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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

Italian Poetry


Stornello has roots in the Occitan estorn which means struggle, s' tornello meaning "little turn" or "taking turns" and torna’re meaning "to return". Popular with Tuscan peasants in the 17th century, the verse was originally used in improvisational poetic contests of 15th century Italy. The lines would be composed by opposing poets on the spot, taking turns creating within the form. Often selected words are stressed or repeated and turned around and around.


According to the NPOPP, there are 3 types of Stornello,

  • the oldest, a rhymed proverbial couplet, still popular in Sicily,

    “I’ll tell him the white, and the green, and the red,

    Mean our country has flung the vile yoke from her head;

    I’ll tell him the green, and the red, and the white

    Would look well by his side as a sword-knot so bright;

    I’ll tell him the red, and the white, and the green

    Is the prize that we play for, a prize we will win.”

    --- from Handy Book of Literary Curiosities by William Shepard Walsh

  • the second, a rhymed hendecasyllabic triplet, L2 being near rhyme,
  • the most commonly used Stornello is triplets made up of an 11 syllable lined couplet preceded by a 10 syllable line "quintario or settnario". The guintario is an exclamatory phrase or invocation, often to a flower or plant, which is why the form is sometimes called Fiore (flower in Italian).


    The 11 syllable line is common in Italian poetry because of the musicality of the language and the prevalence of falling rhythm. It could be thought of as the Italian iambic pentameter, thus a challenge for the English writer to emulate the musicality using the English iambic pentameter within the parameters of the hendecasyllabic line.

The most common Stornello is:
  • stanzaic, written in any number of triplets. The Stornello is preferably short.
  • syllabic, the most common form is 10-11-11 syllable lines however it can be written with all lines 11 syllables.
  • rhymed, rhyme scheme AaA BbB the lower case letter = near rhyme.


    Fiore by Judi Van Gorder


    I picked a wine red rose from off the vine,

    the prickly thorns drew blood drops oozing crimson.

    My love has left me bare, life without design.


    I paint a rose in verse just one more time,

    join thousands gone before in penning a hymn

    to love's tart fragrance in crimson velvet rhyme.


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