This is a poetry form created by Erin A. Thomas, writing on as Zahhar.

What is a Trisect?


  The trisect is a three-part poetic form that is inspired by its visual counterpart, the tryptych. I wanted to use the concept of the tryptych as a vehicle for developing my use of verbal depiction, but I found this difficult when I attempted to do so without a solid framework to work from. So, after much thought, I created the rules by which such a poem—which I named the trisect—would be written.

  It is not very often that a poetic form has semantic requirements beyond that of repeating a few words or phrases, such as with the sestina or villanelle. But, since I wanted to use this form to make a detailed study of verbal depiction over an extended period of time, I realized that there should be several semantic requirements designed to obstruct the natural tendency toward prosaic exposition, a trap that even the most seasoned of poets finds difficult to escape.

  As such, I could see that the trisect should never attempt to sell an idea or explain a concept, whether that concept be a personal experience or the interpretation of any material or mental object. It should, however, thoroughly exercise and develop ones powers of observation, a sense of relational association between things, and the use of depictive and metaphoric language.

  So the trisect should never explain itself to the reader or give itself away. The goal, then, would be to depict observations and experiences using only imagery and metaphor. This provides the reader with a way of interpreting the words purely from his or her own experience rather than, as is customary, being told what to think, feel, and believe about them. I could see that as I write my verbal tryptych, the trisect, I should, as far as possible, use depiction in such a way as to obfuscate my own interpretation of what is being portrayed so that the words create a series of visually (sensationally) depicted associations from my observations, with a special focus on particular objects, from which the reader can derive his or her own experience.

  The success of a trisect poem with a given reader, then, would be gauged by the level of interest he or she takes in it, the degree of significance he or she ascribes to it, and how much or how powerful of an experience he or she derives from it. If the reader has a vivid, memorable experience despite the abstract nature of the language, then I think something went right. With this in mind, I developed the rules of the trisect form with the hope of maximizing such potential.


  The trisect poem is defined by both structural and semantic rules. The structural rules are intended simply to create an appropriate, adaptable frame for the trisect’s content. I think this is important because they create a challenge that forces the poet to rise to the occasion, inspiring a conscious refinement of language and flow. The semantic rules are essential to the depictive nature of the form. Without them the poet can just say whatever he or she feels and thinks without actually exercising the use of verbal depiction, which is the entire point behind the form. These rules are also intended to promote the use of abstract language, which should create a surrealist feel, thus ensuring a strong, visually potent verbal tryptych. So bear this in mind as you study the rules below, whether you’re reading this article to better understand the idea behind the form or to learn how to try your own hand at it.

  Structural rules

  1. The trisect is always titled.
  2. It is organized into three individual poems that I refer to as segments.
  3. Each segment is always subtitled.
  4. There are four stanzas in each segment.
  5. Each stanza must be a tercet or a quatrain.
  6. Each line must be between two and seven feet long (dimeters to heptameters).

  These rules provide a canvas and a frame for the word-painting without being overly restrictive. A segment can be 12 to 16 lines long, and lines can be two to seven feet long. This allows for brevity by using only tercets with shorter lines, but it also permits the necessary space to complete a more complex depiction by allowing quatrains to be used with longer lines. If you are uncertain about the use of meter, you can visit my articles on verbal meter, starting with “Discovering the Iamb and the Trochee“.

  Now for the semantic rules, which are far more restrictive, but provide the real meat for the purposes of this form.

  Semantic rules

  1. No first person personal pronouns may be used anywhere in the poem.First person personal pronouns such asImemymine, and myself may not be used anywhere in the poem. This includes the title and subtitles. The same goes for inclusive personal pronouns such as we and ours.

If you have to use such personal pronouns to express something, then you should use another poetic form or free verse to do so. These pronouns generally are only used to express romantic ideals or personal feelings and opinions. The language of the trisect is not at all romantic or self-expressive, but depictive—And purely depictive.

