Ch’I Yen Shih

Ch’i-Yen-Shih metre

This is, believe it or not, a Chinese verse form. Whether it’s worth doing in English is debatable. Stanzas have four lines of seven syllables each, with lines 2 and 4 rhyming. Each line has a caesura, or break, after the fourth syllable; I have laid the example out to emphasise this. That’s all there is to it, really, except that, to make it sound a little more Chinese, only words of one syllable should be used. 
Long straight black road
far from home.
The moon hangs snagged
in the trees.
Foot down, I speed
through the night.
Rain falls in sheets,
starts to freeze.
The cats eyes pulse
like Morse code.
Far sparks speed close,
blaze then fade.
For hours on end
there’s no change:
Road, light, rain, wind,
screen and blade.
I’m tired and cold,
on my own.
How much of this
can I take?
I grit my teeth,
try to guess
How long I’ll last
till I brake.
Thanks to Bob Newman for his wonderful Volecentral resource site
Ancient Verse is probably the same verse form as Ch’I Yen Shih from the Lu Shi code verse. Ancient Verse is found desribed in John Drury’s poe-try-dic-tion-ar-y and is similar to Ch’I Yen Shi, with slight variation. As described by Drury, caesura was not specified and more latitude was given in the character count. This is probably an example of how form evolves or is corrupted by translation. For now I will treat this verse form as separate.
(Drury uses “syllable count”) Technically in Chinese prosody, character count and syllable count are one in the same since Chinese characters are one word and Chinese words are usually one syllable. However in English translation, a character could represent a 2 or 3 syllable English word. I use “character” in most of my metric descriptions of Chinese verse and often count words rather than syllables when attempting to write poems using Chinese verse forms in English. However, since Drury’s book describes the meter for this form as syllabic, I follow his lead.
Ancient Verse is:
  • stanzaic, written in quatrains.
  • syllabic, 5 to 7 syllable lines. isosyllabic (7/7/7/7) or (5/5/5/5)
  • rhymed, rhyme scheme either xaxa xaxa etc or xaxa xbxb etc. ( xaxaxaxa etc or xaxaxbxb)
  • no fixed tone pattern.
  • always composed with parallels and balance.
    pyramid by Judi Van Gorder

  • fresh dug dirt makes space and waits
  • rich earth forms a pyramid
    to welcome polished pine box
    with white roses on the lid
Thanks to Judi Van Gorder for her wonderful PMO resource site.
My example poem
Surveillance       (Ch’I Yen Shih)

My house has eyes in the dark
Big dogs see but first they smell.
I don’t switch them – off or on
still they serve as my door bell.

© Lawrencealot – April 9, 2014

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Lushi or lüshi (traditional Chinese: 律詩; simplified Chinese: 律诗; pinyinlǜshīWade–Giles : lü-shih) refers to a specific form of Classical Chinese poetry verse form. One of the most important poetry forms of Classical Chinese poetry, the lushi refers to an eight-line regulated verse form with lines made up of five, six, or seven characters; thus:
  • Five-character eight-line regulated verse (wulu): a form of regulated verse with eight lines of five characters each.
  • Six-character eight-line regulated verse is relatively rare.
  • Seven-character eight-line regulated verse (qilu): a form of regulated verse with eight lines of seven characters each.
All lushi forms are rhymed on the even lines, with one rhyme being used throughout the poem. Also, and definitionally, the tonal profile of the poem is controlled (that is, “regulated”).
And since, the Lushi, according to the above, must be “Regulated Verse” what the heck is that?
Regulated verse consisting of the three jintishi or “new style poetry” forms of lushijueju, and pailu while retaining the basic characteristics are distinguished from the gushi or “old style poetry” by the addition of a number of formal rules, most of which they share in common, but in some of which they differ. These rules include:
  • Number of lines are limited to four for jueju, eight for lushi, and an unlimited, greater, even number for the pailu. In each case, the poem is arranged in paired lines in the form of couplets.
  • Line lengths are all the same in terms of syllables or characters throughout any given poem. Generally, the line length is fixed at five or seven or characters per line; although, there are some poems which have a six character line-length. The line length is also used for the purpose of further classifying the main three forms of regulated verse into subtypes.
  • Rhyme is mandatory. Rhyme, or rime, is based on a sometimes somewhat technical rhyme scheme. The rhyme of a poem can be difficult to determine, especially for older poems as pronounced in modern versions of Chinese; however, even as early as the Tang Dynasty, formal rhyme might be based upon authoritative references in a rime table or rime dictionary, rather than on actual vernacular speech. Generally level tones only rhyme with level tones, and non-level (or “deflected”) tones only formally rhyme with other non-level tones. Also, the first line of the poem may also set the rhyme, more often in the seven-character form than the five-character.
  • The pattern of tonality within the poem is regulated according to certain fixed patterns of alternating level and deflected tones. Although there is some question as to the status of tone in older forms of Chinese, in Middle Chinese (characteristic of the Chinese of the Sui DynastyTang Dynasty, and Song Dynasty), a four tone system developed. For the purposes of regulated verse, the important distinction is between the level tone (similar to the modern Mandarin Chinese first tone) and the other three tones which are all classified in the category of deflected tones.
  • Parallelism is a feature of regulated verse. The parallelism requirement means that the two parallel lines must match each word in each line with the word which is in the same position in the other line, the match can be in terms of grammatical function, comparison or contrast, phonology, among other considerations: the degree of parallelism can vary and the type of parallelism is crucial to the meaning of a well-written regulated verse poem. Phonological parallelism can include various considerations, including tonality. Grammatical function parallelism examples include matching colors, actions, numeric quantities and so on. In the eight-line lushi form, which is composed of four couplets, the middle two couplets have internal parallelism; that is, the third and fourth line are parallel with each other and the fifth and sixth lines are parallel with each other. The jueju is more flexible in terms of required parallelism, although it may be present. The pailu requires parallelism for all couplets except for the first and last pair.
  • The caesura, or a pause between certain phrases within any given line is a standard feature of regulated verse, with the main rule being for a major caesura preceding the last three syllables within a line. Thus, in the six-line verse the major caesura divides the line into two three-character halves. Furthermore, in the seven-character line, there is generally a minor caesura between the first and second pairs of characters.
Besides the tonality parallelism that English cannot duplicate, we can substitue Literary Parallelism.
Parallelism: Similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses.
Parallelism takes place when two similar phrases are joined to make just one sentence. Or when you combine subjects, object or adjectives with conjunction.
I hope only someone who is [a] bi-lingual in in Chinese and English,  [b] more intelligent than I, and [c] a poet will be able to properly define how we should specify the correct writing of these poems in English, but here is my attempt to provide a common starting point.
Corrections and enhancements eagerly sought.
Restated Rules –  Lushi for Dummies

