X for Xiaoshi #NaPoWriMo2021

Xiaoshi,(xiao – little/small, shi – poetry) is a genre of Chinese poetry which came into being in the 1920s from the so called “short poetry movement’. It is also known as the ‘Chinese Haiku‘. Xiaoshis are about presenting vivid yet unconnected images together. These metaphors or pictures just have to have a tiny bit of causality. This form is usually written as a quatrain.

For more on this form, read – “Japanese haiku and the formation of Chinese short poetry

Here’s an example I wrote :-

A purple frown
Her moral jewellery under lock
The rust browned key
A gift from a past lover.

W for Waka #NaPoWriMo2021

The forms of Japanese poetry most familiar to English poets are the Haiku and the Senryu, the 17-syllable poems. But these popular forms were derived from an older, but still popular poetic form, the Waka, which had been used for a thousand years before the haiku. The word waka means “Japanese poem,” and it is a form so basic to Japanese literature that it is still studied and written today.

The Waka is often considered synonymous with Tanka (another Japanese poetry form), because both follow a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable per line structure. However, some sources on the Waka suggests that it groups its lines together in a particular way and that is how it is differentiated from a Tanka. The first 3 lines should make up one piece, referred to as the upper verse, and the last 2 lines make another piece, what’s called as the lower verse. Some other sources group this poem into a 2-2-1 or a 2-3 form as well.

Here’s a poem that I wrote in NaPoWriMo 2020 and am still not sure whether to call it a waka or a tanka :-

A tinker bell
spun my beliefs out of
my head
While I tried to drag myself
out of the plato’s cave

V for Villanelle #NaPoWriMo2021

The Villanelle (came from villancico; Italian villano, or peasant) emerged as Italian and Spanish dance-songs during the Renaissance period. In france, it started as a ballad like free form. It did not follow any specific schemes, rhymes, or refrains. Rather, the title implied that, like the Italian and Spanish dance-songs, the poems spoke of simple, often pastoral or rustic themes. Overtime, it transformed into a form with a strict pattern and was used by English poets to write lyrical poems.

The Villanelle a highly structured poem with 19 lines, composed of six stanzas with five tercets(3 line stanzas) followed by a quatrain(4 line stanza). The poem uses two repeating rhymes and two refrains. The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza, the refrain serves as the poem’s two concluding lines. The form can be expressed as :-

A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2
Capitals stand for the refrains and lowercase letters for the rhymes.

To get a better grip over the rules, read “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas 

Here’s my attempt at a Villanelle :-

Foolish I would be not to say but speak
of this new land with a waning king
And the pastures turning gray and weak.

The summer has left all rough and bleak
Desolate farms linger for the spring
Foolish I would be not to say but speak.

The birds all howl and squeak
Watching torrid green lost to a wring
And the pastures turning gray and weak.

I hunt not for righteousness, but only seek
With faith of a new day, and all it could bring
Foolish I would be not to say but speak.

The Emperor, he stands at the mightiest peak
While all else beneath him keeps breaking
And the pastures turning gray and weak.

What water couldn’t find in a lonely creek
We long for it with hope tied to a string
Foolish I would be not to say but speak
And the pastures turning gray and weak.



S for Senryu #NaPoWriMo2021

Senryu is one of the most popular forms of Japanese poetry consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Sounds a lot like haiku? Often people confuse a senryu for being a haiku. It is because senryu follows almost the same standard rules as haiku without the reference to nature.

The important thing to remember is that in case of Senryu subjects tend to be related to human nature (as opposed to just nature in case of Haikus). They covers various subjects like romance, human relationships, ironic behavior, and often end with a “knowing moment” and little spark of laughter.

The 5-7-5 syllablic structure is a mere guideline . The main goal is to capture an image or moment in a short and concise way.

Here’s my attempt at a Senryu :-

Every little fete
Another nail in the coffin
I am getting married

Q for Quintilla #NaPoWriMo2021

A quintilla is a Spanish quintain(five line stanza). It has 8 syllables in each line and employs an ab rhyme scheme with at least two lines of “a” rhyme and at least two lines of “b” rhyme. Also, no three consecutive lines may rhyme nor may the stanza end in a couplet. The most commonly used rhyme scheme in a Quintilla is abaab but other variations such as ababa, abbab, aabab and aabba are also used. A decastich, (2 quintillas) is also known as Copla Real.

Here’s my attempt at a Quintilla :-

Every syllable is a mold
words and desires already seen
by the living and all things cold
by the new world, and one that’s old
Every poem that is, it’s (already) been.

K for Kwansaba #NaPoWriMo2021

The Kwansaba is a form of praise poetry invented by Eugene B. Redmond. This form is based on the seven day holiday of Kwanzaa and the its seven principles – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The poetry form celebrates and praises these seven principles in African- American communities. Some of its elements of praise are derived from South African traditions.

It is a seven line poem with seven words in each line. No word in the poem exceeds the letter count of seven. There are no rhyming constraints in this form.

