How to Start Crafting Syllabic Poetry
by Colleen M. Chesebro
Are you new to crafting syllabic poetry and don’t know how to start? Let me show you two syllabic poetry forms to get you started on your poetry writing journey now…
Let’s start with an American form, the Crapsey Cinquain. The Crapsey Cinquain is a five-line, non-rhyming poem featuring a syllable structure of 2-4-6-8-2. Choose words that create drama that builds into the fourth line. The turn occurs on line five, the most important line. This is where you change your focus away from the drama in some interesting way. Cinquain poems need a title.
Use a syllable counter as you compose your poetry. I use the Syllable Counter at sodacoffee.com. See my cinquain example below:
smudges morning’s gray clouds
dew sparkles against the grasses
© Colleen M. Chesebro
In the Crapsey cinquain above, I described a morning sunrise. True to the form, I pivoted in line five. My last two-syllables are where I turned away from the beauty of the scene and added the word “thunder.” This gives a hint that not everything is as it seems in the idyllic scene I described.
If Japanese poetry intrigues you, start with the haiku. Haiku contains three lines following the short-long-short, 3-5-3, 2-3-2, (5-7-5 traditional) syllable count. Your haiku should contain approximately twelve syllables. We write haiku about nature, the seasons, a beautiful moment in nature, an emotional experience while in nature, or change. Haiku are untitled. The use of a Kigo (season word) is optional. Haiku do not rhyme. Do not use metaphors or similes in haiku.
(When you’re first learning how to write haiku, feel free to use the 5-7-5 syllable structure until you’re ready to embrace the shorter formats.)
When we write haiku, we’re sharing an encounter between nature and ourselves as a human. We describe our experience at that exact moment. These are the moments that stand out and grab our attention in unexpected ways. Remember, haiku are untitled.
clouds stitched together
against the blue cloth of sky
summer’s heat rises
© Colleen M. Chesebro
In the haiku above, I describe the clouds, and how they look against a blue sky. Notice my choice of words. I also used a kigo or season word, which is summer. Now, you’re experiencing the moment with me…
Break your haiku into two separate word images:
clouds stitched together against the blue cloth of sky
against the blue cloth of sky summer’s heat rises
This is a great way to check your haiku when you’ve finished writing. Combine the first and second line of your haiku. Does a mental image appear? In this example, you can see the clouds contrast the color of the blue sky. Remember the brevity of words.
However, when you take the second and third line and combine them, you receive another mental image. Now you see the heat shimmers against the blue sky.
The idea is to write about two contrasting or somehow similar images, and to connect them in unusual ways. Haiku are all about images. How does the haiku make you feel? Have you created emotion without telling your reader how to feel?
That’s it! You’re ready to craft syllabic poetry!
About the Author
Colleen M. Chesebro is a Michigan Poet who loves crafting syllabic poetry, flash fiction, and creative fiction and nonfiction. Colleen sponsors a weekly syllabic poetry challenge, called Tanka Tuesday, on https://wordcraftpoetry.com where participants learn how to write traditional and current forms of haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, tanka prose, renga, solo-renga, haibun, cinquain, Etheree, nonet, shadorma, Badger’s hexastich, Abhanga, and diatelle poetry. Find Colleen’s books, poetry, and other writings on https://colleenchesebro.com.