Thursday, April 05, 2007

Poetry Form of the Day: The Decima

We recently discussed the Cinquain and the great and very cool poet Oscar Bermeo has thrown together in an outline of the Decima, which is a really fun poem style as well. Thanks, Oscar!

In the short version, the Decima is a poem that's one of the most complex forms of popular poetry.

The Decima is most effective when written in Spanish, where specific rules apply to vowels and accented words. (Yeah, Oscar, let's not intimidate folks here...) :)

The Decima follows this rhyme pattern:


It's ten lines of 8 syllables.
80 total, but there's a catch we'll go into later.
Like a certain boardgame, it takes a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.

Let's first take a look at an example from George Santayana:

Silent daisies out of reach,
Maidens of the starry grass,
Gazing on me as I pass
With a look too wise for speech,
Teach me resignation,-teach
Patience to the barren clod,
As, above your happier sod,
Bending to the wind's caress,
You-unplucked, alas!-no less
Sweetly manifest the god.

George Santayana!
As an aside, George Santayana is often remembered for:
'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'

But back to the Decima: If you can pull it off, it can be really magnificent.

Now, the Decima has extra rules to it:

* When a line or verse ends in with a word with an emphasized syllable, this counts as an extra syllable.

* When a verse or line ends with a word with its emphasized syllable being the antepenultimate one, one syllable is subtracted from the count for the line.

* When a word ends with a vowel and is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, in the Spanish language these flow together, so it counts as only one syllable.

* When a strong vowel (a, o, e) is combined in a word with a weak vowel (i or u) and the emphasis is on the weak vowel, an accent is placed over the weak vowel and it is counted as a separate syllable.

I'd recommend beginners just try getting the basic form down first: 10 lines of 8, with the ABBAACCDDC pattern. Then tweak it accordingly.

So, if you're feeling up for a challenge, try the Decima! :)

Have a great one!

A tray full of money is not worth a mind full of knowledge.
-Lao Proverb.

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