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How To Design Your Own Unique Poetic Form

by Suzette Richards

I don’t think that there are many who haven’t pestered the chef or the hostess for the recipe of a dish that had formed the pièce de résistance at a memorable meal. So it is with poetic forms. Some of us are intrigued by the format of a particular poem; trying to gauge what exactly it is that attracts us to a particular poem as opposed to others.

Like your own signature dish, would it not be great to leave your stamp on the poetry world by having a poetic form accredited to you? However, it is easier said than done. There are many pitfalls for the gung-ho scribbler.


Since Enheduanna (2285–2250 BCE), the world’s first author known by name, man has been fascinated with the rhythms of poetry. Chant poems drew on the ancient roots of poetry, which did not include rhyme. Some qualities of poetry have been with us since the dawn of civilization when early man attempted to vocalize emotions, born out by the fact that there is a wealth of songs and recitals that preliterate peoples have. Anthropologists speculate that poetry—as distinct from speech—probably began in religious ceremonies, perhaps around a fire, to accompany dance. Chanting and dancing are linked by their use of repetition. Repetition establishes a rhythm and enchants the listener. But only to repeat gets boring, hence the variety. Repetition and variety are opposites that co-exist and strengthen each other.

I’ve said it so many times that it has become a cliché to my own ears: Without the readers' participation poetry is nothing, because it merely hints and tantalises. It never addresses a topic directly; it leaves it open to interpretation by the reader.

Poets are the cats of the literary world; staring fixedly into corners, observing life mere mortals don't comprehend. When asked, poets would give you the unvarnished truth, but you would have to dig for it—nothing is laid out on a platter for you.


My first and foremost advice is to study as many existing poetry forms as possible. In my case, I have steeped myself in the designs of over 200 well-known and otherwise, poetic forms—there are literally hundreds of poetic forms; plus researched in excess of a hundred sonnet forms before I designed the Suzette sonnet. It was curiosity born out of ignorance that led me to study as many poetic forms and related topics as possible that I could lay my hands on—the more I delved into it, the more I realised that a hobby had become a passion that I shared with many others.


NB It is not acceptable to copy or even slightly modify the design of an existing poetic form and try to pass it off as your own creation. It is merely your interpretation of an existing form! 

The design needs to be original—not merely a rehash of previous (albeit, very old) poetic forms, for example, chain verse, wedge verse, etc. Poets seem to reserve the right to put their own slant on existing poetic forms for their own use, especially invented poetic forms but, as with music, their cover version needs to honour the essence of the form with due recognition to the author.

You need to identify where your poetic form would fit into the bigger picture—the genre, for example, a ballad, metrical verse, sonnet, etc. Genre donates the poem's style, the main categories being objective and subjective.

You need to establish what format you would like the poetry to be presented in, ie syllabic and/or rhyme based, how many stanzas (if any), metre, etc; special instructions: presented, for example, centred on the page, or perhaps even specify the trope!


Now you would need to translate your poetic form into a format that would be universally understood. A poetic form is a type of poem consisting of stanza/verse per set rules and presented in a prescribed format. A format is the arrangement of things. It is said that well-known people as diverse as Albert Einstein and John Lennon, could not notate their designs in a standard format, but had resorted to shorthand that they had invented. Do avail yourself of the poetry terminology widely accessible on the internet, as well as here at under DICTIONARY. It will avoid any misunderstandings, even if you have coined a new phrase …

