I know there are a lot of rules and guidelines in english, for writing a good essay (especially around S.A.T. season!) No such thing in spanish, though!

However, for writing poems Spanish does have a lot of rules and strict guidelines for style and metrics, and like the S.A.T.s we all went trough writing a poem around 7th grade, that complied with the rules and actually made sense. (easier said than done!)

My question is whether similar rules and guidelines do exist in the english Language for writing a passable poem.

I wouldn't go into the finer points of defining the artistic merit of expressing thoughts, Id say that if you got taught in school rules about rhyme, syllable counting and rhythm, then yes there are and i'd be curious to see an example, to compare vs. the Spanish rules.

I did research around the web, but it seems essays are way more popular than poems throughout the english speaking world.

The kind of rules that I'm talking about go something like this:

  • 3 verse stanzas, first and third verses must strongly rhyme.
  • 4 verse stanzas, must alternate rhime

Syllable count:

  • 3 verse stanzas, start witha short verse, and 2 long verses (at least 2-4 syllables longer, depending on the lenght of the first verse.
  • 4 verse stanzas should all have the same measure
  • 4 verse stanzas may also alternate lenght but no more than 1 syllable difference
  • Acute words ending a verse add +1 to your syllable count
  • Verses ending wth a word words having its accent on the next-to last syllable substract -1 to the syllable count.

As an example these are the "metrics" for a fragment of Ruben Dario's "A margarita Debayle, Nicaragua (1909) (great rythm, and super regular 4-4 stanzas, I added strong rhyme pairs and syllable count:

    ...                        Rhyme pairs  Syllable ct  
    Una tarde, la princesa         A            8
    vio una estrella aparecer;     B           7+1
    la princesa era traviesa       A            8
    y la quiso ir a coger.         B           7+1

    La quería para hacerla         A            8
    decorar un prendedor,          B           7+1
    con un verso y una perla       A            8
    y una pluma y una flor.        B           7+1

Full verse with metrics analysis here

  • The simplest not-wrong answer is 'yes'. Poetry is an art so not necessarily part of a language. There might be more common poetic patterns in a given language but it's just a matter of culture.
    – Mitch
    Apr 14, 2017 at 11:53
  • 1
  • All comments both in the only answer and this question have contributed to my understandig of the subject. Moreover, all suggested readings are great! I wish they were all part of a single answer since they give examples and cover different aspects of metrics and rhyme in English poetry. Any future reader will benefit from all references here indeed.
    – hlecuanda
    Apr 24, 2017 at 1:26

1 Answer 1


I don't believe there are rules, but there is nomenclature and categorization. From Wikipedia:

A basic distinction is between rhyme schemes that apply to a single stanza, and those that continue their pattern throughout an entire poem (see chain rhyme). There are also more elaborate related forms, like the sestina – which requires repetition of exact words in a complex pattern.

In English, highly repetitive rhyme schemes are unusual. English has more vowel sounds than Italian, for example, meaning that such a scheme would be far more restrictive for an English writer than an Italian one, as there are fewer suitable words to match a given pattern. Even such schemes as the terza rima ("aba bcb cdc ded..."), used by Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy, have been considered too difficult for English.

  • 2
    John Ciardi wrote a lovely piece on Frost's poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening", a poem which manages to sustain terza rima in English for four whole stanzas. Ciardi explains exactly how and why it's so unusual for an English poem to be intricately rimed. Apr 14, 2017 at 15:15
  • See Wikipedia on poetry, and follow up--e.g., sonnet. A sonnet is a fairly well-defined form.
    – Xanne
    Apr 14, 2017 at 20:29

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