Writing prompt of the day: Write a chanso poem.

Writing prompt of the day: Write a chanso poem.

The Chanso is a versatile French poetic form of five to six stanzas and an envoy or tornada (a summary of the theme or a dedication to a friend). The poet determines the length of each stanza, but every stanza should be the same length with the same rhyme scheme. The poet is expected to create an original form with the metric length of the line, the number of lines, and the rhyme scheme. Every line of the poem should have the same number of syllables. The envoy should be about half the length of a stanza and follow the same pattern as the last half of the previous stanza.

Because you get to choose your stanza length and rhyme scheme, I’ll include some classic options to get you started:

  • Couplet: two lines

    • Usually AA

  • Tercet: three lines

    • Usually ABA, BCB, or CDC

  • Quatrains: four lines

    • Usually AAAA, AABB, ABBA, or ABAB

  • Quintain: five lines

  • Sestet: six lines

  • Septet: seven lines

  • Octave: eight lines in iambic pentameter or hendecasyllables (11 syllables)

    • Usually ABBAABBA

Your challenge is to write your own chanso poem.

My own attempt was based on my recent fascination with Jane Goodall’s story and work. I thought it would be cool to structure the poem around the idea that chimps have five fingers and five toes just like we do. So I wrote a chanso of five stanzas of five lines, five syllables each. Unfortunately the concept that worked in my head did not work on paper (no matter how hard I tried to make it better). I actually kind of hate this poem, but in the spirit of letting myself be imperfect and come up with crap, here’s my attempt to write a chanso poem:


Five fingers. Five toes.

Kiss and hug mother.

Feel fear, joy, and woe.

We call them “other.”

What makes us human?

When tickled, they laugh.

Create tools, hold hands,

give pats on the back,

walk and play on land.

What makes us human?


percent of our genes

are shared with chimps.

We aren’t unique beings.

What makes us human?

We create, we burn,

Speak words, spread rumors,

Devastate and learn,

Invent the future.

What makes us human?

We govern, arrest,

stand, worship, deport,

Build towns, slums, invest,

Sue others in court.

What makes us human?

We live an illusion.

The question is not

what makes us human.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Feel free to share your attempt in the comments below.

And keep writing,


A writer like you: Rosie Talbot

A writer like you: Rosie Talbot

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