27. Poetic Forms Part 2: When Repetition Rocks

Author: Nola Published: over 2 years ago.
Tags: trimeric, tritina, villanelle, sestina, poetry Category: Writing tips

Repetition can be a sign of lazy or unimaginative writing, but there are other times when it can really add zing to your work. Here are some poetic forms that make good use of repetition.


A trimeric consists of one verse with four lines (a quatrain) and three verses of three lines (tercets). Verses 2, 3 and 4 begin with Lines 2, 3 and 4 from the first verse respectively. Here's the pattern, with numbers representing the lines: 1234 / 2 - - / 3 - - / 4 - -. When done well, the repetition of the lines can provide an added punch while also highlighting other aspects of the theme. The stronger your first verse, the easier it will be to write the subsequent verses, so spend some time honing that first one. Also try to think of lines that have the potential to carry a thought through a verse of their own. You can find one of my trimerics here. Do you think the repetition adds to the impact of this poem? I’d be interested in your feedback.

Tritinas and Sestinas

A Tritina is a 10-line poem consisting of three tercets and a concluding line. The last words of each line in Verse 1 are repeated at the ends of lines in the remaining verses in a set pattern of 123 / 312 / 231, with the final line containing all three words in the order 123. As the conclusion is vital to the rest of the poem, you might find it helpful to think of your theme first and then construct a good last line. Then go back and fill in the rest of the poem. If you have trouble making it work, try going back and altering some of the words until you find the most effective combination. Although there is no set rhythm or rhyme, it works best if the lines are roughly the same length. You can find an example of a tritina here.

The Sestina is a similar form, but with six verses of six lines each (sestets) and a concluding tercet. You can find the pattern for the repeating words here.


The Villanelle is more complicated. It’s a 19-line poem arranged into five tercets and a concluding quatrain. The first and third lines of the first verse are repeated in a set pattern and there is also a particular rhyming scheme. The pattern is: A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2. In that sequence, the capitals indicate the repeated lines or refrains. All of the lines denoted by the same letter (whether lowercase or capitals) rhyme. It may seem a little confusing, but if you look at the following example of Dylan Thomas’s famous villanelle Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night, the pattern is spelled out next to each line.

If you’d like to try one of these forms, perhaps start with one of the easier ones such as a trimeric or tritina. But be warned. They can be addictive!

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Posted over 2 years ago by Nola

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