Poetry Friday: A Terza Rima for the Stars

Last summer, my critique group, aka “The Sunday Night Swaggers,” decided to set a monthly challenge for ourselves. This month it was my turn to come up with our challenge. In a moment of insanity, I thought writing a poem using terza rima would be fun.

Terza rima, which was popularized by Dante in The Divine Comedy, consists of tercets with a rhyme scheme of aba, bcb, cdc, and so on. There is no set number of stanzas, and some poems using a terza rima structure end in a couplet that rhymes with the middle line of the previous stanza. The meter is iambic pentameter or tetrameter. (Read more about this form and several examples here.)

This all sounds fairly straightforward. Unless, of course, iambs are your arch-enemy. Even if they are, you still need a topic. Luckily, Betelgeuse, the red giant in the constellation Orion, has become noticeably dimmer in recent months. I’d been reading about this phenomenon, and decided to write my poem about this.

As often happens when writing, this turned out only to be a starting point. My poem morphed into more of a tour of a few constellations. I’m not entirely happy with this draft, and have now officially given up on iambic pentameter, but this was my idea, so here is my terza rima.


On clear nights, when the sky is ablaze
with fireworks from the Milky Way,
step out into the universe and gaze.

Affixed to a path from which he won’t stray,
bold Orion marches on through the night
holding his foe, wily scorpion, at bay.

Cygnus the swan, in perpetual flight
Through vast distant clouds of brilliant stardust
In search of lost love; his passion burns bright.

Polaris, the star all travelers trust,
Illumines the way to your heart’s true home,
constant ally of those with wanderlust.

Listen. Stars tell stories of those who roam
Under the vault of sky’s glittering dome.

Draft, © 2020 by Catherine Flynn

The constellation Orion. Mouser [CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D via Wikipedia
Please visit my fellow Swaggers to read their terza rimas!

Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche

And don’t forget to stop by Laura Purdie Salas’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

18 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: A Terza Rima for the Stars

  1. We should all get a gold star for accomplishing this bear of a challenge. Your tour of the stars turned out great. Each constellation’s personality comes through.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that the last set of revisions really lifted this poem up to the heavens! Your final couplet–lovely–also sounds like it could be the epigraph for a collection of star stories told in poems! THANK YOU for the challenge, Catherine. We learned a lot, didn’t we? And that’s the point.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In the city, I don’t get to see that “glittering dome”, only Orion’s Belt at times. Your poem made me want to go far away from the city to see again all that beauty. Love this, Catherine!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just off the top of my head, Catherine, I can think of at least three poems of yours about the night sky. It’s truly a source of inspiration for you, and it’s no wonder they always flow so effortlessly.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m glad you challenged us this way, Catherine and I always enjoy your celestial poems. The final couplet of this one is especially wonderful. (Now that I read your helpful definition, I realized that I screwed up with my final couplet as it doesn’t rhyme with the preceding tercet’s middle word. Ah, well…guess I unintentionally went rogue as well!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Someday, I’ll feel like Molly….glad of this challenge. Kidding! Really, I’m glad for the mental workout this challenge gave me. I’m admiring how your title brings all the lines together. And, I think your fourth stanza is stunning…a homerun of a stanza to make the last two lines shine. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow–you wrote a beautiful poem in answer to your own tough challenge. Love those final two lines! (My spouse has been all agog about Betelgeuse’s dimming. Somehow I can’t quite see it.)


  8. Terza rima makes me scream-a… no, only kidding… I have been reading everyone’s and I tried maybe 2 verses and decided to give it a rest. Good challenge, seriously, and I love yours. The glittering dome is so right. I love it when I am away from lights and can look at the night sky. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s