Monday, June 26, 2023


     In several previous postings (collected at this link) this blog has considered the poetry form called a sestina:    a sestina has 39 lines and its form depends on 6 words -- arrangements of which are the end-words of 6 6-line stanzas; these same words also appear, 2 per line, in the final 3-line stanza.

     The American poet Marie Ponsot (1921-2019) invented the tritina, which she described as the square root of the sestina.   the tritina is a ten-line poem and, instead of six repeated words, you choose three, which appear at the end of each line in the following sequence: 123, 312, 231; there is a final line, which acts as the envoi -- and includes all three words in the order they appeared in the first stanza.  Poinsot has said -- and I agree -- poetic forms like the tritina are "instruments of discovery . . . they pull things out of you."  Read more here in an article by poet Timar Yoseloff.)
     Here is a link to a 1999 NYTimes article about Ponsot;  it includes her tritina, ''Roundstone Cove," which I offer below.  (In ''Roundstone Cove,'' the three end words are fog, -hood and sun)

     Roundstone Cove      by Marie Ponsot

          The wind rises. The sea snarls in the fog
          far from the attentive beaches of childhood --
          no picnic, no striped chairs, no sand, no sun.

          Here even by day cliffs obstruct the sun;
          moonlight miles out mocks this abyss of fog.
          I walk big-bellied, lost in motherhood,

          hunched in a shell of coat, a blindered hood.
          Alone a long time, I remember sun --
          poor magic effort to undo the fog.

          Fog hoods me. But the hood of fog is sun.

From Poinsot's collection The Bird Catcher (Knopf, 1998).    

     Poetic forms like the tritina are ''instruments of discovery,'' Poinsot said. ''The forms create an almost bodily pleasure in the poet. What you're doing is trying to discover. They are not restrictive. They pull things out of you. They help you remember.''

     A thoughtful and informative source of information about the tritina may be found here in this blog posting by Marian Christie.

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