6 Tips for Writing a Terza Rima

This type of poem comes from Italy, and translates to “third rhyme.” You might be familiar with poetry that is made up of four lines at a time, but a terza rima only has three lines grouped together at once. Experimenting with writing terza rima will help you discover a new and exciting way to write your life story. Here are some tips (and some poems) to get you started:

  1. What. A terza rima can be about anything you want, but usually it tells a story. Of course, it takes more than one poem to tell your whole life story, but try to think of one part of yourself -- your favorite part of your personality, or a memorable event that you took part in, for example -- to use as the basis of the poem.
  2. Flexibility. The great thing about a terza rima is that there is no limit to how many groups of lines there need to be! Since “terza” (three) is in the title, you have to start with three lines, but you can choose to end the poem there, or use as many stanzas (groups of lines) as you need to tell your story.
  3. Rule of threes. Since there are only three lines in each stanza and each group of lines tells a small part of the bigger story, make sure that you can fit a complete idea into the words you use in each stanza. This way, the poem will make more sense to the reader, and it will help you along the way to organize your ideas.
  4. Rhyming. The rhyme scheme for a terza rima is a little tricky, but try it a few times, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time! Most of the time, rhyming poems will have stanzas where every other line rhymes, or every two lines rhyme. In a terza rima, the first and third lines of a stanza rhyme, but the first line of the next stanza rhymes with the second line of the stanza before it. So, your stanzas would look like A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, and so on, with each letter representing the rhyming words.
  5. Ending. Going back to the flexibility of this type of poem, there are a few different ways you can choose to end your terza rima. One way is to simply end it with the last stanza. Another way is to add a couplet, which is a set of two lines which rhyme. Or, you can choose to add one extra line that stands alone to conclude your story. Try writing more than one terza rima, and experimenting with ending them in all different ways!
  6. Power Poetry. Go crazy with your terza rima! Maybe you can make a bunch of short ones and hand them out to your friends, or write a longer one and send it as a letter to someone! Whatever you choose to do with your terza rima, don’t forget to post it to PowerPoetry.org so everyone can enjoy it!

Acquainted with the Night
Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain--and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-by;
and further still at an unearthly height
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.


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