Whittled Words – Trenta-Sei Poem



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Welcome to the weekly series, Whittled Words. A series highlighting the innumerable types and styles of poetry to challenge any creative wordsmith. This week’s selection:

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TRENTA-SEI POEM

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The Trenta-Sei form was created by the poet John Ciardi. It’s a 36-line poem (the word “Trenta-Sei” is Italian for 36) that has a rhyme pattern and refrains. In other words, it’s a lot of fun.

Here are the basic guidelines:

    • Six sestets (or 6-line stanzas).

    • Each sestet has the following rhyme pattern: ababcc.

    • Each line in the first stanza makes the first line in its corresponding stanza. So, line 1 is the first line of the first stanza; line 2 is the first line of the second stanza; etc. (a little like the cascade poem.)

Ciardi’s “A Trenta-Sei of the Pleasure We Take in the Early Death of Keats” was first published after Ciardi’s own death and is the shining example of the form. That said, I do not believe topic of life and death are required to be the subject of Trenta-Sei poems.

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Examples of Trenta-Sei Poems:

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A Trenta-Sei of the Pleasure We Take in the Early Death of Keats

by John Ciardi

 

It is old school custom to pretend to be sad

when we think about the early death of Keats.

The species-truth of the matter is we are glad.

Psilanthropic among exegetes,

I am so moved that when the plate comes by

I almost think to pay the God—but why?

When we think about the early death of Keats

we are glad to be spared the bother of dying ourselves.

His poems are a candy store of bitter-sweets.

We munch whole flights of angels from his shelves

drooling a sticky glut, almost enough

to sicken us. But what delicious stuff!

The species-truth of the matter is we are glad

to have a death to munch on. Truth to tell,

we are also glad to pretend it makes us sad.

When it comes to dying, Keats did it so well

we thrill to the performance. Safely here,

this side of the fallen curtain, we stand and cheer.

Psilanthropic among exegetes,

as once in a miles-high turret spitting flame,

I watched boys flower through orange winding sheets

and shammed a mourning because it put a name

to a death I might have taken—which in a way

made me immortal for another day—

I was so moved that when the plate came by

I had my dollar in hand to give to death

but changed to a penny—enough for the old guy,

and almost enough saved to sweeten my breath

with a toast I will pledge to the Ape of the Divine

in thanks for every death that spares me mine.

I almost thought of paying the God—but why?

Had the boy lived, he might have grown as dull

as Tennyson. Far better, I say, to die

and leave us a formed feeling. O beautiful,

pale, dying poet, fading as soft as rhyme,

the saddest music keeps the sweetest time.

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THE MONASTERY

By Brad Osborne

 

The shrouded and hooded monks pray

Incantations echo on low

The penitent words that they say

Hold only the sins that they know

And in their chanted reverie

A hoped for and blessed destiny

Incantations echo on low

In evening vespers of the day

And in the shadows that long grow

Faint cloistered calls ring and replay

Practice narrows what mind can see

Focus found in toned symphony

The penitent words that they say

Monotoned and rhythm slow

In the ears a metered decay

A quiet breeze that gentle blows

In easy sounds less harmony

Doth rise with notes a soul set free

Hold only the sins that they know

Found living an unselfish way

The reaping of what one will sow

Underlies what sacred convey

A lifetime vowed camaraderie

A peaceful life lived brotherly

And in their chanted reverie

No thought given to yesterday

The only path to seek should be

Gifted moments of every day

No thought given to tomorrow

No precious thing left in escrow

A hoped for and blessed destiny

As in nature, a balanced roe

The dark light of duality

Yin and Yang the constant tarot

Chanting men stroll not far away

The shrouded and hooded monks pray

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I hope you have enjoyed this entry to the series, Whittled Words. I look forward to your comments, and if you dare, maybe share your own Trenta-Sei poem. Thanks for reading!

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Comments
11 Responses to “Whittled Words – Trenta-Sei Poem”
  1. beth says:

    I do like the cadence of this pattern –

  2. Nice rhythmic and, you’re right, fun!

  3. Jim Borden says:

    impressive; a 36 line poem seems quite challenging. as to the poem itself, I can’t imagine the life of a monk…

  4. jonicaggiano says:

    This one is a little more complex but no surprise you make it seem simple.

    “Underlies what sacred convey
    A lifetime vowed camaraderie
    A peaceful life lived brotherly
    And in their chanted reverie
    No thought given to yesterday”

    What a beautiful example of the Trents-Sei Poem.

    Sending lots of love ❤️ Jonikins

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