Tho Tam Chu

The following description is reposted with permission from Poetry Magnum Opus, with thanks to Judi Van Gorder for years of work on that fine resource.

Tho Tam Chu or Eight Word Poetry [Vietnamese] appears to be more flexible in stanza length as well as tonal and end rhyme. The rhyme schemes are patterns I found in actual poems. It appears to me that as long as there is rhyme, it probably doesn’t matter what the pattern is.  The elements of the Tho Tam Chu are:

  1. stanzaic, written in any number of either tercets, quatrains or septets.
  2. measured by the number of words in the line, 8 words per line.
  3. rhymed,
  4. tonal rhyme is flexible except, if the end word is sharp then the 3rd word is also sharp and words 5 and 6 are flat. Conversely, if the end word is flat then the 3rd word is also flat and the 5th and 6th words are sharp.
  5. end rhyme
  6. when written in tercets
    w w w w w w w a
    w w w w w w a b
    w w w w b w w b
  7. when written in quatrains is:
    w w w w w w w w     or    w w w w w w w w
    w w w w w w w a             w w w w w w w a
    w w w w w w w w            w w w w w w w a
    w w w w w w w a             w w w w w w w w
  8. when written as a septet
    w w w w w w w a
    w w w w w w w a
    w w w w w w w a
    w w w w w w w a
    w w w w w w w b
    w w w w w w w b
    w w w w w w w w

Note: Whereas with the Bay Chu, I copped out because I had no notion of the tonal requirement, I was emboldened here by Judi’s observation that tonal rhyme was flexible. I therefore took the liberty to equate the Vietnamese flat and sharp sounds to the English long and short sounds, and have treated the words in positions 3,5,6 and 8 accordingly.

From Wikipedia

English vowels are sometimes split into “long” and “short” vowels along lines different from the linguistic differentiation. Traditionally, the vowels /eɪ iː aɪ oʊ juː/ (as in bait beat bite boat bute) are said to be the “long” counterparts of the vowels /æ ɛ ɪ ɒ ʌ/ (as in bat bet bit bot but) which are said to be “short”. This terminology reflects their pronunciation before the Great Vowel Shift.

Traditional English phonics teaching, at the preschool to first grade level, often used the term “long vowel” for any pronunciation that might result from the addition of a silent E(e.g., like) or other vowel letter as follows:

Letter “Short” “Long” Example
A a /æ/ /eɪ/ mat / mate
E e /ɛ/ /iː/ pet / Pete
I i /ɪ/ /aɪ/ twin / twine
O o /ɒ/ /oʊ/ not / note
U u /ʌ/ /juː/ cub / cube
A mnemonic was that each vowel’s long sound was its name.
In Middle English, the long vowels /iː, eː, ɛː, aː, ɔː, oː, uː/ were generally written i..e, e..e, ea, a..e, o..e, oo, u..e. With the Great Vowel Shift, they came to be pronounced /aɪ, iː, iː, eɪ, oʊ, uː, aʊ/. Because ea and oo are digraphs, they are not called long vowels today. Under French influence, the letter u was replaced with ou (or final ow), so it is no longer considered a long vowel either. Thus the so-called “long vowels” of Modern English are those vowels written with the help of a silent e.

Wikipedia: Traditional long and short vowels in English orthography

My Example

Form: Tho Tam Chu

Vietnam Poetry Didactic

If word three is long, expect to find
the words five and six not so aligned.
By word three, eight’s sound is now defined.
One must keep these rules within one’s mind.
That being done, then each line is fun,
a challenge yet, here I write this one.
An unrhymed line must still conform like so.

