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The Etheree

by Andrea Dietrich

Have you ever tried an etheree? This poetry form name is pronounced e/the/ree, with emphasis on the final syllable, and it was named for the Arkansas poet Etheree Taylor Armstrong, who invented it in the 1970's. The form is short and tight. One must fit words carefully into a structure which begins with a one-syllable word, increasing the syllable count by one with each succeeding line until arriving at the final ten-syllable line. In a sense it is "free verse,“ but with a bit of structure! Furthermore, just like free verse, it is at its best when it employs imagery. Nowadays, people are incorporating meter and rhyme into their etheree, and I too have many etheree with meter. I have also seen people reverse it or do double or triple etheree poems. I think it is a good thing to experiment with new forms and take them to another level! It makes for even more interesting poetry.

Often written like an epigram, the etheree is meant to be concise and the more clever the better! I’ve discovered that this form works best for me when I want to express one very specific idea by unfolding my lines to a climax or perhaps an ending with a twist. Also, if I want to describe a small event or relate a scene from nature to life, I find this to be a useful form. I could even compare the etheree to senryu or haiku, but of course, the etheree is more accommodating to poets who find it difficult to write according to a standard structure of 17 syllables! Having a total of 55 syllables, the etheree allows for more fliexibility than haiku. It allows the poet to play with the structure of sentences in order to fit syllables in the best possible way to the number allotted him per line.

I will provide an example of one of my first attempts at etheree below. For the poet who enjoys new "flavors" in poetry, please examine the poetry pages of poets who write many types of forms, and see for yourself the many examples of etheree here at Poetry Soup. If you like what you see, try one for yourself!

Reversed Etheree Example:

The Lair

Where haze invades iniquitous corners,
raucous music saturates the room.
The Ecstacy-induced twining
of hot, pulsating bodies,
a mimicry of mass
lewd copulation,
slows the thick air;

Copyright © 2003 Andrea Dietrich

Book: Shattered Sighs