"Climbing Rhyme" forms

I'm beginning to suspect there may be a fair number of these. So far I've found three: the Luc Bat, the Than-Bauk and the Ya-Du.

Luc Bat

The Luc Bat is a Vietnamese verse form I found on the web. It's unusual, not hard to do, and I'm sure it could yield some good English-language poems. This is certainly not one of them, but it will do for the purposes of illustration:

Luc Bat in anger
Iím so cross I canít speak!
My present fit of pique will last
Through winterís icy blast.
When summer is long past, I may
Perhaps, one autumn day,
Compose myself to say, All right,
It wasnít worth a fight.
I strain with all my might to not
Antagonise that clot
Who doesnít know whatís what, and why
Heís such a prat, and I
Will take deep breaths to try and keep
My temper with the creep,
And there wonít be a peep from me.
Iíll manage it, youíll see!
Iím rational and free of hate,
Kind and compassionate Ė
It isnít my fault, mate! Itís his Ė
He thinks heís such a whiz;
Makes everything his business,
And makes a bloody mess,
And causes us such stress. I fear
That as for words of cheer,
For me he will not hear a squeak.

Lines of 6 syllables alternate with lines of 8 syllables - in fact the name Luc Bat means six-eight. The general rule is that each rhyme occurs three times - first at the end of an 8-syllable line, then at the end of the next 6-syllable line, and finally as the sixth syllable of the next 8-syllable line e.g. in the above example last/blast/past, and may/day/say. The end loops back to the beginning, here with squeak/speak/pique. You can make the poem as long or as short as you like. 

This feels to me like a kind of compressed oriental terza rima.

In Vietnamese, incidentally, there are other requirements to be satisfied. It is a tonal langue, and every syllable is pronounced in one of 6 tones. For poetic purposes, each of these tones is categorised as either bang or trac. The full recipe for a Luc Bat specifies for each syllable whether it should be bang or trac. There is no point in us worrying about this when writing Luc Bats in English, but it is perhaps worth remembering that every line is supposed to end with a bang. (I'm not making this up, I promise.) 

Song That Luc Bat

The Song That Luc Bat is another Vietnamese form. The name means double-seven six eight. The six-eight lines form a luc bat couplet, as above; this is preceded by a rhyming couplet of 7-syllable lines. (The Vietnamese are a delightfully wysiwyg people.) To chain stanzas together, the last syllable of each stanza should rhyme with the first two lines of the next. Three and a half stanzas of this can make a rather pleasant form (admittedly quite unknown to Vietnam), the Song That Luc Bat sonnet:

Making Tracks
Walking in new-fallen snow
I prefer always to go
Where none has trod before
To make my mark. The thaw will come;

Footprints must in time succumb
To Natureís slow pendulum.
Till then my pugmarks stand,
And blaze a path, crisp and distinct,

On the whiteness darkly inked,
Individual, but linked.
Let others do the same -
But do not play this game to win.

You will lose when spring comes in.
The blanket of snow is thin.

If such things matter to you, you should note that this is not a sonnet at all, strictly speaking.

In Vietnamese, there are also tonal requirements (see note above about the Luc Bat). As it happens, the 7-syllable lines are required to end with tracs. I didn't find this out until after I had written, and chosen the title of, Making Tracks. Honestly!


The Than-Bauk is Burmese. It goes something like this:

A kind of verse
Some are worse than.
Itís terse, but rhymes.

Three lines, four syllables each. And the fourth, third and second syllables respectively all rhyme. It's even shorter than a haiku, but a lot more structured. Traditionally, than-bauks are supposed to be witty and epigrammatic.

You could put several of them together to make a than-bauk poem, or chain them e.g. add to the example above:

And sometimes, yes,
It chimes quite well.
I can't tell if
The spell will last.

We now have a 7-line poem with 3 "verse" rhymes, 3 "rhymes" rhymes, and 3 "well" rhymes. It's like a Luc Bat, but tighter. We could call it a "than-bat" or a "luc-bauk", perhaps, doing violence to both languages.

If you like the than-bauk, the pathya vat may also appeal.


The Ya-Du is another Burmese form, a kind of overgrown Than-Bauk with aspirations to haiku-ishness. Here comes one now:

These summer days
Are amazing.
We laze about
Quite without cares,
Devout worshippers of solar glares.

It cannot last.
The forecast is
Contrast must come
And bring some rain.
Yes, chum, that tan will get drenched again.

Each stanza - there should not be more than three of them - has 5 lines, of which the first four have 4 syllables each, and the last can have 5, 7, 9 or 11. The last two lines rhyme in the conventional way. There is climbing rhyme in syllables 4, 3 and 2 of both the first 3 lines and the last 3 lines e.g. in the first stanza here, days/amazing/laze and about/without/devout. And, as with a haiku, there should be references to the seasons. 

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© Bob Newman 2004, 2005, 2008. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 04/02/2008