© Lawrencealot – January 31, 2015

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The lai is a form of French origin, even more ancient than the virelai ancien (which evolved from it). It is not to be confused with the Breton lay,  a quite different form of which Chaucer‘s Franklin’s Tale is an example; or the lay, a term sometimes used for a short historical ballad, such Sir Walter Scott‘s Lay of the Last Minstrel; or with the word lay used simply to mean a song. 
Having ensured your total lack of confusion, let me tell you what the lai actually is. It’s like a slimmed-down virelai ancien, with the stanzas not linked by rhyme. Here’s one:
Lai of the Cow
The praises I sing
Of that wondrous thing
The cow.
Let the rafters ring!
My Muse shall take wing,
I vow.Foods our cattle bring
Are fit for a king,
And how!
As white as can be,
The smooth quality
Of silk,
The epitome
Of maternity,
Its milk.You have to agree
You never will see
Its ilk.
For an honoured guest
Save the very best:
The cream.
While those not so blest
Make do with the rest,
And dream.
So nice to digest,
That when it’s suppressed,
Folk scream!You can churn milk, so
It becomes yellow
What could beat that? Oh,
Don’t scoff in that low
I will not forgo
Such pleasure; I’m no
Or you cheddar it.
Thus you make a bit
Of cheese,
A prerequisite
For one exquisite
Good wheeze:
Let’s get the grill lit
And make Welsh rarebit.
Yes please!
Our bovine-sourced feast,
Has it still not ceased?
Good grief!
No, last but not least,
Its flesh when deceased:
The beef.
The worth of this beast
Could not be increased,
In brief.
The syllable count in each triplet of lines is 5, 5, 2, and each triplet rhymes aab. The number of such triplets must be the same in each stanza, and at least two. To assert my virility, I chose to use three. According to the definition I have used, all the triplets within a stanza must use the same rhymes – so in this example the rhyming scheme for each stanza is aabaabaab
However, I have in front of me a poem by Paul Verlaine – it’s called Chanson d’Automne – which has lines the right length for a lai, but stanzas that rhyme aabccb. So is it a lai? I don’t know, but it’s a far better poem than mine, which is the important thing. 
As with many of these old forms, the effort involved in writing one is usually out of all proportion to the worth of the finished poem. But don’t let me talk you out of it!
Thanks to Bob Newman, for the above.  His site is a wonderful and reliable resource.

Related Forms: KyrielleDouble Refrain KyrielleLaiLai Nouveau, Viralai Ancien, Viralai, Virelet

Example Poem
Lai Mistletoe About
Hang the mistletoe
tie it with a bow
then wait.
You’re aware, I know
You just use it though
for bait.
It’s most apropro
how it works, with no
© Lawrencealot – November  21, 2013
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Compound Word Verse

The Compound Word Verse is a poetry form invented by Margaret R. Smith
that consists of five 3-line stanzas, for a total of 15 lines.
The last line of each stanza ends in a compound word and
these compound words share a common stem word which is taken from the title.
(In the example below the stem word is “snow” from the title “The Unexpected Snow”;
the compound words related
to the title are snowflakes, snowdrifts, snowstorms, etc.)
The Compound Word Verse has a set rhyme scheme and meter as follows:
Rhyme Scheme: aab
Syllabic: 8/8/3
Example Poem
Dancing in the Rain
Choking on dust– driving cattle.
Pushin’ them home’s been a battle.
It’s rainless.
A local  Injun decided
he could help so he provided
a  raindance.
I’ll be home with my gal to night.
So guess what? It’s starting… all right!
Some rainfall.
As I ran from the barn my true
love was running toward me through
a rainstorm.
Dancin’ wet together so free;
each damp and hot… today there’ll be
no raincheck.
© Lawrencealot – April 17, 2012
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Solage is a specific form of humorous verse with the following properties:

  • It has three lines (called the hook, the line and the sinker) of irregular length.
  • The rhyming structure is AAB.
  • The third line is a pun based on the previous two lines.

The form was invented by the Melbourne-based performance poet Cameron M. Semmens.


If you don’t care a bit
Where your arrow hit…
Aim less

They did not mishandle
Creating the scandal:

 Pasted from <>
Democracy’s Death   (Solage)

Like death’s curtain
these seem certain
– Taxes –

 © Lawrencealot – March 7, 2013