Tuesday Tryouts — Poem Form: The Etheree

14 Jun

8:20 a.m. — San Antonio

from OCAL

Good day, all. I hope you are well. I am settled in San Antonio for the next couple of weeks, so posts may come out a little later in the day. Depends how quickly I can get my brain going. Hmmm. Maybe another cup of coffee before I continue. Ahhh… Much better. They sell a lovely pecan roast here at the local grocery.

Today we are going to look at a relatively new form, the etheree. The etheree even sounds lovely doesn’t it? The form depends on a syllable count and can be easy or difficult depending. If you only worry about the syllables, the poem is easy. If you want to craft a good poem, you have to worry about line endings and making sure the end words are strong and not something like ‘a’. Then things can be a little trickier.

The poem is ten lines. The first line has one syllable, the second has two, the third has three, and on until the tenth line which has ten. Jim Wilson, whose blog on etherees I will give you a link to later, describes the process as an unfolding, which gave me the idea for my example etheree. As you read an etheree and each line increases by one syllable, the poem does give a feeling of unfolding or opening up.

There are also reverse etherees, where we start with ten syllables in the first line and work down to one syllable in the tenth line. And, the double etheree where we can write a regular etheree and then immediately a reverse etheree. Plenty of room for play. I haven’t tried these two but will because I enjoyed the process of writing the original form.

My example:


an image
slowly, with care,
is like unfolding
a map to a new place,
revealing unknown features,
facets of a poem waiting
to be read and reread, exploring
new trails, paths, roads, byways – even new worlds.

You can find a good article on etherees and their history on Jim Wilson’s blog: Shaping Words.

Let me see your etherees. I have been enjoying your poems to past exercises tremendously. Remember to ask questions if you have them. Keep thinking about topics you might want me to talk about on my Thursday Thoughts. Week after this I shall discuss the poetic inversion, a topic offered by Vivienne Blake. This week’s Thursday Thoughts I will share some language links I think you will enjoy. Friday we will have the roundup and next Tuesday’s Tryout will be an open exercise. That’s right. I’m going to let you choose the form.

Click on the buttons below if you know anyone who would enjoy this.

Happy playing and writing, everyone.


Posted by on 14/06/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing


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30 responses to “Tuesday Tryouts — Poem Form: The Etheree

  1. wordsandthoughtspjs

    14/06/2011 at 11:49 am

    I love this form, Margo. Elizabeth Crawford wrote an ethree, not too long ago with lovely results. I’ ll be back with mine in a few days.
    I hope your vacation is going nicely. Have a good time!


    • margo roby

      14/06/2011 at 12:04 pm

      Yes, she did, Pamela. I had forgotten.

      My vacation, as it still involves my cooking, cleaning and doing laundry, just in a different place, won’t really begin until I head for my mom’s in two weeks. That’s where I sit and veg on the couch for a month! Thank you for your good wishes.


  2. vivinfrance

    14/06/2011 at 11:58 am

    I’ve been a bit devoid of inspiration recently, so your pompt is a very timely kickinthepahts. Thank you.
    I love forms like this that look good on the page. I’m off to play with etherees…

    • margo roby

      14/06/2011 at 12:06 pm

      Anytime you need a kick, Viv, yell. I’ll be happy to find something. I admit that the Sunday wordles are becoming my own kick. Speaking of which I need to go over mine one more time before posting. It’s an odd one this week.

  3. vivinfrance

    14/06/2011 at 12:43 pm

    My double etheree is here I haven’t worked out how to work the spacing to make a smooth line of line endings. Does anyone know?

  4. Elizabeth J

    14/06/2011 at 6:01 pm

    Just found your site through Poets United, and loved the prompt for today. Here’s my attempt: Conch Shell

  5. margo roby

    14/06/2011 at 6:11 pm

    Elizabeth: I left a comment on your blog. Am glad you found me and hope you will return.


  6. Traci B

    15/06/2011 at 2:08 pm

    Hi, Margo! This form was a fun challenge.

    You commented before I had a chance to leave my link (I’m guessing I have a pingback to thank for your rapid response), but here’s the link anyway: Light Dancing.

