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Try a Tritina! Poetry Prompt

Are you wishing to try a form poem but don't know where to start? Are sonnets too stuffy, villanelles too rhyme-y, and sestinas just too much? Do you freeze up just by considering a pantoum, a haibun, an interlocking Rubaiyat, or a ghazal because they are so long?


If so, Marie Ponsot has got a form for you to try! She called her invention a triton, and said it is "the square root of the sestina." You can also think of it as a mini sestina.


As with sestinas, tritinas repeat the last words of the first stanza's lines. However, there are only 3 stanzas with 3 lines in a tritina, rather than a sestina's 6 stanzas of 6 lines each. A sestina ends with a 3-line stanza that incorporates all 6 of the repeated words. A tritina also uses all of its repeated words, but the last stanza is just 1 line long.


Like a sestina, a tritina uses a certain order for its end word repetition. I will use Ponsot's tritina, "Living Room," which is the poem posted on my blog today, as the example here.


Her first stanza has "frame, break, cold" as the last words of the first stanza.

frame (A)

break (B)

cold (C)


Stanza 2's lines end: cold, frame, break

C

A

B


Stanza 3: break, cold, frame

B

C

A


Ponsot used the words in the order of the first stanza in her final line (frame, break, cold). She also changed "frame" to "framed."


It is up to you how strict you want to be with your tritina. "Brake" instead of "break." "Colds" instead of "cold." The repeated words in the last line in any order. All of these choices are, of course, up to you.


As someone who loves writing sestinas, I can give you a little advice: choose those end words carefully! Don't make it so hard on yourself that it isn't fun to write.





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