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TRIOLET: GAME OF REFRAINS, PUNCTUATION AND MEANINGS

A Triolet is a short poem of fixed form, having a rhyme scheme of AB, aA, abAB.

Often (though not a rule) all lines are in iambic tetrameter. It may look simple but it is a tricky one – though very fun and musical.
Always note the rhymes scheme. The first trick lies there:

“FLIES OR BEES, POLLEN OR ROT?” by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson

Are these daughters of Eve flies or bees? — A
They all buzz around this son of Adam. — B
Pollen or rot, what brings them? Please, — a
Are these daughters of Eve flies or bees? — A

Flies bite the rot, bees, petals they tease — a
So I ask again, knowing not which I am, — b
Are these daughters of Eve? Flies or bees, — A
They all buzz around this son of Adam! — B

  • Do you notice the rhyme scheme? — ABaA, abAB
  • The capital letter ‘AB’ means that the lines must be REPEATED entirely while the small letter ‘ab’ means, you ONLY RHYME the sound (Adam/am & Please/bees).
  • So capital letters are REPEATED while small letters are merely RHYMED.

Simply put, line 1 is line 4 and 7 while line 2 is also line 8. So the initial and final couplets MUST be EXACTLY identical.

“BIRDS AT WINTER” by Thomas Hardy

Around the house the flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone
From holly and cotoneaster
Around the house. The flakes fly! – faster
Shutting indoors the crumb-outcaster
We used to see upon the lawn
Around the house. The Flakes fly faster
And all the berries now are gone!

  • See how the first 2 lines are the same with the last 2 lines?
  • Notice that: “’Around the house the flakes fly faster,” appears 3 times — in lines 1, 4 and 7?

IMPORTANT: Notice that, with the use of careful PUNCTUATION, you must ensure that the repeated lines (refrains) don’t have the SAME MEANING each time they appear:

“BE A COWARD” by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson

Be a coward – sometimes – to stay alive.
You need to drop your sword and run.
When, on a cliff, you’re dared to dive
Be a coward! Sometimes to stay alive
A coward’s escape you must contrive.
When you know the battle can’t be won,
Be a coward! Sometimes. To stay alive,
You need to! Drop your sword and run!

Notice how line one appears 3 times with different meaning, all brought about by punctuation:

  • Be a coward – sometimes – to stay alive. [advises you to be a coward, then applies a caveat “sometimes” and the line ENDS with a fullstop.]
  • Be a coward! Sometimes, to stay alive, [commands you to be a coward, gives you a caveat and a reason then the line is ENJAMBED]
  • Be a coward! Sometimes. To stay alive, [gives an order, a caveat with a full stop and the line is ENJAMBED]

Notice how line 2 appears differently in line 7:
You need to drop your sword and run. [a plea, advice]
You need to! Drop your sword and run! [two commands]

POINTS TO NOTE: An effective conventional triolet achieves these things;

  1. The refrain must feel natural, not forced.
  2. The refrain (repeated lines) must have a new meaning each time it appears.
  3. The first is line repeated as the fourth and seventh lines, and the second line repeated as the eighth.
  4. The rhymes scheme is strictly: AB, aA, abAB
  5. It is musical when read.

Note also that the Triolet MAY employ ‘Iambic tetrameter’. (Iambic tetrameter is a meter in poetry which refers to a line consisting of four iambic feet. The word “tetrameter” simply means that there are four feet in the line; iambic tetrameter is a line comprising four iambs.)

Study this Triolet: “PREDATOR” by Kukogho Iruesiri Samson

She is smiling at me while the pastor prays.
Her almond eyes stalk me like a wild feline
Tracking a prey. Each time I do my eyes raise
She is smiling at me, while the pastor prays!
I’m lost in lust. Will I survive these forays?
Ah, Temptation offers a fruit I cannot decline!
She is smiling at me! While the pastor prays,
Her almond eyes stalk me, like a wild feline!

Anyone want to give it a try?

Author: Kukogho Iruesiri Samson

KIS, author of two poetry collections, ‘WHAT CAN WORDS DO?’ and ‘I SAID THESE WORDS’, is an award-winning Nigerian writer, photographer, and media professional with experience in journalism, PR, publishing and media management. In 2016, he was listed in Nigerian Writers Awards’ list of 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL NIGERIAN WRITERS UNDER 40. The same year 2016, he won the Nigerian Writer’s Award for ‘Best Poet In Nigeria 2015.’ he had also won the Orange Crush 1st Prize for Poetry in 2012.
He is the CEO of Words Rhymes & Rhythm LTD.

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