    • margo roby

      15/06/2011 at 2:14 pm

      You guess right, Traci — I spotted Viv’s name in the pingback so checked and that led me to you, but thank you for the link.

      • Traci B

        15/06/2011 at 2:27 pm

        I’ve added a photo of my and my hoop in action if you want to see what the poem’s about. 🙂

  7. wordsandthoughtspjs

    15/06/2011 at 3:23 pm

    Margo, I have written an poem to this prompt. Not sure where this idea came from. I haven’t been to a party in a while.
    Here’s the link:

    There’s a Party Somewhere


  8. margo roby

    15/06/2011 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for the link, Pamela. There seems to be a bit of that going around: ideas from no known place. I think we read so many of each others poems now that our subconscious stores ideas without us being aware. Like Richard Walker says, we feed off each other [although that sounds vaguely cannibalistic].


  9. Tilly Bud

    16/06/2011 at 6:55 am

    I’ve been reading some great etherees and regretting that I haven’t come up with a new one. But here’s an old one:

  10. 1sojournal

    16/06/2011 at 9:23 am

    Margo, if I remember correctly, I didn’t even know there was a name for the form I used. Simply found it on someone else’s site, liked it and started playing with it. Someone had to tell me what it was afterward. But, I really like the form, and I love your example because it does feel just that way. A slow unfolding of a concept, image, issue. I liked the double etheree even more. I know I did more than one and found it really works well when responding to an image. Thanks for all you do to spread the words and educate all of us,


  11. margo roby

    16/06/2011 at 11:37 am

    When I think of the extent of your writing life, Elizabeth, you do humble me when you give your kind compliments. They are much appreciated.

    I have a note to myself with the etherees to start making lists of things that spiral or unfold. But I will also try it while looking at an image, as I unfold what I am looking at. Thank you for that.


  12. pmwanken

    16/06/2011 at 9:13 pm

    Margo –

    Welcome to San Antonio! Is this your first visit to this city? I hope you enjoy your stay. I’m not native to San Antonio…have lived here only 8 years. Anyway….I enjoy reading your posts and thank you for visiting my site.


    • margo roby

      16/06/2011 at 10:37 pm

      Well, hello! We’re not native but have long associations. My husband and I graduated from and were married at Trinity University in 1972. His family and our son live here and with all our moving around we bought a house twelve years ago. We stay every summer. Some day we’ll get to live here! That will be a couple of years yet. I’m happy to find a fellow writer in place.

      Thank you for stopping by. I went back and looked at your blog and spotted the San Antonio. I will visit again.


      • pmwanken

        17/06/2011 at 10:44 pm

        Well, then…”Welcome home!” 🙂

        Thanks, in advance, for future visits to my site that you might make…and please, feel free to give me feedback of any kind. I’ve read your comments on some others’ posts. I’d welcome your input. I’ve been writing for about six months, mostly free verse…because I have never studied poetry and, quite frankly, feel like I don’t always know what I’m doing! LOL. Not that it truly matters, when I feel like what I needed to say, I’ve said. But have really taken a liking to writing and would rather feel like I’m making improvements as opposed to the contrary. 🙂

        Enjoy your time with your family.

  13. margo roby

    18/06/2011 at 8:58 am

    Thank you, Paula. In turn, should you have any questions that need answering [even if not about a specific post] please ask. Let me know when you get to a point with your writing that you want to start building a library of books on writing. Because I discovered writing by accident, I found a few books that were indispensable to helping me with what it was I should and could do.

    I came to poetry fairly late [40] but it ranks among my top joys in life.

  14. Donna Kiser

    18/06/2011 at 3:04 pm

    Please find my attempt here:

    And thanks for the prompt–I needed it.

    • margo roby

      20/06/2011 at 10:38 pm

      I love your etheree, Donna. Happy to provide you with prompts every week 🙂


  15. Annette

    30/07/2011 at 4:02 pm

    It took me awhile, but I finally got around to trying this prompt — I’m still in catch up mode from being gone last month.

    • margo roby

      17/08/2011 at 12:09 pm

      I also am in catchup mode, Annette. I have been away from the computer for almost a month. The catchup is a bear!


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