Double Dactyl: Poetic Forms - Writer's Digest

Double Dactyl: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the double dactyl, a light verse form invented by Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal.
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Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the double dactyl, a light verse form invented by Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal.

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Double Dactyl Poems

The double dactyl form is a light verse form invented by poets Anthony Hecht and Paul Pascal. It has the following guidelines:

  • two quatrains
  • each quatrain has three double-dactyl lines
  • followed by a shorter dactyl-spondee pair
  • the two spondees rhyme
  • the first line is a nonsense phrase
  • the second line is a proper or place name
  • one other line (usually the sixth) uses a single double-dactylic word that has never been used before in any double dactyl [not sure how you can prove this, but...]

A couple notes on dactyls and spondees:

  1. one dactyl has a stress followed by two unstressed sounds; so, a double dactyl line does that twice
  2. a spondee is two syllables, both stressed

One final note: Some versions of the double dactyl replace the dactyl-spondee pair with a dactyl and stressed sound--so four syllables instead of five.


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Master Poetic Forms!

Learn how to write sestina, shadorma, haiku, monotetra, golden shovel, and more with The Writer’s Digest Guide to Poetic Forms, by Robert Lee Brewer.

This e-book covers more than 40 poetic forms and shares examples to illustrate how each form works. Discover a new universe of poetic possibilities and apply it to your poetry today!

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at a double dactyl:

big game, by Robert Lee Brewer

Boopily, woopily--
Ann Arbor, Michigan,
fights for its football team
that never beats State!

Wolverines could use a
to help them win again
in the big ball game!


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