Decima: Poetic Forms

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For those interested, I'm in the midst of putting together a results post for the April PAD Challenge. It won't have a whole lot of results, but it will include some winners--and we'll add as they come in (like last year). Keep an eye out for it. But first...

Let's look at the poetic form known as decima. There are various versions of it, but we'll start with the version popular in Puerto Rico. It is a 10-liner with 8 syllables per line in the following rhyme pattern:

A
B
B
A
A
C
C
D
D
C

In Puerto Rico and other parts of Latin America, the decima is often sung and improvised. The form is also sometimes referred to as espinela after its founder, Spanish writer and musician Vicente Espinel. Those who write and perform decimas are known as decimistas or deimeros.

In Ecuador, the decima is a 44-line poem comprised of a quatrain and four 10-line stanzas. Each of the lines from the opening quatrain are repeated later in the poem. The lines still retain eight syllables, though the rhyme constraints are loosened. If it sounds familiar, check out the glosa poetic form.

There is also a decima Italiana with ten 8-syllable lines that rhyme ababcdedec.

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Here's my attempt at a Decima:

"The Greatest Madness"

Fall for the trick, seeking gladness
in fine trinkets, milk, and honey,
and what can be had for money
for this makes the greatest madness--
trying to swap things for sadness.
Let us discover on this night
things that are wrong and love that's right--
alone in the woods, we will kiss
and find new paths to priceless bliss
on this soft journey by moonlight.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he maintains this blog, edits a couple Market Books (Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market), writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, leads online education, speaks around the country on publishing and poetry, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff.

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He’s a big fan of learning (and trying) the vast variations of poetic forms available to poets. If you want to show him some love, check out his collection Solving the World’s Problems.

Also, follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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