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Tinkering with the Triolet

By JoAnn LoVerde-Dropp

Do you remember studying form in poetry while still in school? Were you tortured with iambs and trochees? Did you suffer through the sonnet?
So did I.
In fact, you could not get me near a Dickinson poem until long after I had graduated, and I was an English major. I wanted the poem (and the poet) to speak to me plainly. Rhyme schemes were so eighteenth century!

What if I told you that writing in form can propel your thoughts forward in a way that free verse just isn’t equipped to do? It’s true. When you know that parameters exist, you compensate. You focus. Your thoughts do not have the luxury of flailing about on the open page.
Let’s start small.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the triolet originated as “a medieval French verse form that consists of eight short lines rhyming ABaAabAB (the capital letters indicate lines that are repeated). The name triolet is taken from the three repetitions of the first line. The great art of the triolet consists in using the refrain line with naturalness and ease and in each repetition slightly altering its meaning, or at least its relation to the rest of the poem.”

When writing in form, I like to first set myself up with a template so that I don’t get turned around while the images are coming to me.

The next step is to simply tell your story. In the triolet below, I wanted to tell the story of how a late night ride home from Dallas, Georgia, turned into a game of chicken with nature. Note that end rhymes that are not perfect are still effective. These “almost rhymes” are called slant rhyme.

 

Line # What it does What it says
1 Repeats in lines 4 and 7 I am the only one who sees the hawk
2 End rhymes with line 6; Repeats in line 8 riding the current of a dying wind.
3 End rhymes with line 1 Holding steady, I let them talk.
4 Repeats line 1 I am the only one who sees the hawk
5 End rhymes with line 1 and quietly brace for the windshield’s crack
6 End rhymes with line 2 then he rights himself and flies again.
7 Repeats line 1 I am the only one who saw the hawk
8 Repeats line 2 riding the current of a dying wind.

 

Now let’s look at the poem on its own:

The Hawk

I am the only one who sees the hawk
riding the current of a dying wind.
Holding steady, I let them talk.
I am the only one who sees the hawk
and quietly brace for the windshield’s crack
Then he rights himself and flies again.
I am the only one who saw the hawk
Riding the current of a dying wind.

Now it’s your turn! Send me your triolets at SevenViragos@gmail.com.

Until our next poem…JoAnn LoVerde-Dropp

Accessible Poetry discusses works which do not require any prior poetic study and demystifies those which seem to elude readers for want of readily available context. Each monthly column will focus on a poet, a movement, or a poetic device in order to “bring the mountain to Muhammad” for the leery and curious alike.

Works Cited

“triolet”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 18 Jul. 2014.

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