Poetry challenge #12: Quatern

I know I promised we would go back to the ‘shape’ poetry forms soon, and we will. But this is a form I discovered very recently and tried out to see if it is humanly possible to get a poem out of it without too much loss of blood or hair. It is! In fact it’s quite simple.

A quatern, if you didn’t already know is a poem of sixteen lines divided into four stanzas with a refrain that changes place in each stanza . The only other rules are:

Each line must have eight syllables

The first line (the refrain) becomes the second line of the second stanza, third line of the third and last line of the completed poem.

There are no restrictions on rhyme or metre, but I have tried for a simple rhyme pattern and a bit of a rhythm because I wanted to. You don’t have to unless the extra challenge appeals.

This is my example, those two moons again.


Two moons rose on a darkened field,

The stars were hid and no light showed,

But falling beams of darkness cold,

A voiceless wind in silence flowed.


While swell tides swallowed shore and cliff,

Two moons rose on a darkened field,

And veils of snow hid their wan light,

Till wild winds tore the flimsy shield.


From the uncharted depths of night,

Cold rocks circled the dying sun,

Two moons rose on a darkened field,

Growing, greening, forever done.


And when the mountains, rivers, seas,

The very heavens forced to yield,

No moving finger writ, the end,

Two moons rose on a darkened field.


The best way to start is to think of a good, strong first line (eight syllables, remember) that will stand up to use as a refrain. The rest is easy.

Post your poems or links here anytime this coming week. Looking forward to seeing the results.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

48 thoughts on “Poetry challenge #12: Quatern”

      1. You just need the kind of line that forms the favourite line in a poem. Maybe take a line from a poem you’ve already written and trim it to eight syllables. The rest will flow from there ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. That’s an interesting idea–or I was thinking about using a phrase from an old poets work (none chosen) with attribution of course–perhaps better if not done in a repeated refrain context though…the week is young :). Thanks for the idea:)

  1. Love this! A new year and a new resolve… not to miss any more of your poetry prompts! Well, I know I’ve said that before, but I really need to practice writing poetry, and writing has gone on hold the last few months. Time to get back on track.

    1. This poetry challenge has made me research forms of poetry I’d never even heard of. Some of them are complicated and it’s mental torture finding the right words. This one is easy though. All you need is one good line that sparks your enthusiasm and you’re away. Don’t bother about rhymes etc that’s not in the rules.

  2. Thank you for the excellent example. This was a tough one. Here’s mine, titled No Mercy:

    Rising waters have no mercy
    No wall, nor bank, will bar their way
    Nature will show no clemency
    So take your chances, come what may

    Altered routes through rearranging
    Rising waters have no mercy
    Currents, channels always changing
    With Nature thereโ€™s no guarantee

    Channels confined, that should be free
    Levees banked to offer relief
    Rising waters have no mercy
    Instead they bring regrets and grief

    Complacent minds will rue the day
    Bottom homesteads pay Natureโ€™s fee
    Hopes and memories washed away
    Rising waters have no mercy


    1. I’m glad about that! I didn’t want to put people off with something really difficult. This form doesn’t really impose too much when you analyse itโ€”glad you had a go ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Thanks for this challenge Jane– an opportunity to try a longer poem–not too hard and not too easy… 8 syllables feels like a new language (compared to more familiar 5, 7 or even 6) Anyway, it was fun and I ended up with 2 attempts…the second one will show up soon. ๐Ÿ˜Š

    1. Quatern. I think a quatrain’s something different. Do try. You have the satisfaction of writing a poem that looks as though it must have been complicated, when really, it’s quite straightforward ๐Ÿ™‚

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s