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
Please visit my fellow Swaggers to read their terza rimas!
And don’t forget to stop by Laura Purdie Salas’s blog for the Poetry Friday Roundup.