Tercets are any three lines of poetry, whether as a stanza or as a poem, rhymed or unrhymed, metered or unmetered. The haiku is a tercet poem.
Haiku- a Japanese, three-line form generally about nature and the seasons or which incorporates such related imagery. It is based also on a syllable count of 5-7-5 per line, though that is not a strict rule. This is an example from Basho, one of the most famous Japanese haikuists, from "Fourteen Haiku:"
I would lie down drunk
on a bed of stone covored
with soft pinks blooming.
The Shiki Internet Haiku Salon
How to Haiku: The haiku relies on image to provide everything else a poem should. Inside the image lies spirit, emotion, and idea, and these are released when the image is isolated (for lack of better word) from the rest of the world. The image itself is what is important becuase it is supposed to evoke a response in our senses that is both cerebral and physical. Whether or not this is always achievable is a good question. It seems to me that a good haiku is nothing more than a moment of Zen wherein everything is evoked, and nothing is evoked, if that makes any sense at all.
Some other common tercets are:
Enclosed tercet- a triplet that rhymes "aba". If the three lines are written in iambic pentameter, then they are called a sicilian tercet. This is just a silly, normal tercet:
I am a yellow dog
who wishes he was
a purple-spotted frog.
Terza Rima- this form is created by interlocking any number of enclosed triplet stanzas, meaning the first and third lines of a stanza rhyme, and the middle line rhymes with the first and third lines of the following stanza like this "aba bcb cdc ded" and so on.
I am a yellow dog
who would rather be
a toad. Too many frogs
have ideas about the sea,
foreign swamps and bayous,
my own puddle makes me happy . . .
Villanelle- a tough form. It uses triplets for most of the poem, and that is why it is included under Tercets, but you won't find anything about it here.
If your writing a poem that is made up entirely of tercets, then they should behave in the same manner as a poem made up of couplets, evocative and somewhat self-contained. If not (perhaps you're writing a sonnet), then the tercet becomes a cog in a wheel, necessary to the functioning of the poem.
-- Damon McLaughlin
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