Reanimated Lavender Granola Switchblade Nun rides again.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Trimetran Form

Sometimes it's useful to learn about form. As blogging poets, one of the finest things we can do for each other is to share knowledge of various forms and literary devices, and how to use them. Though it may all seem daunting to the novice, believe me, with a little clear instruction and patience, even the most difficult forms can eventually be mastered.

Today I would like to share with you the Trimetran form. It is thought to have originated in France around 1750, and so it is a "young" form compared the sonnet, for example. Because French and English are both Romance languages, the form converts neatly to either one.

The Trimetran is a nine line poem, with a body of seven lines followed by a closing couplet. Like haiku, the Trimetran poem is one with strict syllabic requirements. The seven lines of the main body should have 3,2,6,9,8,6 and 9 syllables. The couplet should have 1 and 2.

The rhyme scheme as is follows: A,B,C,B,A,C,A for the first seven lines. In other words, lines 1, 5, and 7 should rhyme, as will lines 2 and 4. Lines 3 and 6 are actually ONE line, repeated. Because the line will naturally rhyme with itself, the rhyme is automatic. (This is called a homogenuous coupling.)

Now, on to the final two lines! These are actually not "lines" at all, but single words of first 1 and then 2 syllables. They needn't rhyme with each other or with any line of the main body of the poem, but they MUST begin with the same consonant. For example:



A lot to take in, but not so confusing when you see a finished Trimetran poem. Let's take a look at one, composed by Enid MacFarquhar-Douglas in 1924 as part of her "Rapturous Angel" trilogy.

O! Alas!
Day breaks!
Bells bring cruel alarum!
Jolted mind within the bone wall shakes!
Merciless day doth prick thy ass!
Bells bring cruel alarum!
Morning's vulgar trumpet, hated brass!


As you can see, the form is quite beautiful when done correctly. Now, you may be saying, "Fine for Enid MacFarquhar-Douglas. But I'm not sure I can do it!" Take heart. Even a literary giant is not beyond some tiny criticism, as Mrs. MacF-D found out when critic Henry Canna objected to her use of "cruel" as a one syllable word, like "fool" or "drool." But, Mrs. MacF-D countered, if "cruel" were "drawled out as if from the mouth of a drunken Texas cowboy", then "alarum" could simply be shortened to the more conventional "alarm" and the poem still works.

I urge you try this form. It's fun! Go ahead, make an attempt and see what you can come up with, then ask your bloggy poet friends to help you with their reactions. Good luck!




  1. form makes my head can not constrain me in the walls of your meter or blast me with syllabilistic missiles...

    ok maybe i will try it later just for you...

  2. But, doesn't homogeneous coupling threaten the sanctity of heterogeneous coupling?

  3. Well, I'm all for homogeneous coupling, wherever I find it. And the poignant sense of time passing the poet by in the final two lines, not to mention the dramatic call to arms of the fifth line, are terribly, terribly moving.

    However, there is a problem: I'm sorry, but if the poem is spoken properly, "Bells bring cru-elle a-lar-um--" the trochae are disponding, and your syllable count is seven, not six--and surely it is disingenuous in the extreme to count either cruel *OR* alarum as having one less syllable. In fact, this poem is a fraud, and was obviously written by a modern impostor. Probably someone who writes frivolous free verse and disdains writing so much as a haiku in form. Mrs Farquhar-Whatever is no doubt rolling and fuming in her grave, as well she might, Missy, as well she might!

  4. OMG! I had the distinct privilege of studying under the venerable Ms. Enid Mac Farquhar-Douglas during my college years! She was brilliant, if a little senile by that point, and smelled oddly of lavender. I had to memorize her "Rapturous Angel" trilogy for my final but got docked a full letter grade because she didn't approve of the color of my wings (neon pink) and I was, sadly, missing my halo, as my roommate and her boyfriend used it in their sex play the night previous and I couldn't bring myself to put it on my head after that.

  5. Brian--how nice that "maybe" you'll "try" "later". I shall be on tenterhooks.

    MZ--it's easy to make threats. Not as easy to write this form.

    Hedgewitch--cru-ELLE, indeed. I hope you have enough fu-ELLE to cook your gru-ELLE in the morning. Dabbler!

    Lolamouse--may I touch the hem of your garment? The closest I have come to the great Mrs. MacFarquhar-Douglas was to purchase an empty box of Doan's pills she had once handled. I kept it in my hope chest for years.

  6. I have never heard of this---freaking awesome!!!! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Oh, sure. That's the best thing blogging poets can do for each other: share impossible-to-write forms. We sooooo appreciate it.

    What dusty-musty spirit of yours dug this up?

    I tried a sonnet once, and it is still half finished. But in spite of it lying dormant for many years, it still has enough energy to grin at me, victoriously, when I think about taking another stab at it.

    Yeah, you're a helpful one...

  8. Hannah--my pleasure.

    Sioux--well yes, saddling one another with migraine-inducing forms, and then blowing each other's carefully crafted work to smithereens like rabid hyenas on crack...what's not to love, I say! Sonnets are one thing, but when the Trimetran enjoyed its oeuvre in the early 2oth century, those were the days. I'm glad you found this helpful!

  9. Well no, if it's going to prick my ass, I'm not doing it!

    Besides, I am no poet ;-)

  10. I've yet to work my way past the tried and true "There was a girl from Nantucket..."

    From all of us literary cretins, thanks for the lesson! I'd never heard of this style before.

  11. as I am neither a writer nor a poet, I shall instead wait to enjoy what fireblossom makes of it.

  12. Very interesting. Though I must say I've never had much luck with or interest in forms. It feels too constricting, like I'm trapping myself within too tiny of a space. And I'm highly claustrophobic. ;)

  13. Little-known trivia: The entire Rapturous Angel trilogy enjoyed a brief respite from obscurity in 1952 when Nat King Cole set it to music. Alas, it was quickly pushed off the charts by "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window."

  14. Mac--Yes, that line actually caused the Rapturous Angel trilogy to be banned by the Decency Coucil in 1928, but when scandals rocked the Council itself, the ban was forgotten and the trilogy revived.

    Herman Turnip--please don't be shy. There are literary cretins everywhere, editing major magazines and running publishing houses.

    Ellen--it could be a long wait! FB generally devotes years to writing a single Trimetran. Expect one in, oh, let's say 2025.

    Raven--never heard of it??? Have you been living on a desert island? Why, half of Godsmack's songs are inspired by the Trimetran form!

    Cinderkeys--ah, a MacFarquhar-Douglas scholar in our midst! It was, in fact, the biggest hit of Nat's career. After the "Doggie" fiasco, he refused to keep pets for the rest of his life.

  15. I'm still working on haiku ... gezhuntite

  16. Poetry is so complicated. :) That's pretty cool though.

  17. Shay,

    I enjoyed this class very much:~) I like learning about different types of poetry and even trying them.

    I will have to try this sometime as I do better at really taking in a lesson when I actually try it. Right now, it does seem rather difficult.

    Then again,I thought Haiku would be impossible, but I managed that once I tried it. I send you a copy of what I come with.

  18. You smart, Chica

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral




  19. Um...guess what, readers? I made the whole thing up! Hehehehehehe.

  20. Made it up? Of course you made it up. Someone made up ALL form poetry--it has to be made up because otherwise the mind would never produce it naturally, like tofu from soybeans. Wait til I shatter your every brain cell with my trimetronism. Then we'll talk about made up!

  21. I shall enjoy having a go at this some time...


Spirit, what do you wish to tell us?