Home > Uncategorized > Three Short Poetic Forms: Triolet, Sestina and Epigram

Three Short Poetic Forms: Triolet, Sestina and Epigram



The triolet has eight lines with only two rhymes.  The first line is repeated in the fourth and seventh lines; the second line reappears as the last line; and the end-words of the first two lines are re-emerge as the end words of the last two lines.  Writing within a form this tight can seem like a feat worthy of a Houdini– trying to swim in chains or a straight jacket.

The form maps out like this:

  • A1
  • B1
  • A
  • A1
  • A
  • B
  • A1
  • B1

The numbers with a numeral in tow denote repeated lines.

Let’s try it, shall we:

Comparing you to an autumn day

With such unpredictable weather 

During our coming fall weekend away  

Comparing you to an autumn day  

If you and it are sunny I might get more play 

Yet wet weather can be good in regions nether 

Comparing you to an autumn day

With such unpredictable weather 


Well, that was fun.  I’ll just take something for this headache now.   One question:  if it’s medicine for your head, shouldn’t they call it headpirin, not aspirin?

Why is it called the triolet?  I dunno.  It was invented by the French.  Ask them.



The poetic form, sestina, has seven stanzas.  The first six end-words of the first stanza repeat through the next five six-line stanzas.  These are followed by a three-line stanza called an envoi.

The form maps out like this:


1. abcdef
2. faebdc
3. cfdabe
4. ecbfad
5. deacfb
6. bdfeca
7. eca or ace

The envoi must also include the remaining three end-words, BDF, somewhere in the lines so that all six end-words also appear in the envoi.

Well, this looks like even more fun than the triolet.  That’s all right.  I have my bottle of headpirin handy.   Let’s give it a go.

I like to write the first stanza, and then make a list of last words for reference.  Here is the list in advance so you can see the poem without interruption :

  1. Moon
  2. Flow
  3. Flare
  4. Reappear
  5. Howl
  6. Tears


And here’s the poem:


Emotions seem to follow the moon  

Like the tide, their ebb and flow 

Flood may see the dragon’s bloodlust flare 

At ebb loving kindness may reappear 

At the full of the moon, the werewolf may howl 

The new moon may bring gentle hope or tears 


I cannot bear to see your glistening tears 

Reflecting the silvery shining of the moon 

As if in sympathy the next door baby howls

From the very earth, sadness seems to flow 

If only your pretty smile would reappear 

If only I could shed this mournful air 


My anger like an inferno flares 

My enemies will repay their crimes with tears 

Revenge will make my honor reappear 

I plan to attack after the setting of the moon 

Like fountains of vengeance their blood will flow 

As they beg for their lives I’ll make them howl 


Shaken silly by my laughter, I howl 

Rolling on the floor.  She has such a flare 

For comedy, delivered in such an easy flow

I’m laughing so hard that I’m in tears

She’s taken me right to the moon

I’ll be sure to see her when she again appears 


I’m waiting for my boss to reappear 

When he reads his email he will howl 

Soon he will transfer me to the moon 

I cringe to think how his temper will flare

In humiliation I will hide my tears 

And struggle to keep my profile low 


In my existence I am in the flow 

All my desires synergistically appear 

I cannot conceive of shedding tears 

Though winds of change around me howl 

Over bump in the road or through solar flare 

My heart remains as placid as the moon 


A panoply of emotion, from tears to howls 

Of laughter:  should sanity reappear, send up a flare  

Emotions flow like the cycles of the moon 


Notice I cheated.  Oh, well.  Sue me.  Anyway, despite the amount of work, it was pretty fun to write the sestina.  I’ll have to do it again sometime.


An epigram is a smart remark that rhymes.   In essence it is a couplet, or a pair or so of couplets.  Usually two to four lines, the epigram, paraphrasing the words of Coleridge, has a body of brevity and a soul of wit.  Often it is satirical.   I like it already.


One of my favorite epigrams is by Samuel Coleridge:

“Sir, I admit your general rule,
That every poet is a fool,
But you yourself may serve to show it,
That every fool is not a poet.” 

That’s pretty hard to beat, but you know I’m going to try, don’t you?  Of course you do.

After our third, my wife said to me
Just one word:  vasectomy.  

That about covers the epigram, I think.  How about you?

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