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THE PIROUETTE—When East meets West: a marriage of Chinese and Western poetry styles

by Suzette Richards

Chinese traditional poetry is often difficult to understand; good translation is essential to fully understand Chinese poems. In terms of the technical side of poetry, the two traditions (Chinese and English) have similarities, for example, there are a fixed number of lines of syllables and rhyme. And the ‘strict’ form of writing (metre, rhyme scheme, and stanzas) is still the most prevalent form of poetry in both traditions. Chinese poetry is all about the poet, the ‘meaning’ for the poet (subjective), and not what is happening ‘around’ the poet (objective). In contrast, modern English poetry places a focus on ‘what is happening’ around the poet. Modern Chinese poets have written in free verse, but many still write with a strict form. The main themes of Chinese modern poetry are ‘relationships’, but set within a unique Chinese context— in a wider social, economic and social context of China's continued economic and social development.

Jueju and Sijo are but two poetry styles that can trace their origins back to traditional Chinese poetry.

I kept these elements in mind when I designed the following poetic form:


pirouette: (n.) a ballet term meaning spin. It is used to describe any turn in ballet that involves turning on one leg.


1. The number of stanzas is unlimited.

2. Metre per each stanza: A quatrain in anapaestic dimeter [**/|**/], and ending with an additional line, the pirouette, in dactylic monometer [/**]. The pirouette may be extended, but then the metre is switched around in each subsequent line, eg L6 **/, L7 /**, etc. It imitates the rhythm of dance—the spin is in the reversed stress/metre of the final line(s).

3. Rhyme scheme: The rhyme scheme of the quatrains is the prerogative of the poet. The first word (unstressed) in the 1st line of the quatrain rhymes with the last word (unstressed) in line 5. When the pirouette is extended, every alternate (uneven number) line rhymes as set out above. It is a variation of Linked Rhyme.

4. The pirouette (the final line or more)) is presented indented.

5. The subjective content has a light and playful ambience.

6. It may be titled.



zXX XXX (a)

XXX XXX (a/b)

XXX XXX (a/b/c)

XXX XXX (a/b/c)







(I have highlighted the metre for ease of reference.)



Be intent on the prize;

one should resist fair play—

Neither any shortfall,

nor absurdity can

     affect me

     by any 

     means, and we 

     will feign love 

     same as he. 


Other well-known heterometric verse:

Tail-rhyme; Clerihew; Limerick; Double Dactyl; Lai; Thorley; and Skeltronic verse.

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The moral rights of the author have been asserted. 

Copyright © Docendo discimus, Suzette Richards, 2021 

ISBN 978-0-620-95432-7