Monday, July 08, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Terza Rima

I've been reading poetry this week and have iambic pentameter on the brain. I thought we should try a form that uses this meter, so this week I've chosen Terza rima. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines terza rima in this fashion.
Terza rima is a tumbling, interlocking rhyme scheme that was invented by the thirteenth-century Italian poet Dante for the creation of his long poem, The Divine Comedy.

Terza rima (an Italian phrase meaning "third rhyme") consists of a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. It can go on as long as the poet wishes. At the end of the poem an extra line is often added to complete the structure: yzy z.
You can read more on this form at Here is a poem written in terza rima by Robert Frost.
Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
You can read another example in Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem, Ode to the West Wind.

So, what kind of terza rima will you write? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Okay, that was hard. But here you go:


    They blessed a baby in our church today,
    giving her a prayer of hope, a name.
    They dressed her in a little heirloom spray

    of Grandma’s lace. And all the family came,
    beaming in a long and well-combed row.
    All their smiles kind of looked the same.

    After church they’ll shake some hands and go
    eat thick-sliced chocolate cake and barbecue.
    They’ll laugh together, shoot some video.

    On Thursday evening we are going to view
    Mrs. Jamison. She died last night.
    The funeral’s on Friday. Then we’ll do

    a luncheon for her family. Because right
    after they come back from the cemetery
    they’ll be hungry. Seems as if they might

    be comforted by coleslaw. Solemnly
    we’ll honor 93 long, breathing years.
    Now over. And I’ll face mortality,

    not mine. I’ll have to watch my mother’s tears.
    I won’t know what it is that I should say,
    filled like a sacramental cup with fears.

    They blessed a baby in our church today,
    and now I think of everything, and pray.

    —Kate Coombs, 2013
    all rights reserved

  2. Nice, Kate. So SO nice!

    1. Lovely, I like how you return to the first line -- it is a much fuller line the second time around having all of that other baggage called life in tow.

  3. Terza Rima

    This small inventory
    of a place I do know well
    is a questionable story

    but one I'd like to tell.
    I'll cast a line to fish
    until I sound the bell.

    I'll stare at my empty dish,
    having passed the peas between my knees
    into a napkin where they will squish

    as often as I please.
    They are words I count and ration,
    tossing many to the seas.

    And if I was a musician?
    Notes the tools I weave
    to make a gesture, a composition,

    to keep you here --don't leave!--
    for I have need to hold you
    in a place of make- believe,

    out of something old, make something new
    and now it's time to bid adieu.

  4. Holy smokes it took me awhile to think about, constantly rewrite and finish this. It's not the second coming of David McCord by any means but I did it.

    Kate - Your poem is SO good that I almost thought "why bother."

    Anyhow, enjoy everyone.

    "It's time for you to go to bed
    So please kiss me goodnight,
    It's getting late." My mother said.

    I whispered, "The sun is shining bright
    It's obvious Mom ... look ... see?
    I've never seen a brighter light

    Why are you constantly picking on me?"
    She said, "No I'm not Keri-Lynn
    My watch says 7:33

    This is an argument you won't win
    It's time to hit the sack,
    You're starting to get under my skin

    So please stop talking back."
    "Forgive me Mom, I heard your warning,
    I'm sorry if you feel under attack

    Though here in the town of Corning
    It's 7:33 ... in the morning.

    (C) Charles Waters 2013 all rights reserved.

  5. Chain Rhyme for Goldilocks

    She reached the cottage with the evening light,
    And from the eaves a nesting swallow spoke:
    “Too hard, too hot, too cold, too soft, just right.”

    The house exhausted wafts of chimney smoke
    That brought a scent of porridge to her nose.
    She dropped behind her sodden walking cloak

    And kicked her muddied sandals from her toes.
    She stepped across the threshold in a swoon.
    The swallow whistled, “Watch out where she goes!”

    Inside, a kitchen hearth, a cauldron spoon.
    No chairs, no bowls, no occupants in sight.
    Swallow whispered: “Someone’s coming soon.”

    She’s long past listening, lulling now it’s night:
    “Too hard, too hot, too cold, too soft, just right.”

    © 2013 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

    Poet's note: In playing with the verse form, I’ve attempted to approach “The Story of the Three Bears” much as a contemporary illustrator such as Lisbeth Zwerger might interpret this tale. I’m more focused on the mystery and surreality inherent in this tale than on its surface plot or details. Rhythm and syllable sound are paramount to me, as color and shade are for many artists. Words might slip their comfortable meanings, and images might grow outsized. There are stranger, darker antecedents and variants than the tame bedime story I was introduced to as a child where the safe ending seemed imposed rather than organic. Robert Southey's version stars a foul-mouthed old woman; Charles Dickens refers to hobgoblins rather than bears; and John D. Batten draws a fox called Scrapefoot who visits a bears' castle in the woods. Curiouser and curiouser...