Fatales Rimas April 4, 2013

Essay On

The Genesis and Birth of Fatales Rimas

A Repeatable Volitional Didactic


Robert J. Sadler

© rjs 2000-2013

Author’s Note: No doubt this information can be and should be further distilled. In time I, or someone else, may find a more succinct way of expressing what has been said here. It seems that the description of the acts that create a universe do not lend themselves to brevity. No comparison here, but even the Bible’s opening lines, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” leave us with questions that no amount of length since, have answered. As for brevity; that is faith.





Fatales Rima


Fatales Rima, is a twenty line poetic structure, with a fixed, interwoven, and mirroring rhyme scheme of open meter, comprised of eight [or six] stanzas. The Fatales Rima form is like two obverse ziggurats of line with a descending and ascending hierarchical base. Though the rhyme scheme remains the same in both, there are two stanzation formats utilized:


Form A: abcd, eba, fc, g, cf, g, abe, dead


Form B: abcd, eba, fcg, cfg, abe, dead


The organizing principles of Fatales Rimas revolve around exploring a question: first, exploration of the irony of fate contained in the relationships of so-called fatal flaws in Man and Nature; second, examination of the real or imagined literary artifice of fatal flaws, the character blemishes; defects, and imperfections of life, those fateful, deadly, or rueful for man or nature, as well as the obverse of each. The forms question and answer process is created by the use of a Volitional Didactic, a repeatable method that tests a hypothesis and leads to a conclusory answer.


Volitional Didactics


Volitional Didactics – is the term coined to express the process employed in the Fatales Rimas to pose questions—suggesting acts within which or from which instances of making conscious choices (of will) or decisions are made. These questions, or acts, are intended to be instructive as to man’s responses to himself and/or nature as well as nature’s responses to itself and mankind. It is this Volitional Didactic, the questions posed—the acts proffered and the endless variety of choices available that makes the poetry of Fatales Rimas a repeatable experiment with infinite possibilities.


Each stanza and (in the case of lines 10 and 13) each line leads the poet to consciously and later intuitively answer questions whose acts are instructive relative to the explication of the poem’s subject.


Volitional Didactic derives its meaning from its roots. Volition – from the Latin velle, vol-, to wish and as its adverbial form [volitional] is presently used: of or relating to the act or instance of making a conscious choice or decision, of or relating to the power or faculty of choosing…using one’s will. Didactic – comes from the Greek didaskein, didak-, to teach, educate and didaktikos, skillful in teaching. Didactic, the adjective, means: intended to instruct, morally instructive, or inclined to teach or moralize excessively.


[The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution restricted in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.]

Essay On

The Genesis and Birth of Fatales Rimas

A Repeatable Volitional Didactic


The creation of Fatales Rimas evolved from my love of language, which according to Noam Chomsky “…is a process of free creation…”. [1] I believe poetic use of language is the natural extension of that process of free creation. Out of this profound joy and use of language my poetry and the Fatales Rima form was born.

Confronted with any genesis, human curiosity seeks to scratch the surface, to find and uncover a few of its roots, hoping to get a quick peak at, in this case, its poetic-gene pool. Though the oral traditions of poetry may have wider less noble roots, written poetry was at one time the primary literature of both the elite reading and teaching cultures of the past. At that time in history, written poetry found its greatest acquaintance among scholars, the clergy and the ruling class. Today poetry is accessible to people in all corners of the globe, regardless of socio-economic standing or level of learning. If for no other reasons than an expanding population and today’s global accessibility, the impact of poetry on the world culture has never been stronger. Though prose has taken center stage in today’s literature, poetry’s place on this stage continues to be filled with the voices of the past, which inhabit the poetry of today as we all shall inhabit the poetry of tomorrow.

Throughout history all art has its au courant, its traditional, its mainstream, its fence-straddlers, its groundbreakers and its fringe. Today is no different. The community of poetry [academic, public and private] remains stratified. Within these poetic strata, most would contend, are poems composed of verse in a structure, i.e. Form and those composed of verse without Form, i.e. Free-Verse. For my purposes I will call structured forms, such as the Sonnet, Form-Verse. Though a contentious view, in the poetry community of today, there appears to be fresh interest in Form or Form-Verse. This interest may be no stronger than the last generation’s flirtations. But, as the world has more poetry, poets, and readers in it today, this flirtation seems to be attracting more attention. However, there is a specter in the poetry community that thinks it hears; Form-Verse may in time find more favor than Free-Verse. A resurgence then of Form-Verse could be threatening to some poets and academicians who write, read or teach primarily Free-Verse. I submit this view is unwarranted since the generally linear evolution of poetry is highly unlikely to become a mono-culture preferring Form-Verse over Free-Verse. Mainstream poetry, which Free-Verse is today, will continue to play the dominant roll in the procreation of poetry…until it evolves anew.