  1. Segment one depicts an item without naming it.As far as possible, use imagery and metaphor to depict a given item of focus without naming it. This is by no means limited to mere visual descriptions. To truly depict something, the brain must stretch (sometimes painfully) to include other sorts of information about it. Such information can include the item’s textures, smells, environment, history, development, behavior, relation to other items and time, and much more. The observations used to depict the item will be colored by your own perception, experience, and understanding of it. This is only way self-expression comes into play, which will happen one way or the other in each of the three segments.To help clarify, read the first segments of each of the following trisect poems in relation to what their items of focus are:

Trisect Poem

Focus of Segment One

E merge nce



modern canoe

Three Ravens

figurine of a raven


the LEGO brick

  1. Segment two depicts a more complex item without naming it.The item of focus for segment two is only more complex in relation to the item of focus for segment one. So, the item depicted by segment one can itself be complex, but the item depicted by segment two must be—or at least seem to be—more complex.

If segment one depicts a flower petal, for instance, then segment two could depict the flower itself because it is more complex by comparison. For another example, if segment one depicts the earth, then segment two could depict the sun, the solar system, or the galaxy because any of these would be more complex by comparison.

Again, to help clarify ways of depicting something without naming it, I recommend reading segment two from each the same poems:

Trisect Poem

Focus of Segment Two

E merge nce

the automobile


the Yukon river—so by extension, ‘a river’

Three Ravens

a raven


the LEGO construct—things made from legos

  1. Segment two includes a reference to the item depicted by segment one.This is of course done without naming it. The reference can be vague and peculiar to your own experience and understanding. Going back again to the four poems, I’ll illustrate key phrases from their second segments which reference the item depicted by the first:

Trisect Poem


Type of Reference

E merge nce

“… an alley’s dirt”



“a fleck of lost humanity”

relational metaphor

Three Ravens

“… / where … an icon lures”

location and metaphor


“Imagination …”

application and association

  1. Segment three depicts an event or process without naming it.This is the crux of the trisect. Generally speaking, the items depicted in the first and second segments are in some way associated with or involved in the event or process depicted by the third segment. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, the depicted event or process may not be named—directly denoted.For instance, if you are depicting a car accident, you would not use any words that could be part of a direct denotation of the event, like “car”, “automobile”, “wreck”, or “accident”—Words found in such denotive phrases as “automobile accident” or “car wreck”. Instead, the language will focus on depicting individual, potentially telling elements and aspects of the event or process. This could involve phrases such as, “crushing contact”, “black lightning struck”, “chrome bending shock”—Just to give an idea.

    The event or process depicted may of course be compounded, for they will rarely stand alone anyway.

    Returning again to the four poems I’ve been using as examples, ponder the third segment of each poem in relation to the event or process it depicts:

Trisect Poem

Focus of Segment Two

E merge nce

hit and run & near death experience


an animistic experience on the Yukon river

Three Ravens

a dream experience involving flight and metamorphosis


development of cognition through explorative play

  1. Segment three includes references to the items depicted by segment one and segment two.This is the same idea as that explained above under the fourth point. As I did there, I’ll indicate key phrases from the third segment of each example poem which reference back to the items depicted in the first and second segments of that poem.References back to segment one’s item of focus:

Trisect Poem


Type of Reference

E merge nce

“shelter shattered open like a nest”

usage and state


“… the floating soul …”

usage and relational metaphor

Three Ravens

“… in the shade of gaze …”

action and behavior


“Individual colors snap …”

application and metaphor

References back to segment two’s item of focus:

Trisect Poem


Type of Reference

E merge nce

“black lightning”



“from out the wash … floating soul”

spatial and relational attributes

Three Ravens

“… a figurine”

partial denotation


“impressionist expressions of the mind”


This list is by no means complete. The third segment of some of these poems have multiple references to the items depicted by each of the previous segments. But this should give some idea.

  1. Subtitles do not explicitly denote the focus of their segments.The subtitle captures some attribute or aspect of a segment’s focus through metaphor or some other type of reference, but does not identify it directly by name or denotation.
  2. The poem’s title must avoid giving away the overall focus of the poem or any of its segments.Just as the subtitle should avoid giving away the focus of its segment, the title should avoid giving away the focus of the poem in a similar fashion. Rely on metaphor or some other associative type of reference when deciding a title.

