Shrinking Verse

This is a form created by Mary Lou Healy, writing as Mlou on

The Shrinking Verse is:

  • Stanzaic: It consists of three or more stanzas of diminishing length written in common meter, followed by a single rhyming iambic tetrameter couplet. Usually the stanza preceding the couplet is four lines in length.
  • Metric: It is written in common meter (alternating lines 0f iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter.)
  • Rhyme: Each stanza has its own alternating two rhymes and the final couplet rhymes aa.
  • Volta: The final couplet provides a turn, a twist, or a summary of the poem.

Mlou’s Example

Form: Shrinking Stanza

The Sacrifice

Dark forces held the earth in thrall
and morning did succumb.
In strict command, night covered all
and beat a muted drum.
But Blanche, the maid of light, did call
her white doves swift to come,
to sweep away the fearsome pall
and new day’s guitar, strum.

They gathered all the darkness in,
absorbed it, one by one,
until day’s magic could begin
to summon forth the sun.
Blanche and her flock will always win
though task is never done.

The price they pay to rescue day
is burdensome and sad;
to keep the clouded night at bay,
they’re e’er in blackness clad.

Oh, white and black, those opposites
on which time’s glass of hours sits!

© Oct. 17, 2015 – Mary Lou Healy

My Example

Form: Shrinking Stanza


The universe in iambs beat
except when more excited
and then there may be many feet
that spring up uninvited.
When two electrons chance to meet
their meeting is high-lighted
with touches that are short and sweet
that leave mere men delighted.

God particles and nutrinos
are hypothecated;
entanglement that comes and goes
with distance unrelated
are guesses because no one knows
(’til after they’re cremated.)

But we can listen to the clatter
and some may then conclude
that changing states of God’s matter
ought be left to that dude.

Iambs will work, ‘cept when they won’t.
Should we all care? Because I don’t.

© Lawrencealot – October 21, 2015

In appreciation of Mary Lou’s teaching me about the sanctity of feet versus syllables, I have freely used feminine rhyme throughout.


The Rishal is a recent invented form which appears to be a “chained” version of the Terza Rima without a linking rhyme. It was created by “Chindarella” at All Poetry.

Stanzaic:                Three tercet stanzas plus a single line stanza
Isosyllabic:             Decasyllabic lines  (10 syllables) (10/10/10)
Rhyme Pattern:   aba cdc efe ghg x (end-rhyme and internal rhyme)
Refrain:                 The first line of each stanza consists of two
five syllable sections, The last section of line 1
becomes the first section of line 1 in the next stanza.

The 2nd line in each stanza must have internal rhyme with the 5th syllable
rhyming with the 10th.

The final line does not need to rhyme;


The Rishal is:
○ Stanzaic, written in 3 or more tercets with a concluding single line, the same as the Terza Rima.
○ Syllabic rather than metric, lines of 10 syllables each, (iambic pentameter without the iambic pattern requirement). L1 of each stanza is written in 2 hemistiches.
○ Rhymed, internal rhyme is employed in L2 of each stanza, the 5th syllable of the line rhyming with the end syllable, (I imagine a little flexibility in the placement of the internal rhyme could be overlooked by other than the purist.) Rhyme scheme a (b-b) a / c ( d-d) c / e (f-f) e / etc . The single end line is unrhymed.
○ Written in a chain from stanza to stanza by repeating the 2nd hemistich of L1 of the previous stanza in the 1st hemistich of L1 of the next stanza and so on. . . including the last single line repeating the 2nd hemistich of L1 of the previous stanza as the 1st hemistich of the single line

Pasted from
My thanks to Judi Van Gorder for years of work on this fine PMO resource.

Example Poem

NOTE: It was confirmed by Chindarella on DEC. 26th, 2014 that the original specifications for the Rishal were for exactly three tercets, not three or more.  

All But Children Know  (Form: Rishal)

We all are forewarned, no one is surprised.
Though death awaits all, we all may ride tall.
We can’t write death out; script can’t be revised.

No one is surprised that our days will end
By some grand design, while most parts are fine
there are no clues that Death’s presence portend.

That our days will end, all but children know.
How poor we’d be served if fear were deserved.
Such in not the case, play, love, give, then go.

All but children know what we have is now.

(c) Lawrencealot -April 29, 2013

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