National Poetry Month 23 #ClimatePoemProject & DiverseVerse Love Letters To Poetry

Happy Poetry Month!

I’m thrilled that this year, my first love – poetry – will provide a nexus between two very different groups that I started: Authors Take Action and Diverse Verse. Read on to find out what the connection is – and, better still, to discover poetry prompts for you to try on your own, or share with others.

Laura Shovan is leading #AuthorsTakeAction this year, and she proposed a wonderful poetry project, encouraging poets to contribute poems relating in some way to climate (and/or climate change). As a scientist who is deeply concerned about anthropogenic impacts on human health, and the health of all life on our planet, as well as our planet’s health. I am deeply upset to witness how quickly our Earth is heating up, as though it is a human body, whose temperature is rising as a result of a fever. So I chose to write a poem about Climate Change. It’s a work in progress, and I haven’t quite decided what to call it. At first I thought “Will We Weather Change?” but that seemed a bit too mundane… so now I’m considering something more along the lines of “Dawn On Us” At any rate, here’s my first draft, below:

Rising, as our future shines, waters reflect melting gold.

Sunlight. Peace falls on Earth. Our raised hands

press together in prayer, treasuring all we hold. 

Rising, as our future shines, waters reflect melting gold.

We grow wealthy but desire more. We no longer care for old

wisdom. We destroy oceans, watch fires blaze across lands

as our future melts. Rising waters reflect shining gold

pieces. Sunlight falls on Earth, razed by our hands. 

If you’re a poet, you probably recognize that the form I’m following rather loosely is the Triolet. In this interview, Laura Shovan says she often rewrites a free verse poem “in a traditional form, such as a triolet” while revising, because it helps her find rhythms she may have missed. I love playing with form when I write, and since I handed over leadership of Authors Take Action to Laura Shovan, who brought up this form in her interview, I decided to try my hand at writing a Triolet.

The American Academy of Poets describes a Triolet as “a short poem of eight lines with only two rhymes used throughout.” You’ll notice that my poem uses just two rhymes. The Poetry Foundation defines the Triolet as “An eight-line stanza having just two rhymes and repeating the first line as the fourth and seventh lines, and the second line as the eighth.” Dudley Randall and Deborah Paradez are among the modern poets who have explored this form, which comes to us from France. If you’d like to read a few more examples, try Saint’s Day Triolet: Saint Valentine and Saint’s Day Triolet: Saint Anthony (both by Deborah Paradez.

On the one hand, this poem looks remarkably easy. There’s a lot of repetition: the first line recurs as the fourth and seventh lines, and the second line recurs as the eighth. So the poet only needs to come up with five lines. Of course, as any poet knows, repetition also implies that the lines one does come up with had better be strong, because the reader will read them again and again – and given how short the triolet is, they’d better like those repeating lines. Are you ready to try writing a Triolet? If so, here’s a template to help you get going:

  • 1st line (A)
  • 2nd line (B)
  • 3rd line (a)- new line that rhymes with the first line
  • 4th line (A) – first line repeats
  • 5th line -(a) new line that rhymes with the first line
  • 6th line – (b) new line that rhymes with the second line
  • 7th line (A) – first line repeats
  • 8th line (B) – second line repeats

When I wrote my drafts, I copied out the template, filled in the repeating lines, and then wrote the other three original lines. By the strictest of rules, you might decide that my poem is not quite a triolet. Can you tell why?

I rearranged the words in the final lines, and I also replaced some of the original words with homophones instead of using the same words again (pieces versus peace; razed versus raised). But my poem is, at the very least, definitely inspired by this form. It took me a lot longer than you might think – but I love the writing process and I’m glad I tried this form. I hope you will try it, too!

Visit the #AuthorsTakeAction page to discover more writing prompts and read more poems:

If you’re wondering how all of this relates to #DiverseVerse, I’m thrilled to share that on we’re posting an eclectic mixture of poetry prompts, activities, essays, reflections, interviews, reviews and more, every day of #NationalPoetryMonth2023! So visit Diverse Verse to find out more about that project.

I’ll be offering two more writing prompts for our #LoveLettersToPoetry series, one of which will feature a reading from a short story in verse that appears in the groundbreaking anthology, CALLING THE MOON: 16 period stories by BIPOC authors, edited by Aida Salazar and Yamile Saied Méndez.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful spring!

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