Some in the community of poetry seem to want us to align ourselves in a Capulet/Montague-like feud with Free-Versists on one side and Form-Versists on the other. In my view it does not appear that Form-Versists feel compelled to shout, “give me liberty or give me death”, however strongly the Free-Versists feel given to shout, “don’t tread on me”. With all due respect to all adherents of individual poetic preferences, none have the evolutionary precedent to eliminate the other. However each is in its own unique position to impact the poetry of today and tomorrow.

My suggestion, to those who invite feud, is that we strive to enjoy what we find to be the best in poetry regardless of its constituent elements, endeavoring to emulate its best now and in the future. And where emulation is not feasible or appealing, we should create new constituent elements for poetic self-expression.

In my poetic-youth I rejected form. To me, having no restrictions was a way of channeling clear-voice. I have been and continue to remain and ardent Free-Versist. Though, like a poetical prodigal son, I return now to form not out of contrition, but with acceptance and by choice. Once having found my own voice in Free-Verse and gotten comfortable in its skin, it felt safe, even good, to try on the clothes of poetic structure.

Working in and enjoying a variety of poetic forms I soon discovered structure was not limiting as I had thought or had been led to believe. The structure of poetic form, I learned through experience, has its own divinity, a universe of infinite possibility. Poetic form is much like Chomsky’s process of free creation it has its laws and principles that are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied.[2]

Any universe then, by its very definition, contains infinite possibilities. Or as the Italian philosopher, Bruno said, “The universe is then one, infinite…it is not capable of comprehension and therefore is endless and limitless, and to that extent infinite and indeterminable…” [3]. It contains only what one can conceive that it contains, one can not think outside the box of the universe… for paradoxically to do so, expands the universe to include that which was previously outside it or not previously conceived of as part of the universe. Another philosopher might observe that the universe did not expand—only the individual’s knowledge of it.

This process of thinking also works in the reverse. By describing the parameters of a universe as “x,” one is then free to infinitely conceive of what “x” contains—up to and including the discovery of what was thought to be outside “x” or “x+” which then becomes “X”, a larger conceived universe.

As a rebel against form, I finally realized I could have just as much fun playing within form as without—albeit I seemed, in the end, to have been playing in different parts of the same universal sandbox. I had limited myself to playing with the sand my pale could contain. When I began again, rediscovering other forms, I enjoyed putting my poetic-sand in a variety of pales, of which my Free-Verse-pale was still the most used. The enjoyment of this exercise in writing lead to creating my own pale (Fatales Rimas) and then playing within the infinite possibilities of its universe.

What of the Free-Versist’s claim that form restricts? If we take William Blake’s, “form braces”, to mean that form restricts the poet from extreme flights of self-indulgence, perhaps this is somewhat so. If one writes a fourteen-line sonnet, one can not mush-on very far beyond the last word of the fourteenth line and have a fourteen-line sonnet. However, the desire to wax poetic in length is not new, for example, there have been any numbers of longer poetical works, which have consisted of numerous sonnets even extended ones called Tailed Sonnets. Another example of multi-line poetic choices would be Dante’s use of cantos. The term canto was used for the one hundred major sectional developments of his theme in his Divine Comedy. Pope and Byron followed suit. And though preceded by others, Ezra Pound’s use of cantos [becoming its form] for his epic The Cantos was iconoclastically far afield for its day. How restricted do we think these poets felt?

If the oft repeated dogma of poetic criticism, “kill your darlings”, is intended to mean that the poet not trifle with the darling of poetic imagination, form is not the knife that slits its throat. If darlings are self-indulgent poems, or parts of poems, then they can appear in any word formatting and are neither the exclusive property of the Form-Versist or the Free-Versist. Blake was not a proponent of the dogmata of other men’s systems. He was a proponent for the abolition of systemic-slavery and for creating new systems, ergo creating new poetic systems. In that spirit, the Fatales Rima was created.

The genesis of the Fatales Rimas derives from a number of present forms. The Ghazal, a variety of Sonnets, the Ottava Rima and the Villanelle were considered for the task of examining the ironies of fate, the fatal flaws of Man and Nature[4]. Though each form was dispensed with, each made their individual and collective impacts.

The Ghazal, for all its freedoms, with independent couplets and the poet’s ability to jump associatively from one couplet to next, did not seem provide the continuity of argument that is prevalent in the Sonnet. For example early 13th century sonnets were said to present “an argument, perhaps a romantic plea in the guise of a legal brief… but may also contain a description of a memorable scene, or a meditation, or a miniature story,”[5] etc. Both the Shakespearean and Petrarchan Sonnets, though of differing rhyme schemes and organizing principles, had turning points. These turning points (internal poetic pivots) and their concluding or final couplets, in which the crux of the poem’s issue is placed for the purpose of moralizing or generalizing, became the inspiration for the creation of what I call a Volitional Didactic.

