Monday, June 26, 2006


by G. K. Chesterton

"A Comforting Reflection"

You might not be in love with me
If I were better than I am.
I might have ten arms like a tree
(You might not be in love with me)
And have all colours like the sea.
Have wings, or horns just like a ram
You might not be in love with me
If I were better than I am.

"My Experiment in Greek Philosophy Recounted"

When I tried to know myself
I discovered I was gone.
Loves and toils and books on shelf
When I tried to know myself
Hats and sticks and wood and delf
Were no longer I and one.
When I tried to know myself
I discovered I was gone.

"Thoughts on the Offer of Being a Fish"

If I were a fish I should
Miss occasional luxury
Such as climbing in the wood
(If I were a fish I should)
Church-going is also good
Mostly I should miss the sea
If I were a fish I should
Miss occasional luxury.

* * *

From these samples we discover some basic facts about the triolet. A triolet rhymes abaaabab, with 8 short lines. The ones I read are in iambic tetrameter. The first line is repeated in the 4th and 7th lines, and the second line is repeated as the last line. It's better if these repetitions fit well into the poem, but often they're parenthetical. A triolet really should be funny, in my opinion, and it's a bonus if it's deep too.

I don't know where the triolet originally comes from, and the rules I just made up for it are based solely on Chesterton, the only writer of triolets I've heard of. I think that's a real shame, and therefore I came up with the idea of having a triolet contest. It's inspired by my participation in the clerihew contest at the Chesterton conference a week and a half ago.

[The clerihew is a form of poetry invented by a friend of Chesterton's (Edmund Clerihew Bentley) with a strict format. An example is this:

When the judges asked Bacon
How many bribes he had taken
He at least had the grace
To get very red in the face.

My clerihews didn't win anything, so far as I know. I had to go home before the awards were given, and I haven't heard anything about them.]

Anyway, here's the plan: each person can write as many triolets as he wants, following the rules above to the best of his ability. You can email them to me at the address on my sidebar, or leave them in my comment box. Please leave some name attached to the poem, for me to attach your laurels to, if you win any. I will judge the poems on their faithfulness to the form and humor. Depth, where applicable, is a bonus.

I'll post my favourites. I may have a vote to decide who wins the all-around Best Triolet award. There may even be a prize, if I can think of one that I can give you without getting up from the computer. At the very least, a small spiritual bouquet will be in order.


Dr. Thursday said...

I was at the awards - I am sorry to say you did not win.

But I think you ought to post the cummings one, which I thought quite funny.

Later I will try for a triolet.

Leah said...

Triolet writing looks fun. . . I love contests. :-)

I'm not much of a hand at writing poetry, but I'll try composing some triolets today and see what I come up with.

Nancy C. Brown said...

I did not hear your name as a winner (sorry!) but I do know that even still, as a consolation prize, the remaining Clerihews will be published in Gilbert (if they were good, as I'm sure yours were).

I like the sound of this triolet contest, so I am going to make an attempt. And post it to the ACS blog so you might get more entries.

Chestertonian said...

Hi Sheila!

Don't feel too bad about not winning. I submitted six clerihews and not one of them even got so much as an honorable mention. Which is very strange because mine were obviously by far the very best clerihews submitted. ;-)

I had never even heard of triolets until reading The Man Who Was Thursday. How does the quote go? From memory: "We were only just able to prevent the bombing at Hartlepool because our man Wilkes thoroughly understood a triolet."

p.s. It was great meeting you at the conference. I hope to see you there again next year.

Sheila said...

Well, I didn't expect to win. The only one that was any good was the one Dr. Thursday helped me with (the Cummings one). I think I will post it.

Oh, I hadn't caught the reference in The Man Who Was Thursday before! Interesting . . .

We'll see if I can make it to the conference again next year. It's likely I won't, because it's so far to go. All will depend on funds, as usual. (Such a shame that so many poetic and delightful things all depend on something so prosaic as money!)

Here's a triolet I wrote last night. Maybe it will start you all off. At any rate, it will give you the encouragement that you can do a better job than the judge.

"On My Distant Poetic Hopes"

I hope that I may one day write,
But this is simply not my day.
Once I have trained my poet's sight,
I hope that I may one day write
Poems and stories full of light!
Maybe then I'd fathom what to say.
I hope that I may one day write,
But this? It's simply not my day!

Nancy C. Brown said...

Good work! I like it. I've always like when people write about not being able to write. It's so writerly.

Sheila said...

Or non-writerly, in my case. ;)

Nick Milne said...

Hold on to your hats, ladies:

I will not write a triolet;
As poems go, they leave me dry.
Not for the Pope, or on a bet,
I will not write a triolet.
And so with some profound regret,
I must your fervent hopes deny:
I will not write a triolet;
As poems go, they leave me dry.

"You'd better write a triolet,
Or else, at least, consent to try.
You find it dry? Then make it wet!
You'd better write a triolet
To satisfy the girl you met
Else she descend in tears and cry.
You'd better write a triolet,
Or else, at least, consent to try."

Alright, I'll write a triolet;
I'll do the thing, don't ask me why;
For the girl on the Internet,
Alright, I'll write a triolet.
In fact, I'll write a tree-part set
To show I'm a determined guy;
Alright, I'll write a triolet;
I'll do the thing, don't ask me why.


There you go.

Nick Milne said...

Uh, make that "three-part set" in that third one. Way to proof-read, dude. :/

Dr. Thursday said...

Nice trio-let!

Hee hee.

I also liked the rhyme of triolet with INTERNET - nice.

Sheila said...

*chuckles loudly, disturbing other library patrons*

Thanks a lot! I like them!

Meredith said...

*writes desperately*

Swing Triolet

Was Constantinople
Went all uncool:
From Byzantine jewel
To Mohammedan opal.
Was Constantinople.

Sheila said...


Socrates45 said...

My favorite poem of mine

The saxophone
I, this Prima was dreamt
And Pure brass, shone
On the Charles, my baritone kept
I, this Prima was pound
Fostered, a delicate throne
On sweet life, he had felt
I, this prima was dreamt
And pure brass, shone.

Baba Dee, Baba Dee
Sweet woman of mine
Re-Bop, Be-Bop
Swing’in my brass for tha man

As Diamond sparks;
Sweet alto of femininity
Thrilled voice lifts
Full of world’s ignominy
And, a sore festers,
I, brass so faint
As Diamonds sparks;
Sweet alto of femininity.

Sweet woman of mine
Bought ya diamonds
Swing’in my brass for tha man
He big naw, I lay in the gutter

Amidst this dust
I, Prima was found;
Uncool brass Husk
Awake! baritone pound
To a sound lost as faust;
Awakening the dead with a thumb
Amidst this dust
I, Prima was found;