Structure, Metrical Requirement, Repetitive Requirement
Description: Form invented by US poet John Ciardi, it could be considered a semi-gloss. It consists of six six-line verses. Each line of the first verse is the first line of one of the six verses in order. Ciardi’s trenta-sei was written in five-stress accentual lines.
Attributed to: John Ciardi
Schematic: Repetition scheme:
Rhythm/Stanza Length: 6
Line/Poem Length: 36
Measuring poetry as accentual verse, one only counts the stressed syllables in the line, so a line might have four stresses and anywhere from four to sixteen syllables and still be considered a four-stress line. Many forms of accentual verse use alliteration to tie the stresses together.
Pasted from <http://www.poetrybase.info/forms/003/318.shtml
My thanks to Charles L. Weatherford for his years of work on the wonderful Poetrybase resource.
The poem consists of six six-line stanzas rhyming ababcc, with lines two through six in stanza one becoming line one of a following stanza, in that order. As a resolving device, he allows the fifth line of stanza one to change from the present tense to the past when it appears as the first line of stanza five.
As in other works by John Ciardi, the line is clearly the unit of the poem, a unit at the same time of sound, sense, and syntax, so that the reader progressing through the poem feels solid ground underfoot. At the same time, most of the lines raise a question, in the mind of the reader, that the next line will answer:
The species-truth of the matter is we are glad (of what?)
to have a death to munch on. Truth to tell, (which truth is what?)
we are also glad to pretend it makes us sad.
When it comes to dying, Keats did it so well (how well?)
we thrill to the performance…
And so forth, building for the reader a compelling sense of forward motion.
Ciardi’s rarest accomplishment in this poem, apart from the prosodic form, is the closing of a thought with the closing of each stanza. It’s not often that we find a poet so clearly in control of the poem.
The resolution of the poem is perhaps its finest moment: It looks back on itself and says to the reader—inductively, so that she can take it home—“This is what the poem is getting at,” and says it with such finality that if it were the last line on the page, one would not turn the page to see if the poem ended there. The poem doesn’t just end: it resolves.
All of this is to say that John Ciardi has done what the maker of any artwork wants to do, which is to make the very difficult look easy, to give form to the wildest feelings, and—though this rarely happens—to give the art a shape it didn’t have before. One would think that such a shape in poetry would begin to appear in anthologies and textbooks, and that other poets would be persuaded by the intriguing challenges and possibilities to write their own trenta-seis.
Pasted from http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/guide/242214