The Ottava Rima with its powerful alternating rhyme providing a sense of crescendo and dénouement was an additional element I felt was necessary, and yet its single stanza felt too strong.

I particularly like the tercet stanzation of the Villanelle with its concluding quatrain, but its repeated refrains would not aid in the poetic development I was looking for.

I was searching for a way to express and explore the ideas of fatal or character flaws. I was not looking to write one poem to explore one idea and thereby create a Nonce Form[6], but many poems to repeatedly explore many ideas. No form, including Free-Verse (though its feelings of serendipitous cadence were appealing), allowed me to repeat my experiment in a recognizable way. I needed a structure that would be formal but not feel constrictive; it had to allow for the randomness and chaos of the universe, while being inclusive of its yen and yang.

Free-Verse by its very nature does not contain the elements of the Ghazal, Sonnet, Ottava Rima, or Villanelle. The similar constituents of these last four forms were 1) a fixed rhyme scheme and 2) a set organizing principles. To these constituents, in creating the Fatales Rimas, I added a set of guidelines that posited questions. Answering these questions provided the poetic pivots I was seeking. Places for the poem to turn, slow down, speed up or change direction.

Within the Fatales Rimas the poet’s will is provided wide latitude answering the questions in, for example, the pro and or con, the obverse, the positive, the negative as well as the contrapositive such as in the logic statement; All not-Y is not-X is the contrapositive of All X is Y. The answering of the questions becomes instructive in the general or specific as the poem’s idea, flaw or argument moves from opening statement to crescendo and dénouement. This Volitional Didactic then provides the questions posed—the acts proffered—as the poet provides the endless variety of choices available, which makes the poetry of Fatales Rimas a repeatable experiment with infinite possibilities.

With these thoughts in mind it is my hope that Free-Versists will find a surprisingly willing and compliant mistress in the Fatales Rima form. Within the latitudes of the Volitional Didactic I wanted the Free-Versist, while adhering to a fixed rhyme scheme and stanzation, not to loose sight of value of the lucky happenstance of rhyme that occasionally occurs in Free-Verse. Additionally I did not what the Free-Versist to feel compelled to adhere to a certain meter or proscribed number of feet per line. The Free-Versist should remember that although end-rhyme severs the line and the line serves the end-rhyme neither is an untamable dragon.

The Fatales Rima Form was created first, to explore the irony of fate contained in the relationships of so-called fatal flaws in Man and Nature. Second, it was developed to examine the real or imagined literary artifice of fatal flaws, the character blemishes; defects, and imperfections of life, those fateful, deadly, or rueful for Man or Nature, as well as the obverse of each. Fatales Rima, then, is a twenty line poetic structure, with a fixed, interwoven, and mirroring rhyme scheme of open meter[7], comprised of eight [or six] stanzas.

The organizing principles of Fatales Rimas revolve around exploring a question. This Volitional Didactic[8] evolved out of a desire to find a repeatable method that tests a hypothesis and leads to a conclusory answer, that is, one that is convincing, but not so much so that it is impossible to find contradiction. In other words it can be supported by the facts of the poem or not. You are the creator—it is your universe. It is, however, the use of the Volitional Didactic, the questions asked/choices made, that provide the steps to make the Fatales Rima’s process repeatable.

The Fatales Rima form is like two obverse ziggurats of line. When distilled to its descending and ascending hierarchical base, whether using the stanzation of Form A: abcd, eba, fc, g, cf, g, abe, dead or Form B: abcd, eba, fcg, cfg, abe, dead, the rhyme scheme remains the same. The guiding principles are a set of Volitional Didactics, i.e. a set of acts or instances of making conscious choices or decisions, intended to instruct, even be (quel horreur) morally instructive. When the poet has sufficiently mastered this form these Volitional Didactics become Meta-Conscious Competence choices or decisions—intuited, not belabored.

The stanzation and General Volitional Didactics for Fatales Rimas are as follows: 

lines 1-4 set-up the premise or idea of the poem;

lines 5-7 describe activities that surround or contribute to the premise or idea of the poem’s subject;

lines 8 & 9 magnify or glorify the opposite of the poem’s subject;

line 10 [1st line of the split-couplet ( lines 10 & 13 )] introduces the poem’s crescendo [or fatal flaw] obliquely or with ambiguity;

lines 11 &12 stabilizes the crescendo seeking to mitigate the poem’s natural outcome;

line 13 [2nd line of the split-couplet ( lines 10 & 13 )] sings the last note of the crescendo [or fatal flaw] and announces the poem’s subject directly, baldly without artifice¾this begins the ascent to the poem’s dénouement;

lines 14-16 may move quickly toward the poem’s conclusion or slows the action by seeking an alternative conclusion;

lines 17-20 often reflect the premise in the beginning [lines 1-4] as it exposes the result of the poem’s idea or subject at its dénouement, which can be a straight forward or inferred result of nature taking its course, either real or imagined.


