Barzeletta (or Frottola-barzelletta): Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the barzeletta (also known as the barzelletta or frottola-barzelletta), an Italian form with a few interpretations.
Publish date:

I first "discovered" this Italian form years ago in Lewis Turco's The New Book of Forms, which included a short entry with the following rules:

  • Couplet (or two-line) stanzas or poems
  • Seven-syllable lines
  • Internal rhymes
  • A lot of "aphorisms, witticisms, and didacticisms"

Also, there was a variant rule for the seven-syllable lines. It was also possible to write them in blank verse in pentameter (five feet), heptameter (seven feet), or hendecasyllabics (or 11-syllable lines).

(100 Poetic Forms for Poets.)

While there's some information available online, the only other print resource in which I could find an explanation was from my copy of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics, which says the form is "a joke with didactic content." It also mentions the variable line lengths, though not the specific syllable counts.

That reference does mention that the "barzelletta" was adapted from a music form with eight syllables and an abba rhyme scheme. As such, I used that for my example below.

However, there are multiple ways to come at this one. So have fun playing around with the possibilities.


The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms

Play with poetic forms!

Poetic forms are fun poetic games, and this digital guide collects more than 100 poetic forms, including more established poetic forms (like sestinas and sonnets) and newer invented forms (like golden shovels and fibs).

Click to continue.


Here’s my attempt at a barzeletta:

Barzeletta or Whateva, by Robert Lee Brewer

All that glitters isn't goldfish,
and I don't think imitation
is flattering perspiration
for this one percent of genius.


Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!


20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.


Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.


Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.


Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.


Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.