The poem is eight lines long.
There is not meter required.
It is word based: Each line must have the same number of words, either 5,6, or 7.
Even lines should exhibit mono-rhyme.
Caesura (a pause) should separate clauses.
The first couplet should set-up the poem.
The final couple should provide the conclusion.
The middle two couplets should develop the theme.
There should be some type of parallelism between alternate lines of the development quatrain.

Example Poem
Grandpa’s Visit     (Lushi)

grandfather enters room; grandson smiles
toddles towards papa; wanting play.
boy, man watch each other
each watching the other’s way
boy and grandpa mutually focused
each learning from each today.
grandson points down- to floor
that means, “Papa, here! stay!

© Lawrencealot – November 24, 2013

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Note I chose the five character poem this time.

Jue Ju

Storyline(jue ju)
This is Chinese style poetry
jue ju—– the curtailed or frustrated verse, does not mean to tell a story but to create a mood. It does in the most frugal way imaginable, and with a high tone. The impression one gets is much like that from a symphony orchestra where a solo instrument takes up the theme. A jue ju has only four lines of five or seven syllables each.
Jue Ju (curtailed or frustrated verse) is one of the oldest of the Chinese patterns and in the 3rd century AD the Jue Ju was very popular. It often carried “suggestively erotic themes”. It does not tell a story but attempts to create a mood.
The basic rhythmic unit of Chinese poem is the single character (zi), which is pronounced as one syllable. In English the word represented by the character might be more than one syllable. Originally the Jue Ju was composed in 5 character lines. By the Tang era, 8th century it had evolved to a 7 character pattern and became fundamental to Chinese poetry.
The Jue Ju is:
  • metered, 5 or 7 character or word lines. (lines should be same length)
  • composed of 4 lines.
  • often erotic.
  • compared to Western poetry could be considered terse and compressed. 

    秋月 () 

    隔断红尘三十里,白云红叶两悠悠。Autumn Moon by Cheng Hao translated by Xiao-zhen aka worm, Nov 6,2009
    Over green hills a limpid brook flows
    Sky mirrored in the water of autumn hue
    Away from the distant earthly world
    Maple leaves and velvet clouds leisurely float
    “The Autumn Moon, a seven-character-‘cutshorts’ (jue ju), was composed by an ancient Chinese poet Chen Hao (1032–1085), a philosopher of Northern Song Dynasty. No line of the poem touches the autumn moon, but it shines every line.” ~~Xiao-zhen aka worm

    pillow woman by judi Van GorderRaven strands of silk tangle
    and spread over her pillow.
    With soft eyes, pleasure waits
    white curves stretch upon futon.

Thanks to Judi at PMO.
Example Poem
Steady breathing warms my neck
laughing at winter’s cold assault.
My thighs touching your curves;
winter coldness overcome by warmth.