Fatales Rima: Stanza Form A — consists of eight stanzas rhymed: abcd, eba, fc, g, cf, g, abe, dead: [Sequence “A”: 1: quatrain, 2: tercet, 3: couplet, 4: split couplet-first half, 5: couplet, 6: split couplet-second half, 7: tercet, 8: quatrain].

Fatales Rima: Stanza Form B — consists of six stanzas rhymed: abcd, eba, fcg, cfg, abe, dead: [Sequence “B”: 1: quatrain, 2: tercet, 3: tercet composed of the couplet lines 8 & 9 followed by line 10 the first half of the split couplet (lines 10 and 13), 4 tercet : tercet composed of the couplet lines 11 & 12 followed by line 13 the second half of the split couplet (lines 10 and 13) , 5: tercet, 6: quatrain]

Both forms use the same organizing principles, only the stanzas change. Form A is slightly more dramatic on the page because it uses a “singlet” in two places, a split rhyming couplet. The purpose of these singlets is to highlight the announcement and the speaking of the flaw. That is the only difference between Form A and B. Form B is slightly more traditional looking and therefore looks the “more” formal. The rhyme scheme functions as two obverse ziggurats. The rhyme scheme is woven through the stanzas [see Form A] as they diminish to the first singlet then the rhyme scheme reverses until the last stanza, whose rhyme scheme [d-e-a-d] proclaims the result of many flaws, death. This is not meant to be morbid, only a device for the repeatable exploration of life and death.

Again, as I theorized about poetically expressing humanity and nature in relationship to its perceived flaws, character flaws, or fatal flaws, I realized that if I attempted to utilize Free-Verse poems, even a series, they would not produce a recognizable, repeatable format within which to accomplish this exploration. Likewise looking at a number of poetic forms, I did not find a suitable structure for the exploration my mind proposed. So I created the Fatales Rima, a form that along with a Volitional Didactic allows for the exploration of humanity and nature. This structure and its will-expressing instruction permit poets to repeat the Fatales Rimas experiment. A kind of poetic scientific formula to achieve a poetic scientific proof, a way to approach the exploration of human nature in a repeatable fashion so as to conclude with poems referential of the Volitional Didactic.

This matrix or form allows poets to explore, in infinite variety, the concept of verisimilitude, the quality of appearing to be true or real, juxtaposed with a flaw and all its obverse aspects. It follows that the repeatable component of Fatales Rimas allows for the exploration of many other ideas or concepts [including, changing the Volitional Didactic] all of which willing poets can use to trigger a new processing of their thoughts.

How is the processing of thoughts important? It is helpful to understand as a poet that we travel through five stages of adequacy relative to processing our thoughts and being able to write or express them in poetry. This adequacy is a state or quality of capacity, such as a specific range of skill, knowledge, or ability. The poet in his development, as with all types of learning [or learning stages], will as a matter or course traverse the standard model. This model of learning development has been talked about since the late 1960’s. Some say it is derivative of an ancient Arab proverb[9]. However, as widely used as it is by educational theorists[10], behaviorists[11] and motivators[12], its seminal source is not known.

This theory purports that we move through five stages of development when we learn a skill or task. These stages are: 1] Unconscious Incompetence; 2] Conscious Incompetence; 3] Conscious Competence; 4] Unconscious Competence, ultimately leading to; 5] Conscious-Unconscious Competence or Meta-Conscious Competence.

Using human expression in the form of poetry

as the skill or task developed:

In stage one – Unconscious Incompetence, the individual [future poet] is unaware of poetry or the writing of it and more importantly is unaware of this unawareness.

In stage two – Conscious Incompetence, the individual becomes aware of poetry and the writing of it, attempts writing poetry and becomes aware that he has little or no skill at writing poetry.

In stage three – Conscious Competent, the individual acknowledges he is not a poet, but wants to be and starts working on his skills. At this level poetry can be achieved through concentration, ergo, the individual becomes a poet with concentration.

In stage four – Unconscious Competence, the individual has continued to practice what has been learned and has accepted himself as a poet because the learned skills have become automatically accessible and ideas become automatically expressible. The poet is now functioning as a poet without having to think about how to write a poem.

