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I’d like to welcome our dear friend, Sam Peralta who will be serving up form today at the bar.  As you know Sam has a wealth of knowledge about forms and I know you will enjoy his article on triolets today.  Here is

Samuel Peralta


The triolet is the albino ruby-throated hummingbird of verse forms. Exceedingly rare in the wild, but a joy, a miniature miracle of creation.

Photo credit: Darren Shank, Allen Shank, Shaphan Shank,
Marlin Shank / Nature Friend Magazine.

Because triolets are so rare, I’ve decided to take them under my wing, as it were, and see whether we can inspire more to take flight.

Triolets are related to rondeau. Both are rooted in late thirteenth-century medieval French poetry, and both emphasize repetition and rhyme, making them very musical forms.But where the rondeau’s fifteen lines enable the writer to explore a theme in the same expanse as a sonnet, the triolet’s eight lines – further constrained by the repetition – force the writer into an economy of thought more akin to forms like tanka or haiku.

So, what exactly is the triolet form? I was hoping you’d ask.

Ars Trioletica
by Samuel Peralta

Triolets are an interesting form.
Repeated lines, like these, remain the same
End rhymes, like this one, are the triolet’s norm
Triolets are an interesting form.

And yes, another rhyme, you’re getting warm!
And here’s another, what a rhyming game!
Triolets are an interesting form.
(Repeated lines, like these, remain the same.)

Okay, so if you’re the sort who pores over the instructions for setting up your home entertainment system – as if it were some digital audio-visual Valentine – rather than just jumping in, here’s the skinny:

A triolet has eight lines, with rhyme scheme ABaAabAB. The first, fourth and seventh lines are identical, and the second and final lines are also identical.This means that, once you’ve written the first couplet, you have five of the eight lines done. With only three more lines to go, you’re 63% done with the poem. #Winning!

Classically, the lines are in tetrameter or pentameter, sometimes with an iambic bent. Some modern examples show a variation in the line length, but what fun is that? You may as well write free verse – what do you think this is, some sort of game?

Photo credit: Coiledspring Games

British poet Robert Bridges was one of those who embraced the triolet form in the English language. Taking its cue, the late-nineteenth-century saw a brief flowering of the form, although triolets never quite saw the popularity of sonnets, ballades, or rondeaux.

The best classical triolets are able to make the refrain seem natural, and subtly twist the meaning of the opening couplet when the reader encounters it again at the end.

A perfect example: One of my touchstone poets, Wendy Cope, was adept at using the triolet in her signature humorous verse. Here, for example, is a link to her non-digital non-audio-visual “Valentine” – http://thegladdestthing.com/poems/valentine

Public domain photo: Antique Valentine, 1909.

Renowned writer, Carol Rumens noted in one of her poetry workshops that “…The triolet is not a difficult form, but, as the 13th-century mirrors are turned in the hard light of the 21st, it is almost inevitable that we hear the creak of tiny hinges. Could there be such a thing as a great triolet (in the way that Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle’ is a great villanelle?) I suspect not, but I am happy to be proven wrong.”

I suspect that she purposely set that challenge to fuel her readers to have a go. So let’s all try to prove her wrong! Here’s one of my attempts.

              by Samuel Peralta

The night evaporates around me,
a white, bipolar flame. I waken into dreaming,
into a lithium ocean that engulfs and drowns me.

The night evaporates around me,
a stuttering of stars that taunt, confound me,
until this fragile sphere has lost all meaning.

The night evaporates around me,
a white, bipolar flame. I waken into dreaming.

(My twist, breaking my triolets into three stanzas, renders it so that the first-line becomes a visual as well as a musical refrain.)

Another similar triolet can be found in my blog, and is linked below (probably link number 87). Perhaps I’ll use contributor’s prerogative and get in a link, thus – http://bit.ly/s4avolare – yes, perhaps I will. The title “Avolare” refers to flight – which brings us back to that hummingbird.

Photo credit: Darren Shank, Allen Shank, Shaphan Shank,
Marlin Shank / Nature Friend Magazine.

Can you, too, let your words take flight?

Go on – try your hand at the triolet. As the wingbeats of this rare form become more natural, you may surprise yourself. You may find that you will have hatched something light, something splendid, a seriousness, a joy, a miniature miracle of creation.

Copyright © 2012, Samuel Peralta. All rights reserved.