Triversen: Poetic Form

I found references to the triversen this week in both online and print resources. It’s a fun poetic form developed by William Carlos Williams (one of my favorite poets–able to write both the concise, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and the epic, Paterson). I like this form because of its flexibility.

Here are the triversen rules:

  • Each stanza equals one sentence.
  • Each sentence/stanza breaks into 3 lines (each line is a separate phrase in the sentence).
  • There is a variable foot of 2-4 beats per line.
  • The poem as a whole should add up to 18 lines (or 6 stanzas).

Here’s my attempt at a triversen:

“today we buried mom”

today we buried mom
& 1,000 red-winged blackbirds
found a branch in our backyard.

the shadow of a deer
was spotted on a snowdrift,
wind sneaking into our house.

everyone knows everyone
dies & then we’re faced
with how to handle the body.

in her favorite dress
we buried mom with some lilies
& a john wayne poster.

i’ve been trying to forget
the last time we talked
but here i am alone with you.

1,000 blackbirds hold the trees
before loosening their grip
to disappear in the sun.


Want more poetic forms?

There are two great ways to get them:

  1. Writer’s Digest magazine. Get a subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine to read the Poetic Asides column that covers a new poetic form in (nearly) every issue.
  2. Poet’s Market. In addition to hundreds of poetry publishing opportunities and great articles on everything poetry is a piece that collects 3 dozen poetic forms.


Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems. Robert has loved trying out various poetic forms since his days in college–when he once wrote more than 40 sestinas during one quarter (admittedly, they were all horrible). He’s partial to the French forms, but also loves the shadorma, monotetra, and pantoum. Robert is married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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22 thoughts on “Triversen: Poetic Form

  1. RachelMHolley

    My father was. . . .Such a poignant line and the past tense brings the entire poem together, so now I, the reader, am the one crying. . . . . .

  2. Emma Hine

    Robert, can you clarify the 6 stanza/ 18 line rule. When googling the triversen, I found an example by William Carlos Williams himself which had 7 stanzas (On Gay Wallpaper). Thanks.

  3. kbeekler

    “I’m prescribing a lot of love”
    by Keith Beekler

    I’m on a train headed home
    to visit my parents on a
    whim that was convenient.

    there’s a woman stitching up
    her granddaughter’s stuffed animal
    because it was ripped.

    she said she was doing surgery
    and not to worry, because the
    little guy was gonna make it.

    her little granddaughter asked
    if he was asleep, if it would
    hurt when he woke up.

    the grandmother said, “He just needs
    to rest and to take it easy;
    I’m prescribing a lot of love.”

    a lot of love is all a stuffed
    animal needs when he’s
    getting stitched back up at the seams.

  4. stoland1999


    Dusty old roads that
    lead to nowhere are
    ill equipped for travel.

    The curves and hills
    that peak and wind
    are meant for a meander.

    Nowhere is the place
    to be and no one
    must get there fast.

    Up the slope you
    slow to a crawl
    and enjoy your view.

    Down the slope you
    feel the wind and
    race against the sky.

    On the curves you
    glide and flow
    keeping your pace.

    Enjoying your trip
    on the dusty old road
    that leads to nowhere.

    Sherry Toland

  5. dawndmc

    Circling the Pond

    winter lies on a pond
    circled by trees that taper
    to the sky, ending in nothing.

    the brown and gray landscape’s
    interrupted only by red stripes
    on the jogging suit of a boy.

    he tails behind his troop,
    string dangling from his fingers—
    the thoughtful one.

    “hel-lo, boys,” thinks
    the woman near the water
    but doesn’t say it.

    the tree tops are window screens
    through which are seen
    the big white houses rising.

    on the pond, a swan,
    white and luxurious,
    barks complaints over the water.

  6. KIMOCO01


    The day my son left home,
    I picked up his guitar
    like I picked up his socks.

    A red Fender Stratocaster,
    all he ever wanted, before
    he wanted something else.

    Before he snuck out early
    and stayed out late,
    and told me charming lies.

    Before, it was only
    “three chords and the truth,”
    an amped-up version of a classic song.

    Before, when the music
    was the sweetest,
    he was banging on pots and pans.

    So I pluck the strings, discordant
    and hollow, unable to fill
    all that remains.

  7. RobHalpin

    Visits from Loved Ones

    The winter sun dips slowly down
    behind the lonely hill
    where we bury our loved ones.

    The cross atop grandma’s tombstone
    casts a shadow that bridges
    the distance to our house.

    Taking this dark pathway,
    the ghosts of our dead kin
    come to call on us each night.

    What we found terrifying
    at first, we now accept
    as something of a blessing.

    It’s difficult to explain
    to others, so we don’t
    invite many folks over.

    But each sunny, winter day
    means a family visit
    from our loved ones under the hill.

  8. lionetravail

    “The Other Universal Element”

    Through the farthest reaches of space,
    indeed, as far as we can see,
    we can find it, out there, like here.

    Across the other vasty deep,
    come limping here at humble C,
    dispossessed refugees in tears.

    Tales of destruction and woe
    clutched like last, treasured belongings,
    carried in rays like clutched fingers.

    Mute witnesses of misery:
    giant, clockwork mechanisms
    broken and molten like Dali’s.

    “Natural processes” some say,
    or “Entropy must have its way”,
    but sorry sophistry won’t wash.

    Pain: of a tree, or distant star,
    or treasured friend, heard or unheard
    when it falls, is universal.

  9. taylor graham


    On my circuit of the park
    I watched geese grazing on lawn
    wildflower-fringed in bloom,

    a vernal pool that’s gone by summer,
    and a woman no longer young
    who raised her arms against sky

    with such a far-off sunset look,
    a memory-knot, an inside
    itchlike needing to run, to fly.

    One of those birds who shiver
    the heart with that migratory call
    overhead, circling, searching

    for beginning of an end, a skein.
    They start, unraveling sight
    and vanishing sound as they depart.

    No trace, except the single one
    who lags and hurries,
    trailing the ones already gone.

  10. DanielR

    Remembering is hard
    when it is forced on you
    by unexpected death.

    Flowers adorn the altar
    sowed by gardeners
    and placed on wreaths.

    Pews of nicely dressed strangers
    have come to say goodbye
    and offer condolences.

    The organist plays
    mournful, moaning sounds
    in a symphony of grief.

    Watchful eyes anticipate
    me breaking down
    in anguished sobs.

    I step to the podium
    and exhale a heavy sigh,
    beginning, “My father was”.

    Daniel Roessler


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