A column created in preparation for Folded Word’s upcoming panel on short-form poems at the New Hampshire Poetry Festival.
As we mentioned last week, writing short form poetry can provide a framework for practicing specific poetic skills. It can also serve as a safe, self-contained place to experiment with new-to-you poetic elements before investing the energy needed to use them in longer works.
This week’s featured form is the cherita. It was invented by UK poet ai li as an homage to her story-telling grandparents. The rules for this form are minimal, leaving plenty of room for experimentation:
- Narrative poem that tells a self-contained story
- 3 stanzas: per-stanza line pattern of 1 / 2 / 3
- No syllabic pattern
- No rhyme scheme
- Titles prohibited
A cherita starts free, untitled
and in its stanzas of 1 / 2 / 3 lines
unfolds a story — brief yet filled
with images that weave a tale
larger than should be possible
within its thrifty words.
According to the inventor’s website, cheritas may be written solo or with other poets. Most of the examples on that site use short line lengths, much like haiku, however I found no rules requiring this limitation. In my image-based example below, I used long lines to mimic the length of the journey being described. I also experimented with staggering the lines so that the shape of the poem echoed the steps mentioned within the text.
Want to give it a go? If you try it and end up with something you’d like to share, please consider submitting it to our poetry zine unFold via the form below. Your entry will be automatically tagged with “cherita” when you submit it, so we’ll know how to set the spacing if it’s chosen for publication.
JS Graustein is Folded Word’s Editor in Chief and book designer. She also serves as one of the artists and typographers for unFold‘s new format that creates graphic art with short poems (10 lines or less) and distributes it via social media. With Rose Auslander, she co-edited our anthology On a Narrow Windowsill: Fiction and Poetry Folded onto Twitter.