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I came across the poetry form tetractys yesterday. Tetractys is a form of poetry invented by the late Ray Stebbings and although many links in search results for this poet are no longer working, a great article written by Ray Stebbings about this form can be found here.

The basic principle for tetractys is to write five lines, the first with just one syllable, the second with two syllables, the third with three, the fourth line with four syllables and the fifth line with ten syllables (so 1,2,3,4,10 = 20 syllables per verse). For a double tetractys the form is repeated in reverse (so 1,2,3,4,10,10,4,3,2,1= 40 syllables per verse). Or there’s a reversed tetractys (10,4,3,2,1), doubled similarly by repeating the form. in the article written by Ray Stebbings himself he leaves the rules for creating the shape of the verse structure quite open but other articles written since appear to adopt a more strict format.

I found some examples of poetry using the tetractys form at the following sites:


I decided to have a practise play with this form of poetry today, using the Poetry Rehab101 challenge prompt, which this week is “Right”. I’ve chosen a triple grouping of double tetractys as a ‘poem’ for today’s offering at PitterPatterPoetry (not published here). I also came up with the following ‘verses’ in tetractys form during my playtime with the prompt ‘Right’:

if you please:
I have no time
for dilly dally, my patience grows thin.


or wrong?
Right-side out
or right-side in?
Decisions, decisions, I can’t decide!


of way?
Right! Impossible traveller, stay home!


my writing
is neatly made:
Left-handed, writing takes on a new form.
Right-handed writing is clearly the norm
but left handed’s
more clever
so they


over wrong,
true above false,
justice prevails?
Inequalities abound, justice fails.


the right
hand know what
the left hand is
doing?” (oft’ asked of public service staff!
– or aimed at those suffering confusion -)
but is there
any difference


all tetractys poems on this page are my own work, (c)2015, stu06bloc9


I think I’ve exhausted the prompt ‘Right’ and hopefully I’ve counted my syllables correctly for the tetractys forms above!