Introducing the Tritina ( A New Poetry Form for You to Try)
Blog Posted:2/11/2013 9:26:00 PM
This is an article I did for the SPQuill magazine several years ago. The first part of this article is over at my contest page. But midway through this article is added information that will aid you in trying to write your own Tritina. I hope you guys will give it a shot and please study carefully the rules below:
I discovered, researching the Tritina, a ten-line poetry form invented in the 20th century, that it is much shorter than its 39-line predecessor, the Sestina, and therefore, much easier to write! I would say that anyone wanting to attempt the difficult Sestina form should begin by trying out the Tritina. The description is this: It consists of three tercets and one single concluding line which incorporates the three recurring words of the tercets’ end lines. The one big thing setting the Tritina apart from many other forms of poetry is that the recurrent pattern is “lexical” and not rhymed. The pattern for the end lines of each tercet is simply this:
Tercet #1: A B C
Tercet #2: C A B
Tercet #3: B C A
(The final line will contain words A, B, and C within it and in that order.)
If you follow this formula, you will see that the end word A of line 1 simply becomes the end word of line 2 of Tercet #2, and becomes the final word of Tercet 3’s final line.
I suggest when you begin a Tritina of your own, take a big blank piece of paper and place the letters representing each line’s end word at the sides of the paper, allowing plenty of space for revision between lines. When I did one of my first Tritinas (“The Beast With Eyes Too Kind” below), I found it easier to first come up with my final line, a summary of what I wanted to say. I wrote that line (Beware the beast who smiles with eyes too kind) and then I picked three words from it. Those three words were to be my “recurring words,” and I had to choose interesting or main words (try to stick with concrete nouns and/or active verbs) which are easy to use and which are words that would stand out in the final line. I decided the easiest words to work with were these: beast/ smiles/ kind. Since my idea was to portray people who use their smiling eyes and kindness to entice children, I needed to focus on either the word “smile” or “eyes” and definitely the word “kind.” Finally, as I began the first line of my first tercet, it became obvious to me that it would be easier to put the word “beast” rather than the word “beware” at the end of three different lines. Here is the poem I ended up with ( I color coded the words so you can get a sense of the pattern of the final words in this poetry form):
The Beast with Eyes Too Kind
In every city lives at least one beast.
He’s not like us, yet charmingly he smiles
and draws us to him with his eyes so kind.
And those that he befriends are mostly kind,
for they make easy prey for him, the beast,
who has no kindness in him as he smiles.
Too late his victims learn just why he smiles.
His eyes confronting them are not so kind
when they’ve discerned the nature of the beast.
Beware the beast who smiles with eyes too kind.
(By Andrea Dietrich)
You may have noticed by now that my lines are iambic pentameter. That is a popular meter for this type of poem although the meter is not set in stone. Tetrameter could be used as well. Also, I have seen many Tritinas online that were composed of even shorter lines, for example, lines as short as six syllables each. You can experiment, but it will be better if you are consistent in whichever line length you choose to use. Furthermore, meter is not even a necessity, but it will give your poem a more pleasing quality.
For me, the Tritina was not as easy as it looks. I am accustomed to writing in rhyme, and I really had to focus on the “idea” of what I was trying to convey, making every line be a precursor to the main idea of my final line: “Beware the beast who smiles with eyes too kind.” For this reason, I advise coming up with a final line that just sounds really good to you and with words easy to work with. Don’t be afraid to rework things. Maybe you end up with a tercet that would be better in a different position. Then go ahead and change the poem. Rework the last line, making it match up better with the tercets, or even change the recurring words if better ones come to you. Don’t force the words. Let the poem develop into what you mean it to say. I hope you will try having fun with the Tritina!