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Explore the Craft of Writing

American Poetry


The Triversen, (triple verse sentence), is a sentence broken into three lines. It has also been referred to as a "verset", a surge of language in one breath.


The Triversen was originated by William Carlos Williams as a "native American" poetic form of the 20th century. According to Lewis Turco in his Book of Forms, it is "one of the most innovative things done to modern free-verse." It introduced the "variable foot" to free verse. As best as I can understand, the "variable foot" is a phrase or portion of a sentence contained within a line.


The Triversen is:

  • accentual. The rhythm of normal speech, employing 1 to 4 strong stresses per line.
  • stanzaic, written in any number of tercets. Each tercet is a sentence broken into 3 uneven lines, each an independant clause.
  • grammatical. The sentence is broken by line phrasing or lineating or sense units. There should be 3 units. L1 is a statement of fact or observation, L2 and L3 should set the tone, imply a condition or associated idea, or carry a metaphor for the original statement.
  • unrhymed.
  • alliterated. Alliteration accentuates stress.


    Eventide by Judi Van Gorder 8-20-05


    Sunset silence is interrupted

    by a cursory




    sun slides

    behind the horizon.


    Twilight arrives

    with a hic-up

    and a wink.

















    On Gay Wallpaper by William Carlos Williams


    The green-blue ground

    is ruled with silver lines

    to say the sun is shining.


    And on this moral sea

    of grass or dreams like flowers

    or baskets of desires


    Heaven knows what they are

    between cerulean shapes"

    laid regularly round.


    Mat roses and tridentate

    leaves of gold

    threes, threes, and threes.


    Three roses and three stems

    the basket floating

    standing in the horns of blue.


    Repeated to the ceiling

    to the windows

    where the day


    Blow in

    the scalloped curtains to

    the sound of rain.

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