The Poetry Project

Noelle de la Paz

The Flexible Bones of the Nested Arroyo


  1. Composed of at least three stanzas with an even number of lines.

  2. Each stanza has two fewer lines than the stanza before it, and the last stanza contains four lines. So, for a three-stanza poem, it would be 8, 6, 4; for a four-stanza poem, 10, 8, 6, 4; etc.ii 

  3. The middle two lines of each stanza (or close variations / repetitions / self-translations) will become the first and last lines of the next stanza—like prying a stanza open to fill it with more poem.iii 

  4. The two middle lines of the last stanza are the first and last lines of the first stanza, which closes the loop.iv

Or, what if:

there are as many stanzas as we want? What if a line is emptied of its words, if what looks like a line break, a stanza break, is really something else, some other kind of space? 

ii each stanza is as long or as short as it takes to say what it means? Can we feel when it wants to keep going, when it finds its rest? 

iii a crevice sits between every line, waiting to be pried open? A different thing hiding, depending where we look. (How does it feel when we press this spot? Or, this one? Are we closer?) 

iv we don’t close the loop? Imagine where we could go from here.

Issue 20