16.15: Poetic Structure, Part I

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard

Rigorous structure in poetic form
is commonly pointed at when we declare
Poems have meters and rhymes, as the norm.

Yet words without patterns can roar like a storm
So why pay attention, why study with care
Rigorous structure in poetic form?

Just set it aside, surrender the gorm
(means “alertness”, a quite-handy rhyme I put there)
Poems have meters and rhymes as the norm.

Let some of it go, perhaps. Let it transform
beyond all the rhyming. Deny, if you dare:
Rigorous structure in poetic form

Okay, you can maybe keep some of it warm
Those toasty iambics by which you might swear:
Poems have meters and rhymes as the norm.

This episode text I wrote: does it inform?
Will all be confused when this couplet doth air?
“Rigorous structure in poetic form:
Poems have meters and rhymes as the norm.”

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson. The villanelle above was the first—and hopefully last—ever composed by Howard Tayler. Yes, the Writing Excuses tagline is a haiku. No, Howard did not know that when he wrote it in 2008.


Write either of these:
Just one villanelle (Howard!)
or three full haiku.

Pay close attention
To the demands of their forms.
Constraints can inspire!

(Fifteen minutes long
Because you’re in a hurry
and this is haiku.)

“Resident Alien,” available on SyFy or through Amazon.

4 thoughts on “16.15: Poetic Structure, Part I”

  1. The poetic quartet, Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard, took a look at the structure of poetry in this week’s episode in the series on poetry. What are the haiku, sonnet, villanelle, sestina, or other forms trying to show us, and what can you do with them? Read all about it, in the transcript now in the archives.

  2. A haiku only has the 5-7-5 pattern in Japanese. An English haiku needn’t follow that pattern at all. The “syllables” (onji) in Japanese are in a 5 – 7- 5 pattern, but Japanese is primarily polysyllabic. Creating Haiku in English based on the same pattern is likely to result in a poem that is often too long.

    Good Haiku go beyond the form. It’s more about a juxtaposition between two images, with a single preposition, a single mark or none at all of punctuation. Jack Kerouac is a prime example of an English haiku poet.

    1. You’re demonstrating that it’s possible to be correct and wrong at the same time.

      English haiku, per English tradition, follow the 5-7-5 pattern. They’re a different form than the Japanese haiku, and it’s a form which works beautifully.

      If you want to go beyond the form, that’s fine, but to say that this is a requirement for an English haiku to be “good” is wrong on several levels.

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