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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