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Sunday Scribblings #127: Tritina for Triple the Fun

This week is taking us closer to the holiday season, and as I explored poetic forms, I chanced upon the tritina. I picked it up for no particular reason – well, maybe its ten lines and the fact that December was originally the tenth month??! But anyways, it is also a form that lets us play with end words and I felt like I needed some playtime with words. So yes, this week I bring you the tritina for triple the fun!

And here is hoping for a wonderful holiday season, with twice, thrice, and many times over the joy for all of you… On a related note, today is World Carol Day, and here is a post I wrote last year about the carol and featuring the carol for the Poetic section as well.

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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 #127: Tritina for Triple the Fun

Poetic Sundays: Tritina for Triple the Fun

So December gets its name from the Latin word decem (meaning ten). And it was originally the tenth month of the year in the calendar of Romulus c. 750 BC which began in March, and then there were a few monthless winter days! However that changed when the months of January and February were created to accommodate those monthless days and added to the beginning of the calendar. December then became the twelfth month but retained its name (as did September, October, and November which were previously the seventh, eighth, and ninth months and named accordingly)! (source)

Anyways, why am I going on about this? Well, one of the reasons I landed upon this week’s poetic form is because I was looking for 10-line forms with the name-origin of December in mind. Well, that is it. So now on to the tritina itself.

What is the Tritina?

The tritina is a 20th century creation from Marie Ponsot, an American poet, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and translator. This form is a sister form to the more complex sestina (a form I always think about exploring but have stayed away from till now – maybe soon, and maybe the tritina will give me some practice).

So what is the tritina really, you ask? It is a ten-line poem made up of three tercets and a concluding line, and it uses three words repeated at the ends of the lines of each tercet in cyclical fashion. Finally, these three words appear in the concluding line of the poem in a specific order.

The Tritina’s Characteristics

So the tritina’s elements are that it:

  • is a decastich: a poem of 10 lines with three tercets followed by one single line
  • uses the concept of “lexical repetition,” or words that are used repeatedly in a specific way across the poem.
    • In this case, the three words that end each of the lines of the first stanza are repeated in a different order at the end of lines in each of the subsequent two stanzas.
    • The pattern/word-order is: A-B-C, C-A-B, B-C-A, (A-B-C), where the numbers represent the end-words of the lines of each tercet, and the parentheses is for line 10 where all three words are on the same line.
    • So you can see that each new verse uses the last word of the verse above for its first line, the last word of the first line for its second, and the last word of the second for its third.
  • does not have any specific rhyming requirements, but the lexical repetition helps provide music to the ears – of sorts…
  • does not have any metrical requirements patterns, but it is best to maintain a uniform meter and uniform line-length across the poem to heighten the effect of the repetition

This is how it looks

The A, B, and C below signify the last word of the lines in the tercets, and the last line within the parentheses suggests that the last line contains all the three words in that line in the specified order. And the ‘x’s suggest the lines can be of any length (but even across the poem)

x....x A
x....x B
x....x C

x....x C
x....x A
x....x B

x....x B
x....x C
x....x A

(A B C) 

How to Write the Tritina: Tips and Pointers

  • Pick a theme for your poem.
  • Use the theme to pick the three words that will end the lines for the tercets. Alternately, you could write the first stanza and then use the last words of each line as the three words for the tritina. Some suggestions for these three words:
    • pick words with multiple meanings so you could use them differently across the lines if you wish. It certainly gives you more freedom.
    • pick a combination of nouns and verbs (or basically action and non-action words)
  • Write the first stanza which will decide the end words for the lines of all three tercets, as well as the order of the words in the last line (as given above)
  • While the traditional tritina repeats the three words “as is” and wholly, feel free to employ poetic license and use homophones (sell/cell, sea/see, buy/bye) or change the grammatic form of the word (smile/smiled/smiling – you could split the words across the lines to maintain the word consistency). You could also use different words with the same end word like childhood, neighborhood, fatherhood, and so on)
  • Reading the example poem as well as poems in the suggested reading links below will help understand this better if you are confused…

Additional Reading, h/t, and Reference

Tritina Tri-word Suggestions

Here are a few suggestions of three words for you; from my attempt below and other attempts I dared not share yet (trust me, they need polish, lots more than the feeble polish at my published one here!)…

  • sweat tears sea
  • joy cheer bells / lights gifts tree / smiles lights cheers (or other similar holiday season combinations)
  • morning glory evening / dawn dusk day / day night time
  • song sing hear
  • home heart here /
  • adjective noun verb
  • multi-use words – well run set stand and more
  • your own 3 word prompts
  • check out this cool list of really unique three-word prompts

My Tritina Attempt

My words, inspired by an Isak Dinesen quote I saw today: sweat, tears, and sea. I decided to use the quote as the final line of my poem (and yes, you can also start with the final line first which will also help you finalize the word order automatically!)

And here is the poem (well, the best I could this time – I have three or four other worse attempts that I hope to polish for later)

sweat tears and the sea

Surely you know by now that success is mostly sweat;
that behind every win there are always some tears;
or that being at the beach doesn’t help you cross the sea.

You better learn to swim before exploring the open sea,
(as an aside: even when you swim, you do sweat!)
else when boats capsize, ‘ll be too late for tears.

So work through the pain, smile through the tears;
Enjoy a dance with the waves as you move with the sea;
And remember “Good things come to those who sweat!”

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”
~Vidya Tiru @ LadyInReadWrites (with quotes from Christy Ann Martine and Isak Dinesen)

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea” – Isak Dinesen

“Dance with the waves, move with the sea. Let the rhythm of the water set your soul free.” – Christy Ann Martine

Another option for the “good things come” I considered was the below quote

“No one ever drowned in sweat!” – Lou Holtz


On My Blog And the Homefront

Here are the posts that made their way out into the world this past week on my blog:


On My Blog and On the Homefront

I have a few posts planned; including sharing books with you as well as other cool things and items I discovered recently.

As for at home, my oldest is home as of late last week and relaxing at home after a hectic finals week earlier. I am glad he is home, and not just because he always helps me put the dishes away without fail 🙂

This Week’s Celebrations

Literary Celebrations (close-to-it also!)

  • Literary birthdays this week include: Sophie Kinsella, Mulk Raj Anand, and Gustave Flaubert on the 12th of December; Dec 13th celebrates Tamora Pierce; Carolyn M. Rodgers, Nissim Ezekiel, and Shirley Jackson on the 14th of December; Betty Smith and Edna O’Brien on Dec 15th; Arthur C. Clarke, Jane Austen, Nissim Ezekiel, and Margaret Mead on the 16th of December; Dec 17th celebrates Jacqueline Wilson and Penelope Mary Fitzgerald; Saki on the 18th of December
  • Computer Science Education Week (Begins the Second Monday)

Foodie Observations and Celebrations

Other Observations and Celebrations

Wrapping 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.

Linking this to the Sunday Post over at the Caffeinated Reviewer and the Sunday Salon

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