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CU Poetry at Champaign Library - Triversen for all

  • Champaign Public Library Room 215 200 W Green St Champaign, IL, 61820 United States (map)

In this Verse First edition we feature, discuss and start to write - The Triversen

The what?? - Don't worry read below and we will spend some time creating our own Triversen at the beginning of the meetup- 

And, as usual, bring in some of your own poetry to discuss - (please bring in 6-8 copies to share if possible) 

hope to see everyone there

Here is a brief description from the Writer's Digest blog by Robert Lee Brewer

I found references to the triversen this week in both online and print resources. It’s a fun poetic form developed by William Carlos Williams (one of my favorite poets–able to write both the concise, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” and the epic, Paterson). I like this form because of its flexibility.

Here are the triversen rules:

Each stanza equals one sentence.

Each sentence/stanza breaks into 3 lines (each line is a separate phrase in the sentence).

There is a variable foot of 2-4 beats per line.

The poem as a whole should add up to 18 lines (or 6 stanzas).

And here is a description by poetry magnum opus

The Triversen, (triple verse sentence), is a sentence broken into three lines. It has also been referred to as a "verset", a surge of language in one breath. 

The Triversen was originated by William Carlos Williams as a "native American" poetic form of the 20th century. According to Lewis Turco in his Book of Forms, it is "one of the most innovative things done to modern free-verse." It introduced the "variable foot" to free verse. As best as I can understand, the "variable foot" is a phrase or portion of a sentence contained within a line. 

The Triversen is:


accentual. The rhythm of normal speech, employing 1 to 4 strong stresses per line.

stanzaic, written in any number of tercets. Each tercet is a sentence broken into 3 uneven lines, each an independant clause.

grammatical. The sentence is broken by line phrasing or lineating or sense units. There should be 3 units. L1 is a statement of fact or observation, L2 and L3 should set the tone, imply a condition or associated idea, or carry a metaphor for the original statement.


alliterated. Alliteration accentuates stress. 

here is robert lee brewers example (written by himself)

“today we buried mom”

today we buried mom 
& 1,000 red-winged blackbirds 
found a branch in our backyard.

the shadow of a deer 
was spotted on a snowdrift, 
wind sneaking into our house.

everyone knows everyone 
dies & then we’re faced 
with how to handle the body.

in her favorite dress 
we buried mom with some lilies 
& a john wayne poster.

i’ve been trying to forget 
the last time we talked 
but here i am alone with you.

1,000 blackbirds hold the trees 
before loosening their grip 
to disappear in the sun.

here is an example fro WCW himself

On Gay Wallpaper by William Carlos Williams 

The green-blue ground 
is ruled with silver lines 
to say the sun is shining 

And on this moral sea 
of grass or dreams like flowers 
or baskets of desires 

Heaven knows what they are 
between cerulean shapes 
laid regularly round 

Mat roses and tridentate 
leaves of gold 
threes, threes, and threes 

Three roses and three stems 
the baskets floating 
standing in the horns of blue 

Repeated to the ceiling 
to the windows 
where the day 

Blows in 
the scalloped curtains to 
the sound of rain