M for Madrigal

The Madrigal originated as an Italian form. It was also a form of music (Read here). The Italian Madrigals have a wide set of complex rules and even in those rules there’s so much variability that it is hard to define the elements and the structure of a Madrigal in just a few points.

So we should probably move on to the English-version of the Madrigal which was developed by Geoffrey Chaucer. (There is another form of Madrigal which was developed by Scot Poet William Drummond)

Let’s go over the rules laid out by Chaucer:
1) The poem has three stanzas: a tercet, a quatrain, and a sestet with the following rhyme pattern- abb abab abbabb.
2) All three of the lines in the opening tercet are refrains. So with the refrains the poem looks like this- 123 xx12 xxx123

Combining rules (1) and (2), we have

Line 1: A
Line 2: B1
Line 3: B2

Line 4: a
Line 5: b
Line 6: A
Line 7: B1

Line 8: a
Line 9: b
Line 10: b
Line 11: A
Line 12: B1
Line 13: B2

Here’s my example poem:

Yet another day as I lay in my bed
Hard to earn a bread, hard to make a wage
I am stranded deep in my own cage

I stare at a screen all day and it hurts my head
Seems like my life has become a blank page
Yet another day gone as I lay in my bed
Hard to earn a bread, hard to make a wage

I clasp onto a smile, but from inside I am dead
All this frustration, all this rage
I wonder why no damn soul was able to gauge
Yet another day gone as I lay in my bed
Hard to earn a bread, hard to make a wage
I am stranded deep in my own cage

L for Limericks

Limericks are a popular form of humourous and silly poetry and you might have heard of them.
These are five line poems which follow aabba rhyme scheme. Lines 1,2 and 5 are bit longer and rhyme while the shorter ones 3 and 4 rhyme. As mentioned on the top, they are humorous, silly and sometimes even bawdy.

Here’s one about me doing this A to Z Poetry series :

There is a young man who writes,
poetry in varied styles, about days and nights
He portrays his best
And hides some in his closet,
the skeleton remains of lovers who now lay quiet.

For more Limericks you should check this out – Limericks by Edward Lear from A Book of Nonsense

K for Kyrielle

The Kyrielle is a French four-line stanza form that has a refrain in the fourth line. Each of the lines must contain 8 syllables. The poem can be of minimum 2 stanzas or longer. The rhyme scheme in the poem could be any of aabb/ aaab/ abab and abcb.

My exampe below will help you get a better grip on the rules and structure of a Kyrielle :

You open out your palms to me
A rose of desire, burning flame
A cloud you pose to barren lands
Maybe my heart is not the same

A man so frail as cuckoo’s nest
A puzzle not so hard to tame
All of it, just a mirror now
because my heart is not the same

The hilltops have been fleeced to plains
“Oh my Lord, that is such a shame”
A plea, a song, and an exclaim
but my heart is just not the same.

J for Jisei-no-ku

‘Jisei-no-ku’ is another Japanese poetry form. It is a death poem, called jisei or jisei-no-ku or zetsumei-shi in Japanese. It is a poem written near the time of one’s own death. It was a tradition for literate people to write one in a number of different cultures, especially in Japan and Joseon Korea, as well as in certain periods of Chinese history.
Also, the Japanese warrior class (samurai) had a tradition of writing death poems specifically termed as ‘Jisei-no-ku’, often before committing ritual suicide to expiate some breach of honour.
There are no strucutural rules as such since these poems can be written under variety of poetic structures including Haiku and Tanka(5-7-5-7-7 syllablic structure).

Here’s my ‘Jisei-no-ku’ (Hopefully nobody gets to say ‘The timing of the poem was perfect’) :
Higher and higher she flew
The last gasp of the wings
All soaring things must fall
Even the clouds and stars
Only a sky of memories remains.

Let’s look at one of Matsuo Bashō‘s poem which had been recorded by his disciple Takarai Kikaku as his last poem during his final illness (Source- Wikipedia). This piece is generally accepted as his poem of farewell:


Tabi ni yande
yume wa kareno o

Falling ill on a journey
my dreams go wandering
over withered fields.

