Terza rima: Just riding along


So. You might think I’m just riding along
With no agenda, purpose, urgency
(I know that’s how it looks) but you’d be wrong.
I’m not here simply for the scenery:
This is my office, and I’m working; words
Are waiting in the woods and fields for me,
And ideas dart, elusive as the birds
That hurry in the hedgerows as I pass.
What’s been, what is, what hasn’t yet occurred:
The rhymes and rhythms ripple like spring grass
In glossy swathes, which I will harvest when
I’m back in that false world of bricks and glass
And peddling their illusions once again.
For now, I’ll breathe clean air, survey the land,
Draw in the scents of flowers and soil. And then,
With all of this material to hand,
I’ll set it down on paper. I belong
To this place: everything I understand
Is here and, through this labour, I grow strong.
Though you might think I’m just riding along.


Thought it was time for another attempt at the terza rima, which I’m determined to crack eventually. Its endlessly circulating rhymes (ABA BCB CDC DED etc) seemed just right for a poem about cycling, which is, after all, a game of rotation and movement. The title, incidentally, is a bit of bikeshop-speak: mechanics get so many people bringing in ailing or busted machines and beginning their tale of woe with ‘I was just riding along when…’ that ‘JRA’ is now a common, if somewhat sardonic, abbreviation on many workshop job-sheets. N.

10 thoughts on “Terza rima: Just riding along

  1. Hi Nick

    This is a good one again, and I like the terza rhyme, it does relate to the ongoing wheels…

    It is nice weather here, so I walked this morning, and it is true, it is an office out there if your work is to alter inspiration into a text 🙂 JRA (or JWA) the best ideas might pop up!

    Words are waiting… Find them! 🙂 and enjoy the fresh air!

    • Thank you, Ina – I did manage a little JRA this afternoon, but it was rather grey and chilly out there, unlike yesterday’s beautiful sunshine. Hope you found some good words in your office by the sea! N.

  2. I love this–that words are waiting to be harvested, I so relate. However, I’m not a bike rider. But I absolutely love “JRA”–that makes me laugh, and may keep me going all day. Thank you–God bless. Caddo

  3. Fabulous Nick!

    You are very clever!! That may sound a childlike comment to make but it’s true!! Maybe “gifted” is more appropriate – anyway you know what I mean 🙂

    As for “JRA” I learn something every day here on WP!! :):)

    Christine xx

  4. The tera rima is difficult. I have not written one, but repeated words, as in the sestina, or repeated rhymes are always a challenge. As always, when it comes to superb craftsmanship, you manage to meet the mark. The key to rhyme, at least from the Tom Davis book of the poetic craft (LOL), is to try to mix the syllables in the rhyming word up. If you always use just one syllable in the rhyming it sounds too staccato, especially when you test the music of the poem by reading it outloud. If you can mix two, three, four syllable words with one syllable words (the one syllable words are always going to be required), then the music, and even the meaning, tends to be stronger, and the poem feels more accomplished.
    You, of course, manage to implement that sense here. If you read the poem outloud the tone of the poem, informative teaching hiding the lyricism underneath, is more important than the rhyme, although the rhyme makes the tera rima sing, as is proper. The other thing that is strong in this is the mix of sentence structures. You have declarative sentences, noun, verb, and direct object, but you also have two independent clauses separated by a semi-colon, periodic sentences, and other types. What this achieves is a flow of language mixed effectively with a flow of sense that heightens the effectiveness of the rhyme in creating music.
    I hope it’s okay just to talk about the craft you’ve used here. I’m always interested in that, and I’m intrigued by this form. One of these days I’ll finish the dragon epic and be able to explore other forms again, but one thing at a time.
    This is strong work, Nick.

    • Once again I’m humbled by your insight and interest, Tom – and of course, I’m delighted to have my work examined from a ‘craft’ point of view, since I’ve always seen it as craft (if not artifice) rather than art. I’m still finding my way with the TR form, but your response encourages me to keep going with it! As you know I’m a great admirer of Robert Frost, and his ‘I Have Been One Acquainted With the Night’ is my exemplar. Nothing like aiming high, I guess…! N.

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