Poetic Form: Cascade Poem

Since I was having trouble coming up with a poem today, I thought I’d investigate a new poetic form to help prompt me into action. I’ve seen the cascade poem mentioned a few times online, but I always assumed it meant the poem was comprised of stanzas with indented lines (creating a kind of cascading effect). But after researching online, I realize this assumption is wrong.

The cascade poem was a form invented by Udit Bhatia (who also apparently created the Alliterisen, which I’ll try to deal with in a future post). For the cascade poem, a poet takes each line from the first stanza of a poem and makes those the final lines of each stanza afterward. Beyond that, there are no additional rules for rhyming, meter, etc.

So to help this make sense, here’s what a cascade poem with a tercet would look like:





A quatrain cascade would look so:






And, of course, you can make this even more involved if you want.

Here’s my attempt and example (going with a simple tercet form to get started):


Tonight is perfect for staying inside,
but I’m busy contorting my organs.
For instance, my heart and brain love to fight.

Sometimes, you can see them twist my body
this way and that when it is raining, though
tonight is perfect for staying inside.

My lungs breathe heavy and my skin itches
to touch you, to let you know I’m all right,
but I’m busy contorting my organs.

It’s a put off, I know. Losing control
when I’m around you, unable to say,
for instance, my heart and brain love to fight.


Learn more about the cascade poem at Writing.com.


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18 thoughts on “Poetic Form: Cascade Poem

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  3. Barbara_Y

    Since I’ve been struggling with Centos lately, I thought it might be interesting to make a cascade/cento. The lines are from a handful of Bukowski poems

    the little poems kick up their heels
    witty, knowledgeable and golden
    while the music played.
    Spanish melodies and bones.

    listening to glazed recordings
    the blackbirds run around and
    I say, stay in there, I’m not going
    the little poems kick up their heels

    this land punched-in, cuffed-out, divided,
    I walk on it, live on it a little while
    striding down through centuries
    witty, knowledgeable and golden

    25 years ago there used to be a whore there
    and she put her behind up in the air
    mocking mocking mocking
    while the music played.

    and the radio would sit there on the roof
    it was asking, it was praying
    anything; I guess God meant it all
    Spanish melodies and bones.

  4. Willy


    Young Joey’s mom just couldn’t understand
    why her son’s health should be so important
    to a person she didn’t even know.

    No one had ever seemed to care before.
    How his mind and frail, little body worked,
    young Joey’s mom just couldn’t understand.

    After many hours of demonstrating
    and teaching, Joey’s mom finally learned
    why her son’s health should be so important.

    For the first time, since birth four years ago,
    Joey smiled, held out his arms, blew kisses
    to a person she didn’t even know.

  5. Amy Barlow Liberatore

    I stand once again in awe of you who are able to understand, tame, and ultimately embrace complicated forms. While I doubt I’ll ever be adept at something this ordered, requiring that magical combination of precision and inspiration, I have read each of yours with delight. As far as personal identification goes, Laurie, your "tick tock" and "sometimes I play off-key, sometimes not" struck me!

  6. Laurie Kolp

    The Symphony of Life

    I am but one in this symphony of life
    I play my instrument the best I can
    Sometimes I play off-key, sometimes not

    My God is the conductor of this melody
    I listen peacefully for His guiding words
    I am but one in this symphony of life

    The rhythm of the drums, my beating heart
    Spreads forth nostalgic euphoria
    I play my instrument the best I can

    Tick tock, the metronome drones on and on
    Good versus evil a constant temptation
    Sometimes I play off-key, sometimes not

  7. annie mcwilliams

    phantoms (a cascade poem)

    something is calling from around the bend
    where it whispers and flutters from beyond:
    make time to think, take a nap, watch the stars

    masks are dimension’s unexpected growth
    sure signs of a key hidden within grasp
    something is calling from around the bend

    a lake fountain radio shoots the moon
    seasons go by and nothing much changes
    except whispers and flutters from beyond

    mountains listen, holding their heads just so
    a good story lights a path in few words
    make time to think, take a nap, watch the stars

  8. Taylor Graham


    Out in the fields, sheep are grazing dry stubble
    with the everlasting faith of sheep, lying down
    to meditate. Each year I learn to wait for rain.