Do your research using the basic format as keywords in your research. For example (in the case of chain verse): ‘refrain’, ‘repeating word’, ‘end word’, ‘first word’, etc. Or, you might have a specific syllable format in mind, for example, 3-5-3-3-7-5 (a Shadorma). This is more difficult to research as the notation of the syllable formats varies greatly, for example, the above might be written as 3,5,3,3,7, and 5; or 3/5/3/3/7/5 (I personally don’t favour this method as I find the forward slash confusing, especially in a long chain of syllable counts, eg the Waltz Wave: 1-2-1-2-3-2-1-2-3-4-3-2-1-2-3-2-1-2-1), etc. The search for the number ‘3’ used in poetic forms, would give you the following poetic forms where ‘3’ is the beginning of the syllable counts: Shadorma, Pilish (a form of constrained writing), Seox, Whitney, Parallelogram de Crystalline (the latter: the syllable count for each stanza is 3-6-9 syllables per line – not to be confused with the 3-6-9 poem at another poetry website: ‘A 3-6-9 is a poem that has three stanzas. Each stanza is formatted with three lines that have a syllable count of 3-6-9. So the first line has three syllables, the second line has six and the final line has nine syllables. Write about anything.’), etc. But, it would also give you a plethora of poetic forms which include the number ‘3’ as part of its syllable format. As you would not (to my knowledge) be able to search for poetic forms which start with a particular syllable count (‘3’ as in the above example), there is no substitute for hands-on experience.


Now that you are all set and rearing to go, you need to consider the name of your new creation. As with the above, thoroughly research the name of the form you wish to give your design. Many poetic forms have unique names, for example, Florilegium, TriCube, The Tesla 3–6–9, Suzette Prime, Suzcrostic, Suzette sonnet, etc, and they are copyright protected (or even part of the name), coupled with the design of that particular form. Moral rights protect the bond between you and your work. They include the right for you to be associated with your work and prevent others from altering your work significantly. Don’t, for example, name your new rhyming poetic form ‘Rhyme Prime’ and base your design on the basic format of Suzette Prime, namely, the requirement that the syllable counts per line must be prime numbers, but changing the requirement of unrhymed verse to rhymed verse. ‘Rhyme Prime’ sounds catchy, but it is a NO GO! Another example: The name of the Diatelle poetic form sounds easy on the ear, but in medical terms ‘diatele/diatela’ (with one ‘l’) means the membranous roof of the third ventricle, (Medical Dictionary, © 2009, Farlex and Partners).

Let us recap what we have discussed above, using an example of a poetic form which I had recently designed for my book © Docendo discimus, Suzette Richards 2021.

ISBN 978-0-620-95432-7



Phi (1.618033988749895…) is most often pronounced fi like ‘fly’.

The Fibonacci sequence was the inspiration for a poetic form in its own right. However, the Fibonacci spiral is related to but not identical to the golden spiral. It’s said that the Fibonacci spiral only matches the golden spiral at a certain point when the former approaches the golden ratio or 1.618. In fact, the higher the Fibonacci numbers are, the closer their relationship is to Phi.

The spiral pattern created from the golden ratio is also called the golden spiral. The golden ratio is about 1.618 and is represented by the Greek letter phi, φ. That is, (a + b) ÷ a = a ÷ b. These elements inspired the design of the Phi poem.

In the 1800s, German mathematician Martin Ohm called the special number 1.618 golden, likely because it has always existed in mathematics. Further back in time, it was even described as divine because of its frequency in the natural world. The golden spiral symbol has inspired countless people throughout history. It’s been associated with the fundamentals of life, spirituality, and creation.


The © Phi poem is a 5-line syllabic poem with a rhyme scheme, invented by Suzette Richards, 2021. The 4th line should enhance the concluding word (the latter being unrhymed and in capital letters), for example, ‘PHI’, by using any number of poetic devices at your disposal. The poem is best presented centred on the page.

Rhyme scheme: a1 + b (‘a’ is an internal rhyme that cross rhymes with the corresponding lines 2 & 3); a2; a3; b; x ("x" is no rhyme).

Syllabic format of FIRST THREE LINES: 1 + 6; 1; 8; plus a line of any length. The concluding word might be any number of syllables.



Run with the idea while hot;


stretch your imaginative pun.

For a pie-in-the-sky it is not:


†Punning pi (π).

Updated 22 July 2021


  1. Suzette Prime – the story behind it
  2. Suzette sonnet – Suznet
  3. The Tesla 3–6–9: Poetic form since 2017
  4. Poetic forms based on mathematical concepts
  5. The Pirouette ...