later on.

According to one of my sources, the name Ovillejo comes from the word skein and refers to a tightly wound ball of yarn. This is a poem of 10 lines that rolls out in measured segments, then goes back and picks up the short threads for the final unraveling.

The 10 lines are organized into two stanzas. The first stanza of six lines is in the form of three rhyming couplets. The first line of each couplet asks a question in 8 syllables (iambic tetrameter, to be precise), and the second line gives a four-syllable answer (iambic dimeter). For the record, this is where Cervantes deviated from the rule. His answers had sometimes 3, and other times only 2 syllables, but never 4.

The second stanza is a quatrain of four lines that summarizes, or amplifies, the first stanza, with line 10 repeating the three short lines from the first stanza (lines 2,4,6).

A note about meter vs. syllables

Some of you may have a hard time understanding meter because you have not been taught the technical side of writing poetry, so you prefer to count syllables. If you wish to count syllables, the structure would basically be 8-4-8-4-8-4 for the first stanza, and 8-8-8-12 for the second stanza .

There is some flexibility in the syllabic count, however, and counting feet instead of syllables gives you that flexibility. For example, a line of four trochaic or iambic feet would have 8 syllables total, but a line of four dactylic or anapestic feet would have 12 syllables total. And if you mix the feet, as I often do, you get a syllable count somewhere between 8 and 12 per line. The important thing in an Ovillejo is to be sure that the lines have a certain number of strong beats, regardless of how many weak beats they may have.

When counting feet, the structure is 4-2-4-2-4-2 for the first stanza, 4-4-4-6 for the second stanza, with each number representing the number of strong beats you want to have in each line. Does that clear it up a little, or make it worse? I would like to make another demonstration video using the Ovillejo, but I have not had time up to this point. It will come, I promise, after the art show—which, incidentally, is going on this weekend! ☺ (This post and many others were scheduled in advance. Otherwise, they would not have happened.) In the meantime, I invite you to look at my earlier post, “The Nuts and Bolts of Poetry: Rhythm, Meter, and Rhyme,” for some help sorting out these terms if they are foreign to you.

In summary, the Ovillejo is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written in two stanzas, a sestet and a quatrain.
  • Syllabic Structure: 8-4-8-4-8-4 8-8-8-12
  • Rhythm = trochaic throughout (I personally don’t always hold to this rule.)
  • Meter = tetrameter (lines 1,3,5,7,8,9); dimeter (lines 2,4,6); line 10 = lines 2,4,6 combined
  • Rhyme scheme = aabbcc cddc

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #27: Ovillejo”

10-line Poem Challenge #26: Miniature

Margaret Ball Dickson brought to us the poetic form known as the Miniature. It’s a kind of contradiction of syllabic and metric form. Lines 6 & 8 have feminine endings (unstressed syllables), while all the other begin and end on stressed syllables (masculine endings). The Miniature is rhymed, and it even contains a bit of internal rhyme.

By the way, if some of the terms above confuse you, feel free to take a look at my other article, “The Nuts and Bolts of Poetry: Rhythm, Meter, and Rhyme,” for some help in understanding them better.

In summary, the Miniature is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written in one single stanza.
  • Syllabic pattern: 7-5-7-5-7-6-7-6-7-7
  • Rhythm: dactylic (one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable, i.e. AM-ber)
  • Lines 6 and 8 have feminine endings. Incidentally, these are the only two lines with an even number of syllables (6).
  • All the other lines begin and end on stressed syllables.
  • Rhyme scheme: xaxaxbxbcc, where x means there is no rhyme
  • Internal rhyme: The 5th syllable of line 1 must rhyme with the 1st syllable of line 2.

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #26: Miniature”

10-line Poem Challenge #25: Pirouette

This beautiful form has perfect symmetry and a sharp “turn-around,” or pirouette, in the center. The key to creating a good Pirouette is to be able to turn the subject matter around and present the opposite—or at least a different—perspective. This may not be easy with only 10 short lines with which to work, but I want you to try. I myself was intimidated by the Pirouette until I tried it. That’s why I saved it for #25.

In summary, the Pirouette is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written in two 5-line stanzas.
  • Each line contains 6 syllables
  • Line 5 ends the first half of the poem, and line 6 starts the second.
  • Lines 5 and 6, called “the turn-around,” are identical. The turn-around must be sharp, taking the thought in a different, preferably opposite, direction.
  • Rhyming is optional

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #25: Pirouette”

10-line Poem Challenge #24: Ravenfly

Amanda J. Norton, writing on Allpoetry as DarkButterfly, has given us another decastich. Hers is called the Ravenfly. I did my best to create an etymology of the Cinq Trois DecaLa Rhyme, but I’m not even going to guess how the Ravenfly got its name.

This too is a rhyming poem, and it has three stanzas: 2 quatrains and a couplet. The line length is based on syllabic count as opposed to meter, but it could very easily lend itself to tetrameter for the quatrains and pentameter for the couplet.

In summary, the Ravenfly is:

• A decastich (10-line poem) written in 3 stanzas: 2 quatrains and 1 couplet.
• Syllabic count: 8-7-8-7, 8-7-8-7, 10-10
• Rhyme scheme: abab cdcd ee
• Meter is optional

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #24: Ravenfly”

10-line Poem Challenge #23: Cinq Trois DecaLa Rhyme

Welcome to Week 23 of the Decastich Challenge. Allow me to introduce you to the Cinq Trois DecaLa Rhyme, invented by Laura Lamarca. Beginning this week, I will also give you a new way to share your contributions. Instead of waiting to see your links added to next week’s challenge, there will be a place in this post for you to link your poem yourself. That’s right. I stepped out of my comfort zone once again and learned about the little frog over at Inlinkz. 🙂 I think this will work much better for all of us….

So now, are you ready to learn about the Cinq Trois DecaLa Rhyme? Great! Then keep on reading.

What in the world does the name mean? I’m not entirely sure, but I could take it apart and figure out most of it.

Cinq is French for 5
Trois is French for 3
Deca suggests 10
La Rhyme refers to the fact that this is a rhyming poem

Okay. So there 15 syllables on each line (5×3). Also, there are 3 rhyming sounds throughout the poem. The stanza consists of 10 lines, and it rhymes.

In my source, where I learned about this form, deca and la were put together, just as I present it, with a capital D and a capital L. I don’t know if that is a mistake or if that’s the way Ms. Lamarca intended it. But since I don’t know any better, I’m leaving it as is until further notice.

To summarize, the Cinq Trois DecaLa Rhyme is:

• A decastich (10-line poem) written in only one stanza.
• It has 15 syllables per line.
• Rhyme scheme: aabbcccabc
• Meter is optional

Continue reading “10-line Poem Challenge #23: Cinq Trois DecaLa Rhyme”