We’ve talked before about syllables in writing poetry. As a quick review, we know that every word in the English language must have at least one vowel (a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y) and so must every syllable. We learned to clap out the number of vowel sounds in different words in order to count the syllables. For example, we clapped out two syllables in homework — home (clap), work (clap), and four syllables in arithmetic — a (clap), rith (clap), me (clap), tic (clap).
We know that poetry often uses syllables to make its words have rhythm or music, and that such poetry is called syllabic poetry. Syllabic poetry has a certain number of syllables in each line. Sometimes each line has the same number of syllables and other times each line has a different but regular pattern of syllables per line. We have actually practiced writing some of these syllabic forms such as Haiku, Tanka, Cinquains, and Etheree. Some of you even sent in the syllabic poems you wrote to the Magic Dragon, who enjoyed them enough to ask that I introduce you to some new syllabic forms. Here are some new syllabic forms to keep you writing:
The Pensée poem: The word “pensée” is French for “thought” and the pensée poem expresses a thought in five syllabic lines as follows”

• Line one names the subject of the thought in 2 syllables
• Line two describes the thought in 4 syllables
• Line three is an action in 7 syllables
• Line four shows a setting in 8 syllables
• Line five is the final thought in 6 syllables


Snow Man,
built by small hands,
smiles wide with black charcoal teeth
filling our yard with bright laughter
making the day warmer.

The Tetractys Poem: The tetractys was made famous by Pythagoras, an ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician. In his time, the number ten was thought to be a magical number representing power. This poem has syllables in its lines leading up to the last line that is equal to the same 10 syllables in the last line itself. In modern times, the Tetractys Poem has become quite popular.

• Line one – 1 syllable Note how the syllables 1
• Line two – 2 syllables + 2
• Line three – 3 syllables + 3
• Line four – 4 syllables + 4
• Line five – 10 syllables 10 syllables


am cold
as winter,
while we snowshoe.
It must be time for cookies and hot milk.

The Tyburn Poem: The Tyburn Poem is a bit more complicated than the simple syllabic poems above, because it has rules for rhyme and repetition as well as for the syllables. It is a six line poem consisting of 2, 2, 2, 2, 9, 9 syllables. The first four lines rhyme and are all descriptive words. The last two lines rhyme and must include the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines as the 5th to 8th syllables.

• Line one – 2 syllables
• Line two – 2 syllables
• Line three – 2 syllables
• Line four – 2 syllables
• Line five – 9 syllables 5th syllable through 8th syllable must be words from lines 1 & 2
• Line six – 9 syllables 5th syllable through 8th syllable must be words from lines 3 & 4


Winter winds now blowing, snowing chill.
Slushy lakes stop flowing, growing still.

Winter is a great time to snuggle up in front of a crackling fire and practice writing poetry. Play around with these new forms of syllabic poetry and send some of your best ones to the Magic Dragon.