Here’s my attempt at one. The muse of my example is the reigning UFC heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou.

Born and raised in the Guinea Gulf
Forged in the fire of Central world
He sailed to cross the endless sea
and failed, failed till he made it
to the city of lights, under lights
The hands of steel left a mark
A golden crown rests on his waist.

H for Haiku #NaPoWriMo2021

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 candle burnt bright
vivacious night in fumes
Morning dew is served

F for Flamenca #NaPoWriMo2021

Flamenca (also known as Seguidilla Gitana or Sequiriya) carries a fast staccato rhythm. This spanish poetry form is a quintain (5-line stanza). There can be any number of stanzas in a Flamenca.

The syllabic structure is 6-6-5-6-6 . These syllable count per line imitate the rapid click of the heels of a flamenco dancer. Lines 2 and 5 assonate(same vowel sounds). Modern versions of this form often just simply rhyme lines two and five.

Here’s my attempt at a flamenca :-

April my dear retreat
How you enter my home
The smell of the earth
the sun, sweltering hot
fertile dreams of my loam.

Loins of a berry tree
lying on the bare sand
The harsh beauty of
a barren loneliness
taking over the land

C for Cascade Poetry #NaPoWriMo2021

Today we are discussing Cascade poems. This poetry form was invented by Udit Bhatia (checkout his example via this link). The rules of this poem are pretty simple. Each line from the first stanza of the poem will be the used as the final line of the following stanzas.

For example a quatrain cascade would look like this :-

ABCD (first stanza with 4 lines)
abcA (second stanza with line A as the final line)
defB (third stanza with line B as the final line)
ghiC (fourth stanza with line C as the final line)
jklD (fifth stanza with line D as the final line).

You can do the same with a tercet like- ABC/ abA/ cdB/ efC or say if you have a couplet as your first stanza, then the structure would be like- AB/ aA/ bB. The same can also be done for a 5 (or more) line stanza.

As you can see, the number of stanzas in this poem will be one more than the number of lines in your first stanza. A tercet cascade will have four stanzas. Similarly, a quatrain cascade poem will have five stanzas in it.

Here’s a quatrain cascade I wrote :-

Gone from the roads of the sand
The pepper in the wind thrives
The sorrow has left a blotch on the cheeks
and now a sigh is what survives.

I covered my face in this storm
And my face was a mask by the dawn
Pretending the despair was gone,
Gone from the roads of the sand

The squirrels swarm into the ironwood
While the oleanders bend to touch the ground
A pith black flocks the sun
The pepper in the wind thrives

Petals of the autumn quiver
this turmoil casts a hapless spell
Eyes blear in the soot of tumultation
The sorrow has left a blotch on the cheeks

The restlessness is the air woes the sky
Till I uncover the locus of the gale
I hold onto my veins to bereft the storm
and now a sigh is what survives.


S for Sonnet

O Sonnet!
Thou art swa lufiendlic

The two most famous forms of the sonnet are the Shakespearean Sonnet (named after William Shakespeare) and the Petrarcan Sonnet (named after Francesco Petrarca). But sonnets don’t necessarily need to be Shakespearean or Petrarcan to be considered sonnets. In fact, there are any number of other sonnet varieties as well.

Let’s go over the rules of a Shakespearean Sonnet:

  1. This poem has 14 lines divided up into 4 stanzas. 3 quartrets and the final 2 lines are put together in a couplet
  2. The rhyme scheme is structured as:- abab/ cdcd/ efef/ gg

The structure of a Petrarcan Sonnet is a little more complicated. The first eight lines (or octave) are always rhymed abbaabba. But the final six lines (or sestet) can be rhymed any number of ways: cdcdcd, cdedce, ccdccd, cdecde, or cddcee.

There are couple of interesting terminologies related to Sonnets that I would also like to cover:-

  • crown of sonnets is made by seven sonnets. The last line of each sonnet must be used as the first line of the next until the seventh sonnet. The last line of that seventh sonnet must be the first line of the first sonnet.
  • sonnet redouble is a sequence of 15 sonnets. Each line from the first sonnet is used (in order) as the the last line of the following 14 sonnets.

Shakespeare’s ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ (Sonnet 18) is one of my all time favourite sonnets

Here’s a Sonnet that I wrote a long time ago.
Sonnet 4: Wilt our love be as translucent sky?

Wilt our Love be as translucent sky?
diffracting all the chromatic hopes and dreams
A preluding surface on what we shalt lie
That stretches over what we seekth, in eternal schemes?

Could I credit the transcendent stargaze,
And drench my self in glory of revery
Should be exalted from my mortal days
Till throned by my divine wealth,a heart treasury.

But love so pure wilt borrow me happiness
Rather would I be free than so made bound
That pain I hath embossed by my noblesse
Thy Immanent presence shalt incur love profound.

A human heart to which my soul might flee
And dream to fly into the eternal space of love,with thee.