Blog – Mary Harwell Sayler

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Source: Blog – Mary Harwell Sayler


What’s new? Aahcoo!

When discussing poetry, I usually post on the Poetry Editor & Poetry blog then “share” here, but this time is different. This time I’ll reverse that process to introduce you to a new form of poetry invented this week: the aahcoo.

aah + COO

If that sounds somewhat like “haiku” with missing consonants, fine. I’m happy to make a connection with that ever-popular form of syllabic verse, which has 3 lines of  5/7/5 syllables on each respective line. Also, haiku includes a little “aah” moment worth commemorating, but the quick stroke of its colorful brush concentrates on a season and nature scene. For example:

The sun and wind flash
neon fish upon the pond –
cold swim, bright shining.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2012 from my poetry book Living in the Nature Poem published by Hiraeth Press

Similarly senyru, which I only learned about recently, utilizes the same basic form as haiku but focuses on human nature with a twist of irony or a touch of humor. For example, I wrote the following to lament changes in once-tight skin:

Layers and layers
of crepe paper cover all
parts of her old bod.

What I’ve been looking for, however, is a form devoted exclusively to God and those little epiphanies or “Aah!” moments we sometimes have as we read the Bible, pray, or talk with Christian friends.

In making an auditory connection with haiku, “coo” came to my ear and mind, adding the connotation of a sound made by a dove. Since that sweet bird happens to be a biblical symbol for the Holy Spirit, a coo ideally suggests a poem with inspired lines or spiritual epiphany.

Having never before invented a new form of poetry, I’m unaware of any poetic protocol. All I knew was that poets have asked me about forms of micropoetry exclusively devoted to a Christian perspective, and I didn’t know of any. When I found nothing in an Internet search, I decided to do another search of various combinations of relevant prefixes and suffixes, most of which seemed to be taken except “aahcoo.” Since I liked it best anyway, a new poetry form came into being for us to pray with, play with, and write in love of God.

To define:

  • Aahcoo is a God-centered epiphany, insight, or praise in a highly flexible syllabic verse form.
  • The syllabic count must not be less than 3 syllables per line but no more than 7.
  • The syllabic count can vary from line to line.
  • The line count can be a minimum of 3 lines, a maximum of 7 lines, or a number in between.
  • The poem must mention or suggest God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit.)
  • The poem must encourage, inspire, or refresh readers.

Remember, we’re in this together. You’ve never written an aahcoo, and neither have I, so we’re starting at the same point. If you love the idea of our having a unique form, then whenever you post your aahcoo, add a hashtag, so we can find one another under #aahcoo!

Meanwhile, I looked over prior minipoems or micropoetry in my files and saw that a little tweaking brought forth the following 3 examples. The first is a haiku I’d written that wasn’t really haiku since the season could be any time of year, but we can now officially declare it an aahcoo!

Praise God – Producer
of sunsets, draping our home
in pink ribbons.

That praise poem followed a traditional 5/7/5 division of the 3 lines, which haiku, senyru, and aahcoo can do, but with the latter you have other options. In this praise poem, for example, the syllabic count is 4/4/5/4/6.

Praise Christ our Peace
bypassing all
misunderstanding –
the Great Shalom
in Whom we find our home.

Unlike the first example, my second praise poem includes a slight sound echo and a light reference to the “peace that passes all understanding,” found in Jesus Christ.

Besides the inclusion of a title, my last example of aahcoo’s versatility alludes to another biblical reference, reminding us when Jesus told Peter to “Feed my sheep.” As the Lord’s emissaries, disciples, and poets today, we, too, can encourage one another to tend the people of God – in aahcoos and anything else we write.

The Message

I told you so
you could hear
The Word,
take a turn
feeding our
Father’s sheep,
send out
a rescue squad.

by Mary Harwell Sayer, © 2016






A poetic beat counts

For musicality almost any poem counts on a beat, but an accentual verse form counts heavily on a fixed number of beats per line.

To give you a user-friendly definition of this early form of poetry, the following comes from my Kindle e-book for kids of all ages: the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun. I’ve left the typing intact with capitalized words to show other entries in the A to Z book that might interest you too.

accentual verse [Pronounced ack-SIN-chew-uhl.] This very old type of poem counts each ACCENT in a LINE. If the first line has four accents, the other lines need that many too. As you read, clap your hands to the BEAT.

In the accentual verse below, the number of words and syllables changes from line to line. Yet all have two accents as shown in capital letters:

Up The Wall

WHY does the FLY
WALK up the WALL?
if I were to TRY,
i’d CER-tainly FALL.
but WHY does the FLY
WALK up at ALL?
WHY does the FLY

© 2009, Mary Harwell Sayler

In accentual verse, it does not matter how many words are on a line. It does not matter if a word has one SYLLABLE or more. Only the accents count. So decide how many accents you want. Then have that number on each line.


©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved.

Yes, I wrote the above definition for kids, but why make learning hard? For a light and friendly e-book of poetry terms, order the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun from the Kindle store on Amazon.

If you write Bible-based poetry, devotionals, or religious poems, you might also like a Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, an e-book version of the poetry home study course I wrote in the early 1980’s and used for years in working with other poets and poetry students.


Poetry forms help re-form a poem as you revise

Poems, like people, come in a variety of sizes, lengths, and styles, so a form that fits one poem may not suit another.

With the poem itself to guide your choice of options, consider these common poetic forms, not necessarily as you write but as you revise:

Free verse – Free of all patterns of rhyme, rhythm, or design

The definition may seem obvious, and yet “Free verse” labeled an entry for the poetry contest I judge each year even though rhyming words ended every other line. You can scatter random rhymes in free verse if you like, but a fixed pattern or a regular design or the constant confines of rhyme and rhythm will not let a poem be free enough to be free verse.

Syllabic verse – Pattern designed with X number of syllables per line

Traditional haiku, for example, counts on five syllables for the first line, seven for the second, and five for the third. So the formula for this ancient but ever-popular three-line poem may be shown as 5/7/5. For modern examples of a variety of syllabic verse patterns set in English by an American poet, look for the collected works of Marianne Moore.

Accentual verse – Poems with X number of beats or accents per line

For this poetic option, study Old English poetry in particular. Generally speaking, accentual verse has the same number of beats per line, regardless of the number of syllables.

Accentual syllabic verse – Often known as metered or traditional poetry

This type of poem counts both accents and syllables, grouped into little units known as “feet.” With the iamb as the foot most often used to measure each line, other common feet of accentual syllabic verse include the trochee, spondee, anapest, and dactyl.

Easily found on the Internet, examples of this popular verse form range from 16th century poems by Shakespeare to the traditional poetry by contemporary poet, Richard Wilbur.

For more information about traditional verse, see previous articles on The Poetry Editor blog, such as “Scan a poem. Catch the beat. Change the rhythm as you revise” and “Scan A Poem. Get The Picture.”

To study and practice writing the forms mentioned above, visit the ads on this page and order the e-book book version of the poetry correspondence course I wrote and used for years in working with students and also the Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun for poets of all ages and stages.

(c) 2011, Mary Harwell Sayler

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