I for Interlocking Rubaiyat

Next up on my list in this A to Z Poetry Series is Interlocking Rubaiyat, sometimes referred to as Rubai.
Let’s go over the rules for this poetry form:

  • The poem is comprised of quatrains(4 line stanzas) following an aaba rhyme pattern.
  • Each quatrain picks up the unrhymed line of the previous stanza as the rhyme for that stanza. So a three-stanza rubaiyat might rhyme as: aaba/bbcb/ccdc or as aaba/bbcb/cccc (the final stanza may rhyme all 4 lines).
  • Lines are usually in tetrameter or pentameter.

My example down below will clear the doubts; if any; regarding the rules.
One of my all time favourite poems by Robert Frost ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening‘ is also an Interlocking Rubaiyat.

Here is my Interlocking Rubaiyat titled ‘Half Beautiful’

The moon hides in her pearly black hair
The red tinged clouds, she carries their flair
There is a mark of beauty on her face
And Earth’s hurled dreams in her stare.

A trembling hope, a pocket full of grace
She carries spirituality’s last smoldering trace
The heavens once whispered in her ear
‘You are a star with no contrasting black space’.

She is half happiness, half of her is fear
She may rain down in pain, or shed no tear
But my soul yearns for her peacock cheer
My soul yearns for her to be near.

H for Haiku

Haiku is a Japanese form of Poetry which now has become widely popular, specially among the English poets. The traditional Japanese form is a 17 syllable poem which has three lines with the first and the last line each having 5 syllables and the 2nd line carrying 7 syllables.

There has been a lot of debate on whether to follow the 5-7-5 structure in English Haikus or not. There are obviously inherent differences in both the languages (Japanese and English) and hence some poets label it as a ‘traditional misunderstanding’ to carry the 5-7-5 form in English. So may be it is better to just work with the short, concise wording and a reference to nature; the elements of a traditional Haiku. Well, since poets are the only governing bodies of their poems, we can do pretty much what we want with our poems.

I will leave an example by the greatest master of ‘Haiku’ Matsuo Bashō followed by one of my attempts.

古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音
Furuike ya/ Kawazu tobikomu/ Mizu no oto

English translation:

The old pond
A frog leaps in.
Sound of the water.

And, here’s mine:

A country boy lives
In blanket of memories
Swaddled in morn dew


The ghazal is one of the most popular forms of poetry in the Indian subcontinent. This form originated from Arabia in the seventh century and then spread into South Asia in the 12th century due to the influence of Sufi mystics.

The ghazal is a poem consisting of rhyming couplets, called Sher. A poem is considered a true ghazal if it has atleast five couplets(shers). Almost all ghazals confine themselves to less than fifteen couplets (poems that exceed this length are considered as qasidas). Ghazal couplets end with the same rhyming pattern and are expected to have the same meter. A ghazal’s couplets do not need a common theme or continuity. Each sher in itself is a like a micro poem, independent from the others, containing the complete expression of an idea. However, the shers all contain a thematic or tonal connection to each other, which may be highly allusive. 

A ghazal’s rhyming pattern may be described as
aa, ba, ca, da…and so on and so forth.

A typical Ghazal must have these five elements:

Matlaa(the aa couplet) : The first sher in a ghazal is called the ‘matlaa’. Both lines of the matla must contain the qaafiyaa and radif. The matlaa sets the tone of the ghazal, as well as its rhyming and refrain pattern.
Radif/Radeef: The refrain word or phrase. Both lines of the matlaa and the second lines of all subsequent shers must end in the same refrain word called the radif.
Qaafiyaa/Kaafiya: It refers to the rhyming pattern. The radif is immediately preceded by words or phrases with the same end rhyme pattern, called the qaafiyaa.
Bah’r/Beher: Each line of a ghazal must follow the same metrical pattern and syllable count.
Maqtaa/Maktaa: The last couplet of the ghazal is called the maqtaa. It is common in ghazals for the poet’s pen name, known as takhallus to be featured in the maqtaa. The maqtaa is typically more personal than the other couplets in a ghazal.

Here’s my first attempt at a Hindustani(Hindi + Urdu) Ghazal in Devnagri Script.

