Slice of Life: Writing Zenos



A couple of weeks ago, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes featured an interview with poet J. Patrick Lewis on her blog. Lewis challenged Michelle’s readers to write a “zeno,” a poetic form he invented. Inspired by the mathematical “hailstone sequence,” a zeno, is “a 10-line poem with 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1 syllables that rhyme abcdefdghd.”

I think students will have fun with this form, so I spent some time playing with zenos today. They are quite a challenge! Here’s the example I came up with to share with my students before they try their own:

In October apples ripen,

orchards are full.

Fruit hangs


Plump, juicy macs,



with morning dew.

Fun to


© Catherine Flynn, 2014

Winslow Homer, 1878 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Winslow Homer, 1878 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Thank you to Michelle and J. Patrick Lewis for this challenge! And thank you StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for hosting Slice of Life each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

9 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Writing Zenos

  1. How neat! I am mentoring a fellow for our Writing Project site. She is looking at poetry as her inquiry project. I will definitely share this with her on Saturday. thanks for sharing.


  2. I really enjoyed reading your zeno, Catherine. It looks like you found fall and paired up a great Winslow Homer piece of art with it. I tried one too but it will be posted later this week for Holly Mueller’s Spiritual Journey Thursday.


  3. Catherine,
    By the way….loved your zenos. I read this one when it was first published and had planned to write one for last Friday’s Poetry Friday. That formula is a little tougher than it appears. It’s the rhyming lines that got the best of me. Your zeno created beautiful images.



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