Here’s what the Diamante poetry form is:
The diamante (Spanish for “diamond”) is quite literal in that it’s just a diamond-shaped poem in which the first and last lines have the least words (one each) and the center line has the most (four).
There are rules regarding the contents of each line, with some mild variations on those rules.
So if you want to learn all about the Diamante poetry type, then you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s jump right in!
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Form of Poetry: Diamante
The diamante is not some complex formal poem with centuries of history, but instead was the invention of a single poet named Iris Tiedt in 1969, in the appropriately named A New Poetry Form: The Diamante.
It is, quite literally, a poem in the shape of a diamond.
Some poets have taken to calling this form “the diamond form” and its name, unsurprisingly, is simply the Spanish (and Italian) word for diamond.
Small passion project forms like the diamante tend to come and go, with some being immortalized and others forgotten, but they’re a good reminder that a form doesn’t need to have some extensive high-brow history behind it to be valid.
Iris McClellan Tiedt, inventor of the form, is an American poet born in Dayton, Ohio, 1928.
She devoted most of her life to teaching and language, so it should come as no surprise that this poem form seems tailor-made to be easy for children to write and understand the form.
Unlike traditional forms that follow convoluted rules regarding stressed and unstressed syllables, the diamante is undeniably a product of the 21st century, purposely designed to be easy to get into and fun to write.
This makes the form an excellent entry point for elementary schoolers especially, who may find more complex forms like sonnets and villanelles to be unappealing and outdated.
Even older poets may enjoy writing the form every now and then, however, as the simple rules associated with the form do encourage a tight focus on imagery.
Basic Properties of a Diamante
|Optional; usually no rhyme
|1969 America, by Iris Tiedt
|Popular as an exercise in schools
Structure of a Diamante
The diamante’s namesake diamond-shape comes from a simple set of rules that tends to enforce a literal diamond shape on the page, with the first and last lines being noticeably shorter while the middle lines are the longest.
As such, the poem is usually designed to be center-aligned or indented so that it creates the expected shape.
Notably, this also makes the poem a technical offshoot of the concrete poem, also known as shape poetry, a small branch of poetry that is focused on physically manifesting shapes on the page via the shape of the words on the page.
There are even programs online nowadays specifically designed to create shape poetry by aligning the writer’s words into the desired shape automatically, though there are some minor disputes over whether this is disingenuous to the intent of the style or not.
In the case of the diamante, it uses special rules regarding the contents of each individual line to attempt to enforce the desired shape as much as possible.
These rules do have some variations depending on whether the poem has one or two subjects, as well as whether the two are being compared or contrasted.
In a single-subject diamante, the first line is the subject, in one line. The second line consists of two adjectives describing the subject.
The third line is three verbs, ending with “-ing,” related to the subject.
The fourth line will be four nouns, also related in some way.
The fifth, sixth, and seventh will mirror the requirements of the opening half, with a synonym at the end.
ebbing, flowing, curling
shorelines, reflections, waves, salt
swimming, spreading, swirling
The above example uses the rules of a basic one-subject diamante.
One benefit of the diamante is that it forces the writer to consider their word choices carefully.
It can be good practice even for experienced poets, since it encourages the writer to think about synonyms, semantic connections, and concrete images.
These are fundamentals for poetry, so it’s clear that Tiedt’s design, simple as it may be, is purposeful and intelligent in how it looks toward the goal of teaching the writer to think.
When the diamante has two subjects, there is room for a little more variation.
The simplest incarnation of this would be to have one subject in the top half and one in the bottom half.
The middle line may then be two words about each subject, or one two-word phrase about each subject.
The first and last words may or may not be related, but it tends to be more interesting when they do have some sort of relationship.
ending, resting, releasing
last moments, first words
emerging, growing becoming
In the above diamante, death and life are portrayed as two halves of the same poem, leading to some fun friction in between the two concepts.
The middle line purposely uses the antonyms “first” and “last” to emphasize the gap between the two concepts.
These examples do not encompass every potential method for writing a diamante, but the general premise should be clear at this point.
A diamante is not necessarily a poem written to have some deep meaning, though it’s not inconceivable for it to have one, but is instead a sort of thought experiment that the poet plays at.
This usually involves playing with the ideas governing synonyms and antonyms, and in particular is a good way to enforce the differences between nouns, verbs, and adjectives in younger writers who may have some difficulty remembering the differences between the three.
In this sense, the form is as much a teaching tool (as you might expect from a form written by an educator) as it is a poem form in and of itself.
Tips for Writing a Diamante
While the diamante itself is not especially rough, there are some general thoughts that go into it.
Make sure the first word of the poem is something you can safely expand on.
The second example above purposely takes on the challenge of using abstract words (death, life) but inexperienced poets may find it easier and more rewarding to start with words that immediately illicit other images in the mind.
Of course, you can choose anything from love to money to kangaroos as your topic, but how much mileage you’ll get out of any word choice ultimately depends on how much thought you can put into it.
Don’t get hung up on trying to make a diamante super deep or emotionally impactful.
The form is purposely designed to discourage conventional sentence structures.
Any thoughts that you share through the poem will come out fragmented and disjointed by design, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Part of the fun of the form is in how it forces the reader to connect the dots on their own.
For example, if you were to write a diamante about potatoes and used “sustaining” as one of your verbs, then the reader would be left to create their own little narrative about the importance of that word.
What or who are the potatoes sustaining?
The question is left unanswered, and the poem may just be better off for it.
Don’t be afraid to break or bend the rules.
It may seem strange to recommend that, but if poets were good at following rules there wouldn’t be so many variants of every poem form.
The reality is that new sub-variants of forms are born all the time out of broken rules.
Maybe you think it would be more interesting to mix up which line goes to which parts of speech.
Or an hourglass poem instead of a diamante, in which the poems get shorter in the middle instead of longer.
Your variation could be something as simple as writing the verbs in past tense instead of present tense.
What ultimately matters isn’t that your poem is “correct” but that it’s fun and interesting, and that you had a good time writing it.
It is generally recommended to break the rules in some consistent way, so that readers know you’re making up your own rules on purpose instead of just being an agent of chaos, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick to the cookie cutter correct way to write the form, so long as you understand why it is the way it is.
Forms like the diamante honestly don’t get enough recognition.
We tend to think of poetry as a complex network of red roses and rhymed metric lines and dead famous people, but it’s important to remember that words are a part of our everyday life.
They’re allowed to be toys for us to play with as much as anything, and playing with words is perhaps the best way to get into poetry in the first place.
As a random aside, some sources are quick to point out that diamante is Italian for diamond, but since Tiedt is also a Spanish teacher, my first guess is that it actually came from the exact same word in Spanish.
It’s an apples to apples nitpick, though.
They are ultimately the same word.
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