In the fifth stage – Meta-Conscious Competence, the poet knows his voice, can express his ideas automatically in that voice while being consciously aware at all times of the unconscious mental processes or sub-conscious poetic abilities being utilized. This is the stage of the master-poet, an individual confident in voice, trusting that ideas are being freely intuited and expressed… all without thinking about, thinking about it. A poet in this stage of development is free of attention to detail. That attention is lifted to be aware of higher-level activities signifying mastery. It is in this stage that the poet is most able to express ideas with true artistry, to teach others by demonstrating that mastery while explaining the demonstration. It is in this last stage of competence that a poet transcends—becoming, not a crafter of poetry but a creator of poetic art.

Given this theory of learning, arguments such as form restricts, or that form inculcates structure over content may prove to be true for poets in certain stages of writing development. I submit, that regardless of the structure the symbols of expression take, until the execution of expressed-ideas moves from the fourth into the fifth phase of competence all poetry will, by virtue of the poet’s competence, be or seem to be primarily, structure—filled-in by content. This is because the brain produces thoughts relative to its given organizing principles[13], which operate at the fifth stage. If that organizing principle is basic prose and a new organizing principle is instituted, such as Sonnet, the new Sonnet writer will not produce poems at the fifth stage until the brain starts producing thoughts with the Sonnet as [one of] its organizing principle/s. When that occurs, the poet begins to produce Sonnets without thinking about structure at all… the only thing thought [the idea] becomes the content. This occurs whether the poet takes up the forms of short-line Free-Verse, long-line Free-Verse, or Ottava Rimas.

Therefore, if the poet is involved in form over content, regardless of the form, it is likely that that poet is writing at stage one or two. Parenthetically, given widespread acts of revision on the part of poets, both Form-Versists and Free-Versists, any revision is prima facie about content. Either the content does not comply with the poetic vision for the poem or the content does not fit the poem’s form. Revision is not necessarily indicative of one particular learning stage, but is likely to occur in stages two through five. A poet who is able to literally or seemingly write without thinking is functioning at stage four or five. In these later stages of competence, the poetic-idea translates directly into content without conscious knowledge of the given form.

Similarly in her discussion on translating poetry, Jane Hirshfeld notes in her essay titled The World Is Large and Full of Noise “[t]ranslation occurs precisely in that moment of forgetfulness and dissolving, when everything already comprehended through great effort—grammar, vocabulary, meaning, background—falls away. In that surrendering instant, the translator turns from the known shore of the original to look into that emptiness where the outlines of the new poem begin to resolve, a changed landscape appearing through mist. This experience, as [Paul] Valéry wrote, is almost indistinguishable from the experience of writing itself: the sense of active creative discovery is the same.” [14]

Fatales Rimas as a form is another universe in which poets can play. Some will follow the rules, and others will bend or break them. With that understanding of human nature and more importantly the nature of artists and writers I have not written the penultimate, ultimate, or even the quintessential Fatales Rimas.

By example, the quintessential sonnet, for some is the Shakespearean Sonnet and Shakespeare the quintessential poet of that form…and he may well be. At least he is the most, for my thinking, adept at the form named after him. I could say the he may have written the best Shakespearean Sonnet to date. But, having said that, I would not say that he has written the best or ultimate Shakespearean Sonnet that will ever be written.

If Shakespeare had already written the best, what self-respecting artist would want to only copy the best? The artist might want to emulate [to strive to equal or excel, especially through imitation] the best of the master for a while. But soon, if the apprentice-artist could not rise to that something better, frustration or lack of achievement would, in my opinion, drive the burgeoning artist in a different direction. Ironically, perhaps this is another reason why there have evolved so many different forms—indeed why Free-Verse has so many adherents.

If I had already written the definitive Fatales Rimas, why then would any one take on the challenge to write a better one, except for the aspect of trying? In the end, it does not matter when or who writes the best Sonnet, Fatales Rima or Free-Verse poem, what matters is that those who have something to express continue to do so through the use of these and other forms.

I have written a number of Fatales Rimas that are emblematic of the form, true to its latitudes and longitudes. However the two example or sample poems demonstrated in the Form A and Form B templates (below) were written as a guide for other writers. I hope you will read them and say to yourself, I can write one better than that! That is your challenge.

I have written Fatales Rimas that expand outward from the stated Volitional Didactic of the Fatales Rimas universe. For example, I have written strict and not-so-strict adaptations of the Fatales Rimas form relative to the Volitional Didactic originally posed. All with the intent to offer the poet another inspirational jumping-off point. However, it is a given, in order for a poem to be called a Fatales Rima it will conform to the essentials of its nature: being a twenty line poetic structure, of the stated fixed, interwoven, and mirroring rhyme scheme of open meter, comprised of eight [or six] stanzas speaking to the proscribed Volitional Didactic.

We should not forget what William Blake said, “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind”, and “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.” We should heed Blake’s advice, especially if we feel we are “enslaved” and should not be “enslaved” by another man’s system.

