Invented Poetry Forms – The Ziggurat

Illustration by うぃき野郎 on Wikimedia Commons

In honor of Poetry Month, here is another invented poetry form of my own creation (in my own biased opinion, along with the Streetbeatina and the Hodgenelle, probably one of my best), the Ziggurat…

The Ziggurat is a 14-line poem of 4 stanzas. Like the hay(na)ku, it is isoverbal, meaning its lines’ lengths are measured by the number of words instead of syllables or meter (thus my original name for it was the “Isoverbal Sonnet”). The first stanza is two lines of two words a piece, the second is 3 lines of 3 words apiece, the third is 4 lines of 4 words apiece, and the fourth and final is 5 lines of 5 words apiece.  Each stanza uses a different monorhyme, thus the rhyme scheme can be expressed as aa bbb cccc dddd. Also another rule is the title must always consist of just one word.

The form derives it name from its shape when centered on a page, which somewhat resembles a ziggurat, the terraced step pyramid found in ancient Mesopotamia. I am no longer a fan of that style of presentation for a poem, but here is one of my ziggurats in that format so you can get the idea.


King Kong’s
singing songs

of unrequited love
like a dove
perched high above

the congested city traffic.
His audience – half hick
tourists, half urbanites, photographic
opportunists who laugh, click

snapshots. Their catcalls, derision increased
until crestfallen Kong’s crooning ceased.
Today, all across the Northeast,
headlines proclaim “APE BARITONE – DECEASED!

The very first and so far the only ziggurat to appear in print is the following which was originally published last year in Star*Line, the Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association  (the editor even included a note explaining that the poem was a ziggurat, a form of my own invention):


To reverse
any curse,

you simply bless
the resulting mess
that occurs, unless

things get really drastic.
Suppose Time becomes elastic
and alternative pasts stick
together like cheap plastic

toys fused by intense heat.
Unique events begin to repeat
themselves. Parallel chronologies collide, compete.
Ain’t any way to defeat
Chaos. My expert advice? Retreat!

Due to the apparent comical nature of its monorhyme, I originally thought that the ziggurat was only suited for light verse and humorous subjects. But after reading “Forget-Me-Not” by John Hodgen (one of my favorite poets), and seeing how masterly he used the monorhyme for great effect in his heart-breaking poem about the death of his brother from cancer, I have had a change of heart. Here are two I wrote about “Death” and “Depression”, probably two of the most serious matters I can think of (please let me know if you feel these two poems work or if the ziggurat should just be reserved for Ogden Nash-style frivolity):


No surprise-
everybody dies,

even me, you,
the President too.
We can’t sue,

stop Death by force.
Like a thoroughbred horse,
Life runs its course.
The finish (a source .

of sorrow for our friends)
is certain, although one pretends
it’s not, that it depends
on changeable circumstances, unpredictable trends.
A good story always ends.


Not only
The lonely

Suffer the blues.
Even joyous news
Can often confuse

Us make us cry.
Don’t ask me why.
Psychological mysteries that lie
Unexplained aren’t solved by

Scientific process or rational thought.
Melancholy is a battle fought
Within the soul, a shot
Of emotion, cold then hot.
Sometimes we’re happy – sometimes not.

This last one was written many years ago as part of “Poets in the Gallery” project at the Worcester Art Museum during an exhibit on Abstract Art & Expressionism:


Let’s subtract
the Abstract

from all Fine
Art and redefine
Color and Line

as simply tools meant
to help artists represent
Reality, not to invent
some pretentious, psychologically bent

vision of Heaven or Hell.
Arguments for Abstraction don’t jell.
What? You’re trying to tell
me Pollack (splattering paint pell-mell)
was superior to Norman Rockwell?

So what is your opinion of this form, my friends? Do you agree with me that the ziggurat is one of the best that I have created or did I truly miss the mark this time? I sincerely hope that you enjoyed reading about it along with my humble examples today, and that perhaps you will even try the ziggurat yourself. If you do, I can practically guarantee you will have a great deal of fun, and be pleasantly pleased with your results.

20 thoughts on “Invented Poetry Forms – The Ziggurat

  1. Now this has my creative attention. I think you have created one of your best. The mono-rhyme, I believe, should have little impact on the depth of the subject, but I do see where it could make for some extra sparkle to something light or humorous. Isoverbal line lengths allow for a plethora of fun phrasing options. Will give this a try for sure, just not sure when I will get to it. I promise to share when I do. And I think the name of the form is perfect. Well done, Paul!


  2. I enjoyed giving this form a go, Paul, lots of poetic fun! I am working on a chapbook at the moment, all about an event I attended very recently where some poets and others visited a little town, and got an a little cruise boat, on the River Murray (a large river in Australia, with much interesting wildlife, and plants, especially birds, and eucalyptus trees).

    with my “Ziggurat” poem, I was able to express my opinion on this inspiring event in a way that feels good to me!

    This is the poem I came up with:


    Murray River,
    enjoyment giver.

    And that water!
    Oh, you orta
    embrace it, sorta …

    Nature showed her best,
    we passed the test,
    poets, and the rest –
    A joyful poetic fest!

    I had a wonderful day
    and I honestly can say
    I’d do it again, stay –
    sleeping there overnight, a way
    to see even more, hooray!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Paul,
        I’ll glad you liked this poem, I was pleasantly surprised with the result, once it was done!
        It was like building a house, when it looks like a bit of a mess right up until the roof is on top, and tidy, then the landscaping are finished, and voila, a fine job done!


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