The nonet form is a poetic structure with a stanza of nine lines, with each line containing a specific number of syllables that decrease from nine to one. The form gained popularity in the 20th century as poets embraced its structured yet flexible nature. Its popularity has waned since, but the challenge it provides is timeless. Despite its simplicity, the nonet form offers a creative challenge by demanding precision in syllable count while allowing poets the freedom to explore a wide range of themes, emotions, and subjects within the confined structure.
Rules of the Form:
1. It is a poem of 9 lines
2. The first line is 9 syllables, second line is 8, third is 7, etc.
3. There is no set rhyme scheme or meter.
Variations of the Nonet:
There are variations of the form such as the Reverse Nonet, similar to the reverse cinquain, which starts with one syllable and works its way down with a final line of nine syllables. Often, a pair of nonets can be placed next to each other. For example, one nonet stanza starting with nine syllables working down to one, and then another stanza that starts with one syllable and works down to nine. We call this form the reflective nonet.
Benefits and Challenges of the Nonet:
The nonet form offers several benefits to poets. Its structured nature encourages poets to focus on the precision of language, choosing each word carefully to fit the syllabic pattern. This constraint often leads to creative word choices and metaphors. Additionally, the descending syllable count provides a natural sense of rhythm and flow to the poem, allowing for expressive and impactful poetry. However, the nonet form also presents challenges. The strict syllable count can be limiting, requiring poets to convey complex ideas within a confined structure. This limitation, though, often sparks creativity, pushing poets to find innovative ways to express their thoughts. Mastering the nonet form demands a balance between adhering to the rules and allowing creativity to flourish, making it a rewarding challenge for poets seeking to hone their craft. Think about how you can use reverse nonets, or reflective nonets to enhance your poems!
Examples and Prompts:
Prompt 1 – List Poems
Create a poem that combines the nonet syllable count with a list poem.
To-Do list for procrastinators:
That thing you really have to do,
Think about maybe doing it,
Take a well-deserved break,
Then, complain about
Not having a
Prompt 2 – Halloween is Here!
Write a nonet poem celebrating one of the most fun holidays—Halloween.
He said it’s pronounced “All Hallows Eve”
Which gave me a costume idea:
He should dress up as one of
those nerdy looking guys
who thinks everything
they say is much,
Prompt 3 – Reversal
Write a reverse nonet about something that changed in your life that you wish you could change back.
used to make
great ice, until
we got a new one.
It comes out in oblong
shapes, the size of my thumb, too
big for any human to chew.
My teeth (and my dentist, too) rejoice.
Prompt 4 – Overlooked Aspects
Changing of the seasons is a classic subject in poetry. Write a poem about the changes but try to pick an aspect not often discussed.
Cutting weight before hibernation,
The massive oaks shed more than leaves.
Acorns line the forest path
Tiny wooden bodies
fight for their own space
Prompt 5 – Touch of Humanity
Human beings are so pervasive; we insert ourselves in every situation. Write a poem about a time you saw human’s influence in an unexpected place.
Monday, hiking Kennesaw Mountain—
Ten-thousand steps and two hours
later, the peak is at last
in sight. Waiting at the
top, so alone, is
a plastic tub
Prompt 6 – Chores
I would rather do almost anything else than do chores. I’m putting someone off right now to write these prompts. Write a nonet about chores.
Dust has never done a thing to me
I doubt that dust could hurt a soul
And yet, I am expected
to wipe it from this earth.
What is murder if
not the wiping
Prompt 7 – Genetics
We inherit so much from our parents. Write a poem about a trait you inherited from your parents that you love or hate.
My father is sixty-nine years old
and has all the hair on his head.
I am thankful for that trait,
don’t get me wrong, but still
I mourn the fact that
I will always
be bald on