Tetractys Example by Rayna HallowayA Tetractys is a contemporary poetry form invented by English Poet, Ray Stebbings.

It consists of at least 5 lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 10 syllables (for a total of 20 syllables) and can also be reversed and written 10, 4, 3, 2, 1.

A Tetractys can have more than one verse but each subsequent verse must be an inverse of the previous.  So a double Tetractys would be written: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 10, 4, 3, 2, 1 and a triple Tetractys would be written: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 10, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1 and so on.

In order to be correct a Tetractys must express a complete thought within it’s 20 syllables, either profound or comic, witty or wise.

Ray Stebbing has been quoted as saying that his work was inspired by Euclid, the mathematician of classical times, who considered the number series 1, 2, 3, 4 to have mystical significance because its sum is 10. Euclid gave this number series it’s own name – Tetractys. Thus, the Tetractys poetic form finds it name.

The syllable format for the example is shown below:

Girl (1)
blinded (2)
by longing. (3)
Find your freedom (4)
from wanting, perfection adorns your skin. (10)


For more examples of poems written using this form search the hashtag #Tetractys on Instagram, or visit our community here. You can also see the @heartwrds gallery for all submissions on this form.

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