To heed Blake’s advice—create! That is what I have done by creating the Fatales Rimas, which speaks to the ironies of fate. You can do the same.

Take your poetry where you “will it” to go or where your Meta-Conscious intuition leads you. Challenge yourself to seek expression of your ideas within the wide variety of structures or universes now available from Free-Verse to Emblematic-Verse, from Ghazals to Villanelles and this new one, Fatales Rima.

Demonstration Poems

To demonstrate the Fatales Rimas I chose familiar works that will hopefully help you understand the ideas behind Fatales Rimas. For Form A: William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Most people understand the basic machinations of Hamlet. In the play Claudius is King of Denmark. Hamlet is the son to the late and nephew to the present King. Prior to the commencement of the play Claudius, then a Prince has killed his brother the King to gain his brother’s throne, lands, and wife. It is this covetry that is Claudius’ fatal flaw. Claudius’ coveting of his brother’s realm ultimately leads to the downfall of all, the wife, the son, the land, the throne and his life. Shakespeare makes a potent demonstration of the execution of a fatal flaw. For Form B: Aesop’s Fable of the Ant and Grasshopper with its well-known moral.


In the first stanza lines 1-4 begin to set-up the poem’s idea or premise; telling the story of Claudius’ covetness. In the second stanza, lines 5-7, describe activities that surround or contribute to the premise or idea of the poem’s subject; Claudius sees all that could be his with his brother the King out of the way, beguiling the Queen into an adulterous situation to trap her. In lines 8 & 9 we have the opportunity to magnify or glorify the opposite of the poem’s subject; here the virtues of the soon to be late King are discussed. Then in line 10 [first line of the split-couplet (lines 10 & 13)] the poem introduces it’s crescendo [or fatal flaw] obliquely or with ambiguity; Claudius’ dirty deed and motive is referred to in the second person. Lines 11 &12 stabilize the crescendo seeking to mitigate the poem’s natural outcome; offered here is the selfish idea that had the King given everything to Claudius that he had desired; Claudius would not have been forced to act so badly. In its twisted way, this would have mitigated the outcome. Line 13 [second line of the split-couplet (lines 10 & 13)] sings the last note of the crescendo [or fatal flaw] and announces the poem’s subject directly, baldly without artifice—this begins the ascent to the poem’s dénouement; here we see that indeed Claudius covets all of his brother’s possessions. Lines 14-16 are used to either move quickly toward the poem’s conclusion or to slow the action by seeking an alternative conclusion; in this case Claudius is shown having fulfilled his desire to covet and finds his only remorse the pretense of grieving for his brother. Lines 17-20 often reflect the premise in the beginning [lines 1-4] as it exposes the result of the poem’s idea or subject at its dénouement, which can be a straight forward or inferred result of nature taking its course, either real or imagined. Here the premise is referred to and the resultant actions from this fatal flaw are, quite naturally, fatal.

It should be remembered that a Fatales Rima does not need or have to end in death. That would be a morbid place to live as a poet. Obviously, the obverse also occurs in both man and nature where the cancer or fatal flaw does not kill, or the antagonist learns his lesson and repents, etc., etc. I encourage you to use the Fatales Rima form to explore. 

How I Write A Fatales Rima


Robert J. Sadler 

In my initial discussions with Harvey Stanbrough, Pulitzer Prize Nominated poet, author and teacher, prior to his debuting the Fatales Rima form in his metrical literary journal, The Raintown Review, I agreed that my Essay On The Genesis and Birth of Fatales Rimas was long on why and short on how-to.

I realized that presenting the form’s organizing principles, detailing its Volitional Didactic, in the essay along with templates containing a demonstration poem was not quite the instruction it might be. And since I am the creator of this form who better to tell you, a potential Fatales Rima poet or aficionado, how I write one.

I will be discussing Form B (see template above) that has the following rhyme scheme and stanzation: abcd, eba, fcg, gcf, abe, dead. That is the six-stanza Fatales Rima format. There will be many thoughts going on in your mind as I move through this explanation. It may be best to keep the demonstration template handy to refer to. The Volitional Didactic will be your guide to the questions you want to ask and answer relative to your poem. They will help bring your subconscious to bear on the focus of your poetic idea as you shape it in the form of a Fatales Rima. Hopefully, it will be comforting to remember that any creative process becomes easier with practice. Creating a Fatales Rima is no different.

Whether you use my approach or not is up to you. The blueprints and the parts list are already in “the essay,” but here is how I build (create) a Fatales Rima.

I take two approaches to the subject of a Fatales Rima poem. First is to allow an intuited thought or subject to bubble to the surface that I feel would suit the form or which I would like to have addressed by the form’s Volitional Didactic. The second is to take an arbitrary or constructed subject and submit it to an examination via the Fatales Rima form and its Volitional Didactic. In either case, once I have decided upon a subject, flaw or idea for a Fatales Rima poem I begin.

