Writing Exercise – the tritina

by | June 6, 2013 | Writing Exercise | 15 comments

 by Ashley Lister

 Whenever I teach
poetry, there will often be a student arguing against rhyme or railing against
the discipline of meter or battling the regimented notion of syllable counting.
My usual response, that the practice of poetry is assisted by working to the
structure of established forms, often seems like a poor comeback. Oftentimes,
as a compromise, we’ll end up working on the tritina.

The tritina is a
ten line form of unrhymed poetry, broken into three tercets (three-lined
stanzas) with a final, solitary, line. 
The device that makes the tritina remarkable is its use of repeated
words, once in each line, in the pattern of A B C, C A B, B C A. The final line
of the tritina includes all three of the A B C words.

Kisses, Crops and Canes

For years they met and shared their kisses
Sating a passion for crops
Exploring a passion for canes

They learnt each other’s favourite canes
Then chased each stripe with tender kisses
And chased each kiss with cruel crops

Eventually they outgrew crops
Their need for pain outgrew the canes
But never once did they eschew kisses

Kisses do so much more than crops and canes

You’ll notice here
that the ABC words kisses(A), crops(B) and canes(C) are repeated at the end of the lines in the aforementioned
pattern: A B C, C A B, B C A. In the final line it doesn’t matter about the order
of the three words as long as they’re all there.

and Worship

When we meet you insist that I should kneel
(before we undress, touch, or kiss) and
you insist that at your feet I worship

It helps that you’re so worthy of worship
and that I need to kneel
at your feet and

remain there paying homage and
promising other forms of worship
that I might still do whilst I kneel

How I love to hear you whisper: “Kneel and worship.”

There is no fixed
meter, although the poem appears to work best when each line contains a similar
number of syllables. In this one you’ll notice that the ABC words kneel(A), and(B) and worship(C)
are repeated (again) in the aforementioned pattern: A B C, C A B, B C A. I’ve
managed to get my ABC words as the last three in the final line – although this
isn’t a necessity.

As always, I look
forward to seeing your poems in the comments box below.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Rachel Green

    Voltaire's Mistress

    My devotion has become an illusion
    we both believe for the moment, for the pleasure
    of an art to be placed first.

    The seduction begins when I first
    arrive, my dominance an illusion
    for the money of the dresser, the cost of pleasure

    And though my smile, my kiss, my skill to bring you pleasure
    exists until the last minute of the hour, from the first
    moment my enjoyment of you is but illusion.

    Illusion is the first of all pleasures.

  2. Lisabet Sarai

    Oh – this is too hard for me!

    But Rachel, yours is, as usual, exquisite.

  3. Rachel Green

    You are too kind! The last line was a quotation from Voltaire, of course.

  4. Ashley R Lister

    Rachel – I have to agree with Lisabet. This is exquisite. The cleverness of including a Voltaire quote (because he's French and all things sexy with his intellect) and this just supports an excellent exploitation of the form.


  5. Rachel Green

    Thank you kindly, Ashley. This was probably the hardest form you've posted so far, I think.

  6. Ashley R Lister

    I shall and try make next month's even more challenging!

  7. Jean Roberta

    Interesting topic, Ashley! Your posts give me ideas for the creative writing class I will be teaching for the first time in September. Rachel, your tritina could be used as a model of the form.

  8. Rachel Green

    Thanks Jean. You are all very kind indeed!

  9. Ashley R Lister

    Jean – good luck with the classes. It's the best subject in the world. If I've got any notes that can be of interest or value, let me know.


  10. Willing Submissive

    Naked kneeling, lips whetting my tongue
    You above, mighty Amazon, naked in boots
    Compelling my face to embrace your sweet buttocks

    Slaking my needs I lap at your buttocks
    By closing your heels as I groove with my tongue
    Cock tightly clamped twixt the hide of your boots

    Wildly humping plump calfs I splatter those boots
    Punishment, I suffer, cane striping my buttocks
    Between strokes, humiliations from your withering tongue

    The Coda, my tongue cleaning come from your boots, my failure hurts more than my buttocks slow burn

  11. Ashley R Lister

    Willing Submissive – that was pretty powerful stuff with some stellar word choices.

    I'd argue that the final line could be reduced a little more: let the reader do some work. If you rephrased it like this:

    "My tongue cleans your boots; my failure burns more than my buttocks"

    You'd be trusting the reader to complete the bigger picture that you've already painted with your eloquent poetry. However, that's just me having a minor quibble – and I still think this is great writing.


    • Willing Submissive

      Thank you Ashley!

      Your quibble is well justified and improves, may I use it? I rewrote that bloody line so many times last night that I couldn't see the wood from the woodshed!

      Great challange, very tricky but I really enjoyed it as it bubbled away in my brain for the last few days.

      willing submissive

    • Ashley R Lister

      Willing submissive – I'd be honoured if you used my suggested revision. This is damned good writing.


  12. Rachel Green

    What a super piece, WS. Bravo. I concur with Ashley about the length of the final line though.

    • Willing Submissive

      Thank you Rachel.

      You set the bar very, very high with that first post. Erudite and clever . . . just wow!

      willing submissive

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