    It’s June, already annual grasses have turned,
    seedheads barbed to burrow into soil or wool.
    Out in the fields, sheep are grazing dry stubble,

    seeking anything that’s green, the slightest
    oakling they might nip, a sacrifice to famine
    with the everlasting faith of sheep. Lying down

    to sleep, I turn to churn and grind of rumen,
    small stones in storm-wash down the creek
    to meditate each year. I learn to wait for rain.

  9. Mike Bayles

    The Sky Clearing

    A space between two clouds
    allows a peak at the sun
    for a moment of glory.
    Summer comes to my town
    brought by light seeping through
    a space between two clouds.
    I awaken to remnants of a storm,
    and the solitary drive on the avenue
    allows a peak at the sun.
    Heartfelt hopes, and sublimated dreams
    stir another day and gratitude
    for a moment of glory.

  10. Andrew Kreider

    Spelling Bee

    The children are sweating
    Asking nervous questions of clarification
    Because they have never heard these words before

    Under such bright lights
    It is no wonder that
    The children are sweating

    Like a jaded bomb squad
    Circling each treacherous noun and verb
    Asking nervous questions of clarification

    I wonder what monster created this sport
    That makes good kids cry
    Because they have never heard these words before

  11. Walt Wojtanik


    Heavy hearted hangs the head
    of the muddled man mired in muse.
    Randomly refusing,
    choosing clearly less confusing
    ponderous poems;
    lilting lines left to languish.
    Heavy headed hangs the heart.

    **Since you mentioned, I gave the Alliterisen a peek. The "mathematician poet" strikes again!

  12. Janet Rice Carnahan

    B Cascade Poem


    Water as a teacher,
    Flows freely along,
    Carrying life with it,
    Speeds that reflect our life!

    Rushing forward in leaps and bounds,
    Cascading towards resistant boulders,
    Going any way it pleases,
    Water as a teacher!

    Stagnant ponds wait,
    Algae and slime collect.
    Until clear and clean motion,
    Flows freely along,

    Barely a dribble visible,
    Slowed to a trickle of sound,
    Drop by drop, hardly a pulse,
    Carrying life with it!

    Frozen still in place,
    Ice and snow can melt,
    Moving into springs in our heart,
    Speeds that reflect our life!

  13. Janet Rice Carnahan

    A Cascade Poem (with tercet)


    And it always glows again,
    In every fire in the soul,
    Each heart in love,

    Softness holds it close,
    Expression is intimately unique,
    And it always glows again.

    Sparks come with passion,
    Joint vibrations see the light,
    In every fire in the soul!

    Adrift in calm beauty,
    Ever in our dreams,
    Each heart in love!

  14. Walt Wojtanik


    The thunder rumbles humbly.
    It sits in the distance and resonates;
    the lightning keeps missing it’s cue.

    Darkened skies get darker still,
    clouds seeded, indeed needing relief.
    The thunder rumbles humbly.

    The winds kick up, insinuating itself
    upon the landscape, swaying tree branches.
    It sits in the distance and resonates.

    A solitary drop falls, followed by two more,
    multiplying into a downpour; a storm forms,
    the lightning keeps missing it’s cue.

  15. Sara Gwen

    Similar to a pantoum, but the quatrain cascade feels a whole lot more like a loose variation of a rondeau redoublé, where – similar to the point raised by Robert in the comparison vs the pantoum – the rondeau redoublé adds the constraints of being built around only two rhyme sets and circles back around to the opening phrase, a la Maggie’s Ripped Tide of last month’s PAD challenge.

    And just one opinion here, but the cascade and rondeau redoublé feel different from the pantoum in that whereas the pantoum builds on each next two-step from the prior two-step, kinda like going up a ladder by consolidating on each rung before moving on; the cascade and rondeau redoublé feel almost more like a speech where you’ve listed out the three or four (or more) bullet points at the beginning of the speach, then explore those points more in detail through the rest of the speech. In this distinction, of course, not an advantage or disadvantage, but simply a different way of delivering the poem, as different as a terzanelle is from a villanelle.

    But only as one opinion from someone who only learned this from someone else studying it all. Each poet will feel it differently, I would think.

  16. Robert Lee Brewer

    Well, I don’t know about advantages, but one difference is that a pantoum incorporates a whole lot more repetition than a cascade poem. Also, most pantoums follow a rhyme scheme.

    Both forms offer their own advantages/disadvantates, I suppose.


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