Last week I discussed the Collapsar, a poetry form that I’ve claimed as my own. This week, I’d like to introduce another poetry form that fits my own style: the Triptych.
Originally, a Triptych was a three-sectioned painting, the center panel usually being larger than the other two. Each panel had its own image, though the three fit together thematically.
There are two types of Triptych poetry forms:
- A poem of three stanzas. The first stanza comments on the past, the second comments on the present, and the third comments on the future. The second stanza is twice as long as the first and third.
- A poem consisting of three poems of equal length displayed side-by-side, like the panels of a triptych painting. Not only do the poems work together thematically, like the painting, they actually form a fourth poem. The fourth poem is read horizontally across the three poems. This fourth poem completes the theme of the Triptych.
I prefer the second version because, even though nailing that fourth poem requires some mental gymnastics, I believe it remains true to the original definition of a Triptych by tying all three together to the central theme.
I agonized over the following Triptych for weeks before I made all the parts agree grammatically. Most difficult poem I’ve ever written (form-wise, that is). My efforts, however, paid off: I earned publication and nominations for the 2013 Rhysling Award and the Dwarf Stars Award. Now, if I only had the stamina to write more than a few Triptychs a year.
COGNIZANCE: A TRIPTYCH
by Kurt MacPhearson
strange how the aliens open up
their third eye like a window
perceiving views with shades
can invoke emotions showing
revulsion as proof
inside a spectrum of lying
originally appeared in Star*Line, 35.4