Nonet Poetry Form: Carve Beauty in Lines

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Here’s what the Nonet poetry form is:

The nonet is a nine-line poem that gradually gets shorter as the poem continues.

It starts with a nine-syllable line, then eight, then seven, and all the way down to one at the last line.

The origin of the poem is currently shrouded in mystery, but it has been jumping from website to website in recent years.

So f you want to learn all about the Nonet poetry type, then you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s dig into it!

Nonet Poem Type (Simply Explained & Examples)

Forms of Poetry: The Nonet

A beautiful young woman in a 19th-century dress stands with a book by the lake.

The nonet is a remarkably simple nine-line poem form.

The first line starts with nine syllables, then eight, then seven, all the way down to one.

Aside from this limitation on syllables, there are no other rigid rules coded into the form.

I was unable to find the original source of the form, but I do have some thoughts.

First, the form has been making the rounds online amidst poetry communities.

This is usually the case with relatively new forms that are still being freshly experimented with, so it seems possible that it was born on an online community like Shadow Poetry or from a magazine article sometime in the last few decades.

Second, the form’s unique obsession with syllable counts to the exclusion of other requirements brings to mind westernized versions of eastern forms, like the haiku.

So the best approximation I can make is that this form may have emerged from the explosive popularity of syllable-count poems in recent years.

It’s likely under the hands of a relatively unknown poet whose work was spread all over the internet before they could attach their name to it.

Unfortunately, this is all based on educated guesses.

The only thing we know for sure is that it shares its name with a musical term for a group of nine musicians.

The prefix “non-” does mean “nine” though, so it’s not clear if this was intentional or not.

You’d have to track down the mysterious founder of the form and ask them.

Basic Properties of a Nonet

long-haired blond girl standing in the park with flowers and notebook.
Rhyme StructureNone
PopularitySpreading online as a popular experimental form

How Is a Nonet Structured?

Beautiful asian woman in white dress sit under the tree writing

Unlike traditional western poetry, the nonet does not concern itself with meter or rhyme in any way, shape, or form.

In fact, it would be unrealistic to impose meter upon the form since each line would, in essence, have a different meter than the last anyway because of the gradually decreasing syllable counts.

While rhyme does not seem to be expressly forbidden, poets rarely use rhyme in this form.

The main appeal of the form is its simplicity compared to other more heavily regulated forms, so it may be best not to reinvent the wheel.

The only rule it does have, as stated, is that the poem starts with a nine-syllable line and then gradually gets shorter until the ninth and final line has a mere one syllable.

Making this last syllable count is tricky, but doable.

Due to its low bar to entry, the nonet is a reasonable poem form to teach to young children as their first “formal” poem.

Like the haiku, it is a form that is easy to learn but hard to master, which gives it a wide potential audience compared to the oceans of other forms out there.

Example of a Nonet

Young girl sitting on a tree by the river, reading a book.

The nonet is a simple project,
if only you give it a chance
so take up your pen in hand
and make just one attempt
to capture its charm
in any shape
that you can

Take note that the rule is specifically nine syllables, not nine words.

While experienced poets may be laughing at the thought of explaining the difference, this is a pitfall that many amateurs struggle with, so it is something I should bring up.

While the above poem isn’t the most…poetic, per se, it does stick to the basic structure of a nonet.

It’s best to end on a word that encapsulates the poem in some way, if possible.

In this case, I ended with the phrase “simply write,” which acts as a simplified summary of the poem’s central message.

Not that nonets need to have a message, mind you.

If you want to write about how glossy the banana you had with your toast this morning was, then I won’t stop you.

Just make sure you capture whatever enraptured you about that banana to the best of your abilities.

Young pretty emotional woman with long hair greeting the morning in the mountain.

Where window meets morning dew, I watch,
awaiting tomorrow right here,
between blue screens that alight
a lonely room, sitting
in silence, softly
thinking of you,
but sunset

Above we have something slightly more ambitious.

Remember that you have very little space toward the end, so you only really have a few lines to establish any setting and/or character you’ll be using in your poem.

Focus on crisp, simple images that your reader can visualize instantly.

The last few lines are only enough space to wrap things up.

You may be able to fit a poetic turn into the poem with a little creativity, but don’t count on it.

Try to find some way to squeeze just a little more feeling or thought out of those last few lines.

Avoid ending on a boring word if possible. Verbs and nouns tend to leave a more lasting impact than something like “of.”

Tips for Writing a Nonet

Pink colored diary and pen

Keep it simple.

One temptation that intermediate to veteran writers often fall into is the desire to complicate things.

The most pleasant thing about the nonet is that it feels like anyone could write one.

Even if you’re a talented poet who can turn any sentence you spin into a delightful read, that’s no excuse for over-complicating the delivery.

Your audience should (in a perfect world) feel like the poem flowed organically from your pen, as if by magic.

So avoid anything that feels forced or stringent or weird.

Even as you get down to the shortest lines of the poem, try to end in such a way that it looks natural.

It’s okay if this takes a few tries.

Just keep trying.

In any case, you don’t need to turn your first few attempts at the nonet into an extravagant magnum opus that puts Shakespeare to shame.

It’s enough to just get some practice with a new form and enjoy yourself.

You’ll improve at poetry naturally as you write, so just keep writing.

Poet’s Note


This one was a tidy little experience to work with.

Perhaps a little too tidy, though, since I’d have liked to pin down the history of the poem somehow.

It’s probably possible to narrow down the first mentions of the form online if you’re tech-savvy enough, so maybe someone out there will track down the origin of nonets sooner or later.

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