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Search result for Triversen

Brief Description

A form introduced by William Carlos Williams as the native American form for the 20th century.

Form Type:Accentual-Syllabic
Creator:William Carlos Williams
Number of Lines:N/A
Rhyme Scheme:N/A


1. Each stanza is a sentence broken up into [g="tercet"]tercets/g].

2. Each line should contain between one and four strong stresses.

3. Each line break should be dictated by sense or phrasing. The first line should make a statement or observation, the next two should continue the metaphor or create the tone of the sentence.

4. The lines should not employ rhyme but should use alliteration which adds to the stresses in the lines.



Sunday morning

silence broken

by clank of the anchor chain.

Tomorrow and tomorrow

two birds which sit

in opposite trees.

Where will the heart lead?

A stream gushing forth

from icy cold depths.

Where will it end?

The sun with a mouthful of ocean

dribbling it over the mountains.

Copyright Ben Johnson - 2012


Williams adapted the Japanese forms of the haiku and katauta to create the triversen. Instead of counting the length of the lines in syllables he employed a count of stresses. Noting that the Japanese forms used line lengths that varied between five and seven syllables he coined the term variable foot to describe them. The Triversen then also employed a variable foot rather than a line length set by the number of syllables it contained.

Williams also borrowed what he termed the ''breath pause'', the number of syllables that could be encompassed in a single breath, the length of a haiku being the length of a breath. This was further divided by the length of time to ask or answer an emotive question.

These two factors lead Williams to settle on a length of two to four stress units to ask or answer an emotive question and six to twelve units to ask a question and receive its answer. These units were then arranged into three lines none of which exceeded four stress units.

See Also:

Haiku,Tanka,Katauta,3 line forms.


The Triversen at Poetry Magnum Opus

Article on Des Imagistes by Lewis Turco which covers the Triversen

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