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.
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!