  The rules are actually easier to follow than they might seem. The challenge is in following them well, to good effect. This can only be discovered via trial and error, as I have been doing with the form until now.

Pasted from <>

E merge nce


walls of paper kept the world at bay

cubes of indistinction none would see

where settled there within a watcher peered

the dusty brown a perfect camouflage

propped against a wall or by a hedge

passed a thousand times by reckless feet

corrugated fibers held the wind

so that the space inside was made to form

a child’s island haven from the storm

sometimes it was a spaceship among the stars

sometimes a moon-base on a barren scape

sometimes a roving tank all battle-scarred

but always it provided safe escape


shaped from molten vats of ore

molded by a burning greed

riveted with violent force

pieces merge to fill a need

manifest from heavy silence

oils surge and slowly drip

uncertainty across the roads

power charges through its frame

explosions channeled in its chest

to serve a senseless master’s will

tires grind an alley’s dirt

shadows steer a ghostly wheel

the phantom grill athirst for blood


black lightning strikes the living clay

evaporating life from every limb

suspending consciousness alone

void of breath yet interfused with fear

tires spin throughout the dark

an engine roars above a twisted neck

inches from a lifeless face

psychic tethers anchored in vibration

a heedless monster lumbers back

the shelter shattered open like a nest

blood resumes its former course

and wild bones reanimate the flesh

a figure stands and staggers numb with pain

screams and scampers filled with terror

headlights rear and fade away

a child’s bones left fractured like his mind

  The first segment focuses on cardboard. I used to create cardboard forts when I was a child—sometimes very elaborate—and hang out in them all day long. Some of them would be portable, and some would be built in vacant lots or alleyways blocks or miles from home. They were always very well camouflaged, so my little hideout would remainmy little hideout. The portable ones I’d often setup at the edge of a busy parking lot, made to look like a pile of scrap cardboard, where I’d hang out and just watch people without them knowing. These simple forts were a safe haven for me, a private place to go and be away from troubles and worries. And I had my share.

  The second segment focuses on the automobile, the car. I remember reading up on their manufacturing process and design, and the primary materials used in their construction, before starting this segment.

  The third segment focuses on a little mishap I had in one of those cardboard forts as a 14 year old, which involved a car. It was in an alleyway a few blocks from home. City blocks. Los Angeles City blocks. About a mile away at least. I had some big fight with my mother that day and decided I’d just have my own space that night in a cardboard fort I and a friend had built a day or two before. It was a beautiful fort, with four separate compartments, each of which were big enough to lay out flat in. The whole thing was masterfully camouflaged with various sorts of debris from the area, including dead palm branches and branches of other sorts. In the end it looked like a slash pile, just a bunch of branches and other random materials tossed into a pile—but it was hollow, and there were access points.

  That night as I slept a car slammed into the fort and ran over my right arm, shoulder, and neck, breaking the upper arm longways from near the elbow across to the top near the ball socket, and blew a piece out of the ball socket itself. My neck was severely sprained—which is of course a miracle. It was possible to make out the tire treads on my throat. How I happened to be aligned such that the tire didn’t snap my head one way and pop my skull off the spine like a bottle opener I have no idea.

  This was my first NDE. I have no way to prove it, but I just know. I know what I experienced, and I was dead for at least a moment—and a moment is long enough to be dead. Sometime I’ll dedicate some poetry and discussion to that experience. But as I “returned”, after the car had somehow managed to back up off me without running over my neck a second time, I sprang up in a panic, and it came toward me again, then stopped, then backed all the way down the alley and around the far corner, as if in a mad rush to escape affiliation with the mishap. I’ll never forget the sight of those headlights.

  I was near a series of hotels. And each time I knocked, with my left arm since right wouldn’t respond, the owners would come to the door and I’d ask for help and they’d slam the door on me. It sucked. In this manner I ended up up making my way half a mile to an apartment complex my mom had lived in a year or so before, where some people knew me, and an ambulance was called.

Pasted from

Thanks to the Erin for his efforts and example.

Tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *