Poetry Friday: Tricube, a first attempt

If you don’t quite understand me, don’t worry – I’m not sure I totally understand myself.

You see, I’m not really a fan of new poetry forms – yet I can’t resist trying them out! Usually I’m unimpressed, but every now and then a form seems to take hold of my attention and forces me to do something.

This is one of those times.

I came across the Tricube form quite by accident – I was searching for poetry online and discovered this deceptively simple (e.g., nerve-wrackingly difficult) form created by author/poet Phillip Larrea. It’s simple in that it is based on the concept of mathematical cubes: there are 3 syllables per line, 3 lines per stanza, and 3 stanzas per poem.

What’s not so simple is being able to fit what you’re trying to say in that tiny space!

In this way, it’s similar to haiku, in that word economy is extremely important – and therein lies the reason I probably like it so much. One needs to pay very close attention to word choice if one wants to fit wordplay, imagery, and emotion into such a compact space.

So I looked around for a suitable subject and came upon this photograph taken by my daughter, Katherine, who is an amateur photographer:

Photo © 2010 Katie Bri Photography, all rights reserved

The rain came.
We welcomed
a green spring

full of hope
and flowers
and found ice;

cold, glassy,
brittle life.

– © 2021 Matt F. Esenwine, all rights reserved

As I said, I’m not a big fan of many newer poetic forms, primarily because they focus so much on syllable counts (cinquains, nonets) or because of ridiculous rules involved (I guarantee you I will never write a diamante, ever). But this, as I previously mentioned, forces one to think long and hard about word choice and placement – and although I like this little poem of mine, I’m still not sure it’s the best version of itself.

But will I tackle a tricube again? Absolutey!

For more poetry, please visit Jama’s Alphabet Soup, where Jama Rattigan is hosting the roundup with a poem from former UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

And by the way…do you know of a library, trail group, or other organization that maintains a StoryWalk™? Beaming Books, publisher of Once Upon Another Time, has a very cool opportunity! To celebrate Earth Day, we’ll give away TEN FREE COPIES of the book along with TEN digital ARCs (Advance Review Copies)! Just send an email to matt (at) mattforrest (dot) com and tell us why you’d like to feature our book on your StoryWalk™. Read the graphic, which has all the details, and get your entries in by 11:59pm EDST, April 21. Winners’ names to be drawn at random and announced April 22 – Earth Day!

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I continue adding to my “Wit & Wordplay” videos ! These videos were created for parents and educators (along with their kids) to learn how to write poetry, appreciate it, and have fun with it. From alliteration and iambs to free verse and spine poetry, I’m pretty sure there’s something in these videos you’ll find surprising! You can view them all on my YouTube channel, and if you have young kids looking for something to keep busy with, I also have several downloadable activity sheets at my website.


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34 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Tricube, a first attempt

  1. I think you captured the essence of the photograph (very nice, by the way) in your Tricube. Love the phrase “suspending brittle life.” I also tried out a different poetry form today, the Magic 9.


  2. Hadn’t heard of the tricube. You did an excellent job with it! I like the feeling of compact expression. You did manage to say a lot in such a small space. Bravo!


  3. Janet F.

    Ah, I am here. I did not go far enough. So I really like the tricube and think that while it is deceptive I think it has potential and with a photo/picture even better. When I was teaching I had the best luck letting the poems they had learned by heart as a group (remember no requirement, no pressure, no hw) be mentor poems. I would talk about tall skinny poems, poems in one stanza, poets as word artists, concrete or unusual formats and free verse. I did not encourage rhymes but did not discourage it. We had a wonderful poet named Mike Jennings who mainly writes for adults as our poet in the schools for years in gr. 5 and I learned a TON from him. He would often say that rhyming can make a fool of a poet and showed them how to create poems from his prompts (great) and they went home at night and returned with a poem in the morning. His techniques were terrific and I am sure i absorbed a lot and then implemented some of what he taught in my poetry work which occurred in 3rd grade which was near the end of my teaching career. Actually I taught for 7 extra years because of the what I was doing and finding using poetry as the heartbeat of my classroom. That said I taught haiku but very very carefully. (Avoiding the dogma if that is the right word…) And forget things like the diamante. Those were not really poetry IMHO. Also it’s, I think, using a different part of the brain. I had kids write some incredible stuff. You probably know who David Muir is. He is from my area and I had his nephew. David’s grandma died and I had just been to Kali Dakos’ visit in a neighboring school and she taught an extra workshop at the end of the day to kids about “goodbye poems” and I brought that back to my class. We talked about it. They were eager by then ( ie April) to do almost anything with poetry and I also did a version of the Thankful Book. So this kid wrote a poem for his gr grandmother’s funeral. Brought it with him and then with his uncle by his side read the poem at the funeral. Just one magic story of many. Got a nice note from David whom I had met a few times. And the kid was a real shy type so I told him that he could just share the poem with the family but maybe someone else would read it. Poetry…….it has so much power. I think I may share this on my FB page, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Janet, for your thoughtful words and the backstory to your approach to teaching poetry. (And for all of your ongoing support, as well!) I, too, never encourage rhyme when speaking to students – but I don’t discourage it, either. Rather, I try to focus on getting kids to think about their subjects in different ways, seeing them in a different light or from a new POV…and then letting them go from there. Funnily enough, free verse is rarely taught as poetry to young students – and yet it’s probably the easiest form for them to write and get their thoughts out on paper.


      1. Janet F.

        Thanks, Matt. Yes, so many teachers I worked with and know are not comfortable with poetry on their own. They just have not really studied it much I am guessing and they go with the curr. pieces they have unless somehow they find out about what is out there now like books and ideas that work with kids. As a short form for writing (though not all of my students in gr 3 wrote short poems) but for editing and revising and rewriting it was doable and never seemed a chore. I can’t tell you how much I loved teaching that way. I am glad you are able to work with kids in schools because even if the teachers are not able to carry on some kids may have something special sparked for them that lasts. PS Common Core was just getting its self established as I was ending my long career and frankly I saw some disturbing trends as they would affect me personally and schools/kids in general. I was told by someone at a convention that if I wanted to work as a consultant I needed to take the word JOY out of my flyer. FYI. They were in the rigor and close reading phase which surely has its place but was never clearly defined and only did some damage to some terrific teachers and programs. It is the cyclical nature of the analysis of what to do to educate kids. I could go on, but for me? Putting poetry at the heart of the classroom can bring joy and rigor and deep learning. It’s poets like you and so many others I know or know about who are offering teachers and kids incredible material if they knew about it and used it. And I don’t fault teachers at all. There hours are filled to overflowing and their are many many places with constraints I could not stomach. Yet other wonderful places, too.


      2. I completely understand what you mean, Janet…so many teachers I know regret needing to teach to the “Core” rather than to the student. I will say I have seen first-hand some positives about CC math, now that I’ve been homeschooling for the past year – but rather than offering guidance, CC seems to be the be-all and end-all, which is unfortunate. Keep doing what your’e doing to instill that sense of JOY in literacy, and I’ll keep doing what I can to help! 😉


  4. lindabaie

    I like what you did with this, Matt. It seems always a learning experience to try a new form. I like the idea of “suspending” especially. We have a few storms like that, everything stills. It is a beautiful photo to write from, too! Have a great weekend!


  5. I often find the constraints of a form inspiring. Weird, but true. Like you said, the focus on word choice and placement is critical and I enjoy how that adds to the challenge of the puzzle–until I don’t! lol I really like the brevity of this form and admire the complexity of your word choices and images. Well done!


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