10-line Poem Challenge #33: Tritina

Have you ever written a Sestina? I’ve written a few of them. A Sestina is 39 lines long. It has six sestet stanzas and concludes with a tercet. Instead of rhyme, the Sestina makes use of lexical repetition. That is, six words are repeated at the end of each line of the sestet in a specified varying order. All six words appear in the tercet, with two words in each line. The Sestina is one of the most complex poems I have ever written. I would not equate complex with difficult, but if I were to compare poetic forms to races, the Sestina would be a marathon—attainable, but requiring a significant amount of effort.

If writing a Sestina sounds daunting to you, then perhaps you could cut your writing teeth on the Tritina, which is like a miniature Sestina.

Stanzaic Structure

You will recall that the Sestina is comprised of six sestets followed by a tercet. Similarly, the Tritina is composed of three tercets followed by a monostich.

Lexical Repetition

The Sestina makes use of six words that are repeated at the ends of the lines of each stanza in varying order and appear all together in the final abbreviated stanza. In the same way, the Tritina utilizes three words that are repeated at the ends of the stanzas and all appear in the monostich at the end.

In both the Sestina and the Tritina, the word at the end of the last line of each stanza is also used at the end of the first line in the following stanza.

The word order for the Tritina is: 1-2-3, 3-1-2, 2-3-1, (1-2-3). Here, the numbers represent words, and the parentheses suggests that all three words are on the same line, Line 10.

Line Length Liberties and Restrictions

The lines of the Sestina may be of any meter and rhythm, at the discretion of the poet. The only restriction is that all the lines should be about the same length (isosyllabic). The same is true of the Tritina.

As I have written my Tritinas, I’ve experimented with different line lengths. One problem I’ve run into with the shorter lines is being able to accommodate the three key words in the monostitch within the restrictions of the syllabic count. In almost every case, my Line 10 was longer than the other lines in order to use the three key words and also draw the poem’s theme to a conclusion, but I did limit myself to only one extra metric foot.

In summary, the Tritina is:

  • A decastich (10-line poem) written as three tercets followed by a monostich. You may write them with spaces between or run them all together. I prefer to put spaces in between, to emphasize the pattern of repetition of the end words as well as to mimic the structure of the sestina.
  • Lines should be isosyllabic (same number of syllables), but the actual length is at the discretion of the poet.
  • Instead of rhyme, three keywords are repeated in each stanza.
  • The lexical repetition pattern is: 1-2-3, 3-1-2, 2-3-1, (1-2-3)


Below are three samples for you. I normally give only two samples, but I couldn’t choose just two this time. Not only do these samples demonstrate a variety in line lengths, but they also demonstrate a range of themes that may be addressed with this form.

The first poem is about going home and has a muted undercurrent of excitement throughout. In the second one, I attempted to be humorous, or at least light-hearted. And the third one is romantic.

For the most part, I used the same form of the three key words throughout. The only exception to this is in Line 10 of “Road Trip,” in which I used the plural form of signpost and roadmap. According to my study of the Tritina, this is perfectly acceptable, and sometimes writers stray even further, by using the original word in a different part of speech (i.e. the verb form), or even by substituting a synonym in the place of the word. These sorts of deviations are recommended only after you have practiced following the rules precisely. And bear in mind too, that the more you deviate from the rule, the less claim you can lay to having written this form.

Road Trip

Three numbers displayed on the signpost
Measure miles to the line on the roadmap
As we travel to our native city.

The distance to our favored city,
Shown by two digits on the green signpost.
We are marking the route on the roadmap

To a dot changed to heart on the roadmap,
A heart symbolizing our city,
Next exit upon the green signpost.

No more signposts and roadmaps to city—we’re home.

Tritina in anapestic trimester
Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved

Fast Food Junkie

Take me into town to get a burger.
Serve it with a whopping side of fries.
Wash it down with bubbly cup of soda.

I do love to drink a sparkling soda.
Please put all the toppings on my burger.
Salt and season well my bag of fries.

Screw the diet—How I crave those fries!
To be good, I’ll drink a diet soda,
And I’ll have a salad on my burger.

Wipe your drool. I’ve got your burger, fries, and soda.

Tritina in iambic pentameter
Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved

Body Language

I see myself most clearly when I look into your eyes.
I feel the glow of sunshine when you hold me in your arms.
I taste pure honey’s sweetness when I kiss your sweet red lips.

Your love electrifies me when you kiss my fervid lips.
Please dive into the ocean that you see in my blue eyes,
And take your solace in the world you find inside my arms.

I’m never more at home than when we’re in each other’s arms.
The whole world fades from view each time a kiss connects our lips.
Though tongues are silent, talk of love shines through each other’s eyes.

Our private body language read through eyes, and arms, and lips.

Tritina in iambic heptameter
Copyright © 2018 Abigail Gronway – All Rights Reserved

It’s Your Turn!

Now it’s time for you to write a Tritina. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Choose your 3 key words. They can be anything, but concrete nouns work best.
  2. May I suggest you write on a piece of paper or in a notebook.
  3. Down the left column write the numbers representing the number of syllables (or feet) you will use for each line.
  4. In the right column write the numbers 1,2,3,3,1,2,2,3,1,1-2-3 to indicate which word will go at the end of that line.
  5. Below your work space write “1 – [word] 2 – [word] 3 – [word]” where the words in the brackets are the keywords you have chosen for your poem.
  6. Of course, when you are finished, share your poem with the rest of us.

Don’t know how? Follow these simple steps…

  1. Write your blog post.
  2. Include the tag Decastich Challenge or 10LPC
  3. Publish your post on your blog.
  4. Come back here and click the blue button below to add your link to the others.

Dig Deeper

To find more samples and to learn from those who taught me, check out these sites. All links open in a separate tab so you can easily find your way back here.

Poet’s Collective ~ The forms on this website are not organized in alphabetical order, but he does have at least one sample poem for each form, he even has tags for rhyme scheme. He also has a visual template for every form so you can see the rhyme scheme and stress patterns, as applicable. That is extremely helpful.

Sol Magazine ~ This resource covers much more than just 10-line poems.

“Metric Forms from Pathways for the Poet” ~ This is an outline of information from Pathways for the Poet by Viola Berg (1977), a book for and by educators. This resource also includes more than just 10-line poems, but it helped to fill in the gaps where my other sources were a bit scanty with their information.

Shadow Poetry ~ This is my favorite resource for learning about poetic forms (and not just the decastich), but I have discovered that there is ever so much more to learn than what I can find here. This is, however, a very good place to start.

3 Replies to “10-line Poem Challenge #33: Tritina”

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