In Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive novels, the chapters are grouped into parts, the titles of the parts combining to form a ketek. For example, in the first book, The Way of Kings:

  1. Above Silence
  2. The Illuminating Storms
  3. Dying
  4. Storm's Illumination
  5. The Silence Above


Above silence, the illuminating storms — dying storms — illuminate the silence above.

The ketek is described in the endnote:

The above sample is noteworthy as it is a ketek, a complex form of holy Vorin poem. The ketek not only reads the same forward and backward (allowing for alteration of verb forms) but is also divisible into five distinct smaller sections, each of which makes a complete thought.

The complete poem must form a sentence that is grammatically correct and (theoretically) poignant in meaning.

Are keteks (the form: palindrome [allowing for conjugation, etc.], n [≥2] thoughts) based on some real-life form of poetry, or are they purely fictional?

  • When you say "ketek," are you referring to the form of the poem (reads the same forward and backward, divisible into five distinct smaller sections), or the use of book titles to form a poem (as in Joshua's answer)?
    – Shokhet
    Apr 10, 2017 at 21:05
  • @Shokhet the former. I should have been clearer about that
    – muru
    Apr 10, 2017 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Palindrome poems have been around for a while. They're sometimes called "mirror poetry".

A similar form is the reverse poem, where the poem takes on an opposite meaning when read backwards. Those are usually on a line-by-line rather than word-by-word basis, which means you don't have to play as many games about "verb forms".

The specification of "five distinct smaller sections, each of which makes a complete thought" is not specifically familiar, though it's not really well exemplified here. The five sections in the example are pretty incomplete as thoughts.

Structurally, it sounds similar to a bookshelf poem:

Make this poem entirely out of book titles. You can use more than one in a line if you want, and add or take away punctuation to make it flow, but you can’t chop them up or miss out words! The title can be anything you want.

That link dates from 2012; and the novels you mention date to 2010. I believe that bookshelf poetry dates back further than that, and it doesn't appear to be original to that contest, but I don't have evidence of older instances.

I do know of an older example with chapter titles. Isaac Asimov's 1972 The Gods Themselves is divided into three parts:

Against Stupidity
The Gods Themselves
Contend in Vain

Together, they are a line from Friederich Schiller's verse poem, Die Jungfrau von Orleans.

  • I'll ask muru to be certain, but I'm not certain if he (?) was asking about the book titles forming a poem, or about the ketek poetry form.
    – Shokhet
    Apr 10, 2017 at 21:03
  • Argh. Jumped in to answer without fully reading the question. Deleting my answer. Apr 10, 2017 at 21:12
  • There, that's slightly less bad. Apr 10, 2017 at 21:20
  • Sorry, I was asking about the poetry form, not the use in part titles. Interesting answer, though!
    – muru
    Apr 10, 2017 at 21:47
  • The 16 chapter titles of R. A. Lafferty's 1968 novel The Reefs of Earth form an original poem/
    – user14111
    Feb 6, 2020 at 6:44

I know that this is an old question, but Brandon has said (can't find the reference, sorry) that keteks are based on an (originally) Hebraic poetic form called chiasmus/reverse parallelism. They are everywhere in the bible ideas are put in an ABCCBA form. For example: A: No one can serve two masters; B: for either he will hate the one C: and love the other, C: or he will be devoted to one B: and hate the other. A: You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matt 6:24)

Chiasmus can be very short (those who call evil good and good evil), or longer like the above example, or spanning the structure of whole books. Brandon took that (he is a devout Christian after all) and formalized and tightened it into a Ketek.

  • Welcome to the site! Looks like a good first post.
    – Skooba
    Mar 20, 2018 at 11:40

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