With the idea of the poem in mind, I begin the first stanza, which is a four-line quatrain. Here the process of discussing the subject, making the opening statement for the poem’s “argument” to come, is placed. As I begin to write I do not concern myself with the eventual end-rhymes. I write these first four lines as they flow, letting them end naturally. The first line’s natural end may be a breath pause, the end of a poetic-sentence, or the line-stop before the enjambment of the first line into the second line. This flow is continued through the first four lines (1,2,3,4) and carries over to the first line of the second stanza, line 5. Note: I may or may not have already decided what or how I want to phrase the “flaw” which will appear in lines 10 and 13, but I usually have a clue. If I do, I write it down to keep the flaw fresh in my mind. I am always amazed that the brain will often intuit a way to get your poem where you want it, or it needs, to go if you give it a goal.

Since the first five lines [with a stanza break between 4 & 5] are rhymed a,b,c,d, & e, and therefore do not rhyme among themselves, my first thought is to create a rhythm in which to sustain the poem’s subject. I let these five line’s end-words set the end-line rhymes. [If you look at the template example you will note that the “a” rhyme is repeated three more times, in line 7, line 14 and line 19. The “b” rhyme is repeated twice more, in line 6, and line 15. The “c” rhyme is repeated twice more, in line 9, and line 11… and so on. In the beginning it may be beneficial to write down these various ending rhymes, so that your mind can begin to process them and help bring your poem’s idea to them.] I try to remember this paradox: the end-rhyme serves the line and the line serves the end-rhyme.[1]

Beginning with the 6th line (the second line of the 2nd stanza) the interweaving of the rhyme scheme begins. The second stanza is a three-line tercet. It concerns its self with describing the activities or the things that surround and or contribute to the fatal flaw. Often this is an embellishment of the first four lines. It is here; you are able to develop a sense of place and connectionism for the poem. The 6th and 7th lines interweave the poems first two line’s rhyme, “b” then “a”. Subliminally these repeated sounds keep the poem connected to the first stanza while propelling the second stanza forward with its continuing message.

In the third stanza, also a tercet, lines 8, 9, and 10 are rhymed f, c, g. Again new line endings appear (lines 8 and 10) that do not require machinations with previous rhymes to achieve their end rhyme. Line 9 repeats the “c” rhyme. Here at the conclusion of this stanza, you have completed half the poem; you have written seven first-time rhymes and only repeated three of them. The third stanza is the second most important stanza because it brings the poem’s opening statement to fruition by first highlighting or glorifying the flaw’s opposite in lines 8 and 9. Then it announces in line 10 the flaw quietly, under a veil, or in a manner that suggests the flaw without pronouncing it word for word. Line 10 is also the pivot point in the rhyme scheme.

In the fourth stanza, a tercet, lines 11, 12, and 13 are rhymed c, f, g. The rhyme scheme in lines 11 and 12 reverses then mirrors what has come before. The “g” rhyme stays in the tercet’s last line position, a place of authority from which to speak or name the fatal flaw in line 13 (thirteen – traditionally or superstitiously a foreboding or fateful number). But before that happens, lines 11 and 12 are used to seek a mitigating conclusion, a way out of the flaw’s predicament… or not.

The fifth stanza, lines 14, 15, and 16, is a tercet rhymed a, b, e. This stanza is another pivotal stanza. I use it to either move the action toward the conclusion, or pray for relief using some saving device that could change the outcome. This stanza has the opportunity to 1) heighten the drama of what will be the expected conclusion, 2) foreshadow a different ending or 3) suggest a saving grace or provide the savior to save the day.

The last stanza, the sixth in Form B, lines 17, 18, 19, and 20 is a quatrain rhymed d,e,a,d. The purpose of this stanza is to move from crescendo to dénouement. It is here that I usually want to draw the poem’s attention back to the opening argument. This is accomplished both with referential wording and the use the end-rhymes of the 1st and 4th lines of the first stanza. In fact the end-rhyme of the 4th line is used twice in this closing quatrain for emphasis. Sometimes I will even use the same end-words to emphasis and tie together the opening stanza and the poem’s conclusion. In this stanza I want to draw my poetic idea to a close. I am seeking to find either agreement or disagreement with two factors in the poem: 1) being (line 13) the fatal flaw, deciding to either allow agreement or disagreement regarding its supposed natural outcome and 2) the seventh stanza, deciding whether I will agree or disagree with its direction. In either case I want to propel the poem to a conclusion with an answer to the opening statement and or the fatal flaw. This answer is likely to be conclusory in it self.

