Skip to content

Chocolate Poetry

Chocolate Poetry

It's end of module assignment time and this semester I've been studying and writing Poetry 2, Creative Non-Fiction and Art of the Short Story. Three modules, and the Short Story tutor was encouraging us to use groups of three — the street was very run down ... front doors with flaking paint, broken windows and fencing with missing planks. That is, apparently, a frequently used technique in short story writing.

The only real sign that the embassy is an embassy at all is the little brass plaque on the door (which reads: ‘THE EMBASSY OF CAMBODIA’) and the national flag of Cambodia (we assume that’s what it is – what else could it be?) flying from the red-tiled roof.
(from The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith)

It's subtle, the plaque, the flag and the red roof tiles, but it's a group of three nouns describing the embassy and they were indeed cropping up in many of the short stories we read. In addition to whichever story we were studying that week we were also recommended to read at least two other short stories plus the short stories our classmates had written — Art of the Short Story was so popular it was split into two groups of 13, making 12 pieces of writing to read and give feedback on.

I Want a Trio

Trio is a chocolate bar sold in the United Kingdom consisting of a combination of soft toffee, thick milk chocolate and biscuit. The Trio brand is owned by United Biscuits and sold under the McVitie's brand. Trio was previously manufactured by Jacob's who discontinued production in 2003, but the chocolate bar returned in March 2016 following a campaign on Facebook.
(from Wikipedia article on the Trio chocolate bar)

Are you old enough to remember the Trio adverts from the 80s? If not why not remind yourself with this Trio Advert from 1984 on YouTube :)

I'm cracking on with my poetry assignment at the moment ... 2,000 to 3,000 words of poetry, which equates to about a pamphlet of 20 poems (my Dressing Up pamphlet contains just under 1,900 words of poetry ... I was curious so I opened it in Word and checked it out!). This semester's poetry has been all about forms. We've done pantoums, sestinas, sonnets, haiku, Oulipo, found poetry, free verse and villanelles and probably a couple of how does all this link to chocolate you may ask? Well, if I'm honest, the chocolate was clickbait!

Poetic Threes

I do enjoy haiku, a traditional Japanese form with 3 lines ... line one has five syllables, line two has seven, and line three has five, giving a total of 17 syllables. Correct, that's not going to make much of an inroad into the 2,000 minimum word count, but they can be fun to write and usually only take a few minutes to draft and edit.

I actually read one of my haiku at a poetry and talk about water held at the Copper Bar in Swansea on Friday. The university Freshwater Interdisciplinary Research And Engagement Lab (FIRE Lab) arranged the event under the heading of What is Water? the guest speaker, Australian geographer, Dr. Emily O’Gorman, discussed her research on water cultures in Wiradjuri country, Australia. She read three academic papers that she had written and between each talk Swansea poets read poems about water. I'd share my haiku here but it would then not be eligible to be used in my assignment ;)

The form that got me thinking about chocolate Trio biscuits though is the Triolet. Like haiku and its related longer form, the tanka, which has two extra lines of seven syllables each after the regular haiku 5-7-5 it can be written quite speedily. Because the first line of a triolet gets repeated twice and the second line gets repeated once, that only leaves five lines to write.

The form of the triolet is like this:

  • Line 1 gets repeated as line 4 and line 7
  • Line 2 gets repeated as line 8
  • Line 3 rhymes with line 1
  • and line 2 rhymes with line 2

So, in a triolet's eight lines only five of them are unique or mostly unique. The idea is that the repeated lines have different meaning each time they are repeated. Thomas Hardy was the first poet I ever loved and we were given one of his triolets to read:

In “How Great My Grief," Hardy displays both his mastery of the triolet and the potency of the form:
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee!
—Have the slow years not brought to view
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Not memory shaped old times anew,
Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee?
The first line, “How great my grief, my joys how few," is, in its two subsequent appearances, modified by the movement of time in the poem. Initially, the line assumes a declarative position, indicating the subject and tone of the poem, one of grief and love lost. By its third iteration, after several queries to the person being addressed, the line takes on the added weight of the speaker’s astonished grief that the addressee has not, despite the years, recognized the speaker’s profound sense of loss.
(from Academy of American Poets)

The first three years of my poetry-writing life was heavily influenced my Lord Misery Guts, Thomas Hardy, and Baron Impossible to Understand, T. S. Eliot, which produced quite a bizarrely depressive tinge to my poems! It has been commented on a few times during the 11-week Poetry 2 course, that echoes of Eliot still linger ;)


My timeline is to get my poetry assignment finished and submitted by Tuesday, 30 April 2019, which leaves me nine days to finish my 6,000 words of creative non-fiction by 9 May, and 6,000 words for Art of the Short Story by Monday 15th. I think, for my CNF, I'm going to write two pieces of 3,000 words and, for Short Story I'm going to do a 3,000-word piece and then a 2,000-word one and a 1,000-word one ... yes, that's right: not one, not two but three things in it ... I want a Trio and I want one NOW!!! :)

Chocolate Poetry #Trio #PoeticForms #Swansea

Published incompetitions and submissionseducationPoetry


  1. Frances Frances

    Thanks for all the lessons about form! I’m doing the April challenge, day 28 now, have to write about a favourite city. I’ve written about NY a lot, so tried to jingle it up with a pantoum! I also seem to list things in three, although I do think I read somewhere, not to do this ALL the time, to vary, can’t remember where, but thanks for all the good tips and ideas here, Giles.

  2. Nell Nelson Nell Nelson

    I think you deserve a trio of trios….

  3. I hope your first goal was reached and you will be well into the other two by tomorrow – or I suppose that’s today for you. I’m just off to bed, and you are probably just getting up to write another day. I like haiku a lot, and always did them with my young poets. Amazing how fast they get the hang of them.

Leave a Reply

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

© 2021 Giles L. Turnbull · All rights reserved

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: