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Sunday Scribblings #118: Spoken Word Battles Can be Wondrous Too

Spoken word battles are ancient really, like 5th century ancient, when flyting was cool! And they are cool again with rap battles and other spoken word events all around the world. One such word battle with origins in Italy is the stornelli (plural for the stornello, a straightforward three-line poetic form). Read on to find more about it.

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Notepad and a pen over it with a cup of coffee next to it. words read Sunday Scribblings, and this is for Sunday Scribblings #118: Spoken Word Battles Can be Wondrous Too

Poetic Sundays: The Stornello aka One of a Spoken Word Battle

October is Italian-American Heritage Month, among a few other Heritage months here in the US. Keeping this in mind, I am featuring the Stornello today, which is a form from Italy.

What is The Stornello Poetic Form?

So, as you already know by now, the Stornello is an Italian poetic form. In simple terms, a stornello is a tercet (three line stanza) with a syllabic count of 5-11-11 (or 10-11-11 or 11-11-11) and either monorhymed(aaa) or with the middle line having a near rhyme (AaA). It is normally part of a stornelli, where poets improvise as they compose stornello in response to a previous one from another poet.

The word stornello could stand for the Provencal estorn, which means contest; or it could be based on the Turscan stornare/storno, which means rebound, turn around, or bounce back. “Poetry slam” contests employing this tercet poetic form were popular in Tuscany in the 17th century (and as early as the 15th century too) where opposing poets would improvise and take turns as they reparteed. Sometimes, selected words were repeated and turned around as poets bounced back with an answer.

The Stornello’s Characteristics

So the Stornello’s elements are that it is:

  • stanzaic: written in one or more three-line stanzas or tercets
  • syllabic: a shorter line (of five syllables, while other sources indicate 10 syllables and even 11 syllables itself) followed by a couplet of 11-syllable lines
  • rhymed: variations include monorhyme (aaa) – with a different monorhyme for each stanza; and the more popular AaA/BbB where the lower case indicates a near rhyme (like sun/scrunch/bun; or art/blurt/heart)
  • one part of a stornelli, or a battle of words; when a second stornello is told in repartee to the first one, it becomes a stornelli (pl). These are usually comedic, sarcastic, slightly(sometimes more so) insulting, but always delightful; and hence
  • collaborative
  • also a poetic form that usually uses the name of a flower in that first short line (though not always needed)

My Attempt at the Stornello, well, the Stornelli

The Silent Battle (with imagined words – based on a true story!)
This yellow flower –
it is mine! For me, dear bee! Do you hear?!
Go away, find your own place, your own bower.

Phew! This plastic thing?
Keep it, dear hummingbird! But! Just. one. last. drink?
I promise! Aren’t I all honey, and no sting?!
~Vidya Tiru @ LadyInReadWrites

Note: This pic is not too clear but you can see the bee at the bottom of the hummingbird feeder here. I watched the battle play out – no jokes about it – between the hummingbird and the bee. The hummingbird kept trying to drive away the bee, and they went up and down, and around the feeder in dizzy circles.. I have a video as well that I will try to upload here.. was delightful to watch (not sure how the participants were feeling)… While I have seen hummingbirds drive each other away (or are they just playing) to have solitary use of the feeder, this is the first time I saw a bee and bird in battle! It was all silent to me, of course, watching from my kitchen window as I was.

h/t, references, and further reading


On My Blog and the Homefront (No Spoken Word Battles here!)

I managed, once again, with some catching up over the last day or two


On My Blog and On the Homefront

Hope to keep posting…and get back our home fully back on track (did I mention I still have some autumn-cleaning of the garage left to do? And my closet is one space that forever needs an overhaul!)


Literary Celebrations (close-to-it also!)

  • Literary birthdays this week include:  R. K. Narayan, Kota Shivaram Karanth, Sivasankari, Harold Pinter and Nora Roberts on Oct 10th; Thích Nhất Hạnh and Richard Paul Evans on Oct 11th; Julie Kagawa on the 12th of Oct; Conrad Richter and Emily Gould on Oct 13th; e.e. cummings, Ocean Vuong, and Katherine Mansfield on Oct 14th; Helen Hunt Jackson, Virgil, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mario Puzo, P. G . Wodehouse, Michael Monroe Lewis, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, and Roxane Gay on the 15th of October; Eugene O’Neill and Oscar Wilde on Oct 16th
  • Freethought Day is October 12 (celebrated during the week of this date across many states)
  • October 13th is International Plain Language Day. So I am going to ensure that my post for the day is written in plain language. And maybe will have a little fun competition of sorts too, since it is also National Train Your Brain Day
  • The 16th is National Dictionary Day, created in honor of Noah Webster’s birthday (October 16, 1758). So open a dictionary, learn a new word or two. Here is one way to learn some interesting things about words you thought you knew.

Foodie Celebrations

Other Celebrations and Observations

Related Reads About Spoken Word Battles and More

Wrapped Up: My Sunday Scribblings

So dear reader, you have reached the end of this Sunday Scribblings! As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about this post. Will you be attempting to write the stornello? And, of course, do let me know if you plan to celebrate any of these mentioned celebrations this coming week/month?

Linking this to the Sunday Post over at the Caffeinated Reviewer and the Sunday Salon. And for Day nine of the Ultimate Blog Challenge

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