As stated in “the essay,” a conclusory answer is one that is convincing, but not so much so that it is impossible to find contradiction. In other words it can be supported by the facts of the poem or not. You are the creator—it is your universe.

As you may note, I told you what I thought was the “second most important stanza,” but did not tell you what I thought was the first or how I ranked the others. I think it is important that you place a good deal of import on the third stanza. However, you, the poet, are in charge of your poem. Where you rank the other stanzas or where you place the emphasis depends on you and your poem as you follow the Volitional Didactic.

Just as I did not find it easy at first to write Sonnets, I do not expect first-time Fatales Rima poets to find this process immediately intuitive. Since I have conceived of this form, the reasons for its devices and had the desire to use it to explore part of our human condition… I find the form very freeing. I do not feel restricted. I see a whole new universe of poetic form to explore.

I think of form much like a foreign language. Culture specifics aside, when in a foreign country, neither my ideas nor needs change only the manner of words I use to express them. Likewise the idea of the poem does not change, only the language in which it is spoken. In this case Fatales Rima is the foreign language. Once you learn to speak in Fatales Rima, you will naturally be able to think and express your ideas easily within the form or language of the Fatales Rima.

I hope you enjoy learning to speak and express your ideas in a new language.



[1] rjs paradoxes of poetry:


poetic ideas beget poems and poems beget poetic ideas

words embellish the poem and the poem embellishes the words

subjects begin ruling a poem but it rules the subject in the end

end-rhyme serves the line and the line serves the end-rhyme

that it begins is given, that any poems ends is its own ambiguity


[1] Noam Chomsky, U.S. linguist, political analyst. “Language and Freedom,” lecture, Jan. 1970, delivered at Loyola University, Chicago: Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.

(Published in For Reasons of State, 1973).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), Italian philosopher. Teofilo, in Cause, Principle, and Unity, “Fifth Dialogue” (1588; ed and tr. by Jack Lindsay, 1962). “The universe is then one, infinite, immobile. . . . It is not capable of comprehension and therefore is endless and limitless, and to that extent infinite and indeterminable, and consequently immoblie”.

[4] Man and Nature: Some would say that Man is part of Nature and as such is inseparable. And yet much is written of Man exclusive of all the natural world that surrounds him. For the purpose of Fatales Rimas Man and Nature coexist together and yet may be spoken of as separable universes for poetic conversation. Robert J. Sadler 2013.

[5] John Drury, The Poetry Dictionary page 261

[6] Nonce Form – A poetic form invented for a particular poem. Fixed Forms necessarily begin as nonce forms, although their origins may be merky and undiscernible.” John Drury, The Poetry Dictionary page 177

[7] Without proving the debate here I submit all poetry has meter as all poetry has form–finding it is another story.

[8] Volitional Didactics – is a process employed in the Fatales Rimas to pose questions suggesting acts within which or from which instances of making conscious choices [ of will ] or decisions are made. These questions, or acts, are intended to be instructive as to man’s responses to himself and/or nature as well as nature’s responses to itself and mankind. It is the volitional didactic, the questions posed¾the acts proffered and endless variety of choices available, that makes Fatales Rimas a repeatable experiment with infinite possibilities.

[9] Ian Saunders, Transition Partnerships – Harnessing change for business advantage, “On knowledge: “He who knows not and that he knows not that he knows not is a fool….shun him” Unconscious Incompetence / “He who knows not and knows that he knows not is ignorant… teach him” Conscious Incompetence / “He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep….wake him” Unconscious Competence / “He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man … follow him” Conscious Competence.”

[10] a] Randall C. O’Reilly, Ph.D. Thesis, The Leabra Model of Neural Interactions and Learning in the Neocortex. Ph.D., Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, 1996. James L. McClelland advisor.

b] Randall C. O’Reilly & Kenneth A. Norman & James L. McClelland, A Hippocampal Model of Recognition Memory (1998).

[11] a] Joseph O’Conner and Ian McDermott, An Introduction to NLP Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influence People.

b] Richard Bandler, John Griinder and Connirae Andreas Reframing: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Transformation of Meaning.

[12] Lou Tice, Investments In Excellence, The Stages of Development, The Pacific Institute.

[13] a] Ph.D. Thesis, The Leabra Model of Neural Interactions and Learning in the Neocortex. Ph.D., Psychology, Carnegie Mellon University, 1996. James L. McClelland advisor.

b] A Hippocampal Model of Recognition Memory. Randall C. O’Reilly & Kenneth A. Norman & James L. McClelland (1998)

c] Creativity as Projection: Conceptual Integration Networks and Idioms, Todd V. Oakley, Dept. of English, Case Western Reserve University

[14] Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates, Entering the Mind of Poetry, Essays by, HarperCollinsPublishers, 1997

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