जब इश्क़ अधूरा मुकम्मल हुआ, वो रूह से लिपटा रह गया
पर इश्क़ वो क्या इश्क़ ही जो, पन्नों में सिमटा रह गया

मौसमों ने पलट दी काया हर शाख  की
वो  पत्ता  फिर  पत्ता ही क्या, जो  पतझड़ में  सिमटा  रह  गया

दावतें हज़ार हुई, हमें एक ना बुलावा आया
सोच उसकी सोच ही क्या, जो छोटी सोच में सिमटा रह गया

राहों ने सुराग छोडे, मंजिलों को मिल गए
किनारा वो किनारा क्या, जो लहरों में सिमटा रह गया

सिसकियाँ धुंन बन गईं, गीतों का अंबार लगा
टूटा हुआ वो दिल जब उसकी यादों में सिमटा रह गया।

The same Ghazal in Roman Alphabet

Ishq adhura mukammal hua, woh jab rooh meri se lipta reh gya
Pr ishq woh kya ishq hi jo pannon mein simta reh gya

Mausmon ne palat di kaaya har shaakh ki
Woh patta fir patta kya jo patjhadon mein simta reh gya

Daawtein hazar hui, humko ek na bulawa aaya
Soch uski soch kya, jo choti soch mein simta reh gya

Raahon ne surag chode, manjilon ko mil gye
Kinara woh kinara kya jo lehron mein simta reh gya

Siskiyan dhun ban gyi, geeton ka ambar lga
Tutta hua woh dil jab uski yaadon mein simta reh gya

And finally, the English translation of the Ghazal

My love is complete, when in your soul I am wrapped
You can’t call it love though, if in pages, it’s trapped

Seasons changed the shape of every branch
You can’t call it a leaf if in autumn it’s trapped

A thousand dinners were arranged, but I was invited to none
A thought is meaningless if in narrow minds it’s trapped

Roads left the clues, destinations found them
You cannot call it a coast if amidst the waves it’s trapped

Whimpers turned into melody while songs rolled down my eyes
Because my broken heart still lives in her memories, in memories it’s trapped.

F for Fibonacci

This Poetry form will definitely interest math geeks. A Fiboncci poem is based on the Fibonacci Series. It was invented by Gregory K. Pincus as a 6-line poem that follows the Fibonacci sequence for syllable count per line.

To understand how this works we need to understand the Fibonacci math sequence. It starts with 0 and 1 and then we keep on adding the last two numbers together till we reach infinity.

Here’s how the Fibonacci series looks like
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …
and so on and so forth…

So for a 6 line poem:

  • 1 syllable for first line
  • 1 syllable for second line
  • 2 syllables for third
  • 3 syllables for fourth
  • 5 syllables for fifth
  • 8 syllables for sixth

There are some variations of this form where we continue further than just 6 lines while following the Fibonacci series for syllable count per line.

Here’s my attempt at a Fib

say your
name with a
dazzle in my eyes
They label it as a poem.

E for Echo

The Echo poem or verse is another interesting form of poetry. Here, we just have to follow a simple rule that the end syllable(s) of each of the lines have to be repeated in the same line. Sometimes a near rhyme works too. Other than that there are no rules.

There are two ways to structure an Echo verse: Repeat the ending syllable(s) at the end of the same line or repeat the ending syllable(s) on its own line directly beneath each line. We can take a one line example for both the structures-

Do you know? No

Do you know?

Here’s my attempt at an Echo Poem

Every inch of the hills, thrills
I walk, I cover, recover
All of me that was lost, cost
of a life so wasted, hasted.

Do you know? No
That when I open my arms, farms
that regrow the stems of my soul, whole,
talk to me with brisky breezes, appeases
in these creeky syllables of life,rife
And now I know your worth, earth.

D for Dodoitsu

The dodoitsu(which sounds a lot like Jiu-Jitsu) is a Japanese poetry form developed in 19th century. As with most Japanese forms, like the haiku, or the tanka, the dodoitsu does not have meter or rhyme constraints, focusing on syllables instead.
This 4-line poem has a total of 26 syllables; 7 syllables in the first three lines and 5 syllables in the fourth and final line. The form, tone and structure of Dodoitsu is said to have been derived from Japanese folk songs. These poems often focus on love or work with a comical twist.

Here’s an example by Robert Lee Brewer (Senior Editor at Writers Digest)

when a geologist speaks
& the earth trembles seven
meteorologists get
sucked in a twister

Here’s one of my attempts (not about love or a comical sattire) –

I call it what I see it
But they have blindfold on one
All heil the creed of the hour
Truth is the new jew.