Experimental Poetry Form: pennies, nickels, and a dime

Today’s experimental poetry form is called pennies, nickels, and a dime.

Five pennies are equivalent to one nickel and two nickels are equivalent to one dime.  This idea is the basis of the form.

The form has four stanzas.

The first stanza is the penny stanza.  It has five lines.  Each line has one syllable.

The second stanza is the nickel stanza.  It has one line.  That one line has five syllables.

The third stanza is the two nickel stanza.  It has two lines.  Each line has five syllables.

The fourth stanza is the dime stanza.  It has one line.  That one line has ten syllables.

The idea is that the stanzas are related the same way the coins are related.

Here is an example poem:


Sitting by the bed,

in the hospital,
watching the lights glow.

They might look pretty but for the reason.

Poem with an explanation: A timeless space

A timeless space,
where time does not seem to flow,
where time is wanted to flow,
where time is not wanted to flow.

and cold,
under lights,
that aren’t real.

and waiting,
and fearing the specter,
with silent steps,
that may be bring something,
that crushes the soul.


This poem is about waiting for the results of someone’s operation in a hospital waiting room.

The room is described as A timeless space, because while there, time does not seem the same as it used to.  As described in the poem, it is a place, where time does not seem to flow.

The next two lines of the first stanza, describe a conflicting emotion.  On the one hand, while waiting in the room, there is a sense of wanting time to move forward, so that the outcome can be known.  On the other hand, there is dread over what the outcome may be, and so, there is a sense of not wanting time to move forward, so as to delay knowing.

The next stanza describes the physical appearance of the room.  It is barren and cold and the fluorescent lights are described as not being real.  The room has a starkness to it, that matches the anticipatory emotion.

In the last stanza, there is waiting, and then as time does not seem to move, there is more waiting, and there is fear of the specter, which represents the person who will bring the news.  Before the results are known, this person is seen as something dreadful.

The specter, moves with silent steps, to signify one, that a specter floats, and two, that the hospital person may be wearing tennis shoes which are quiet when walking in.

The last two lines describe the fear of the worst possible outcome.

In terms of form, this poem has three stanzas.  The first stanza refers to time, the second refers to the physical room, and the third refers to waiting and fear.

The first stanza is four lines, the second is four lines, and the third is six lines long.

In the first stanza, each line refers to time.  Also, the last three lines all start with where time and end in to flow.  The last two lines are the same except for the last line having the word not.

The second stanza has the fewest words of the three stanzas and all its lines have three words or less.

In terms of form, in the last stanza, waiting is repeated in the first and second lines.

Poem with an explanation: Walking inside

It was very strange walking outside,
it wasn’t hot,
the mosquitos weren’t around,
and the man and dogs seemed content,
as they walked about,
that morning.

 In the soft light of the morning,
 that came from the sun outside,
 the nurse moved about,
 and checked if his forehead was hot,
 and saw that he seemed content,
 as she moved around.

As they walked around,
breathing the air of the morning,
they all felt content,
as they were outside,
where it wasn’t hot,
as they moved about.

 As the doctor walked about,
 she turned around,
 because she thought he might be hot,
 although it was morning,
 and there were clouds beyond the window outside,
 she wanted him to be content.

He smiled and felt content,
as he and the dogs walked about,
in the breeze outside,
and they felt it blow around,
in the morning,
when it wasn’t hot.

 She thought he might be hot,
 although he looked content,
 and although it was morning,
 she moved about,
 and turned the handle around,
 to block the sun from outside.

The morning started to feel hot,
and outside he did not feel content,
as he walked about and moved around.


This poem is a sestina.  There are two scenes in the poem.  The first scene is outside where a man is walking his dogs.  This scene is in the first, third, fifth, and seventh stanzas.  The second scene is in a hospital.  This scene is in the second, fourth and sixth stanzas.  The first scene is in the dream of a man in a hospital bed.  The second scene is in a hospital, where the man actually is.

In the first stanza, the man almost notices the unreality of his situation.  Things are not as he expected.  It wasn’t hot and there were no mosquitoes.  Things feel strange.  He doesn’t realize he is dreaming though.

In the second stanza, the nurse notices that the man seems content.  His outward look, reflects how he feels in his dream.

In the third stanza, the man continues his pleasant morning with his dogs.  In this stanza, there is only one part where the man notices a lack of something negative – where he notices it wasn’t hot.  This is the only indication he has that he is dreaming.  He realizes it less than he did in the first stanza.

The fourth stanza shows an action that is about to happen.  In the second stanza, the nurse thought the man was content, and so she did nothing.  In this stanza, the doctor wants the man to be content, and so she has the impetus to do something.  The doctor has less understanding than the nurse of how the man feels.  She also ignores the idea that it was morning and there were clouds outside.

In the fifth stanza, the man still feels content, and now has the additional positive of the breeze.  The breeze is focused on in two of the six lines of the stanza.  In the last line, there is the same slight sense that something negative is missing, when the man notices that it wasn’t hot.

The sixth stanza starts with a line that is somewhat of the opposite of the last line of the fifth stanza.  In the last line of the fifth stanza, the man noticed it wasn’t hot.  In the first line of the sixth stanza, the doctor thinks the man might be hot.  She goes two additional steps, and ignores the fact that he seemed content and that it was morning.  She ignored two things before, when she ignored that it was morning, and that there were clouds outside.  She then does something, and blocks the outside.  The doctor’s action was negative, although she intended something well.

In the last stanza, there is almost a contradictory image.  The stanza before ended with an effort to make the man cool.  In this stanza, for the first time, the man now feels hot in his dream.  The negativity goes further and he no longer feels content.  Additionally, the dogs are not mentioned in this stanza.  It is almost as if they have disappeared and the man is alone.

In this poem, there is a man in a hospital bed.  Because there is morning sunshine coming in through his window, he is having a pleasant feeling dream.  When the light is blocked, the man starts to feel bad.