Pathya Vat

Continuing my mission to bring you verse forms from all around the world, I now introduce, from Cambodia, the pathya vat. This is a form which (to the best of my knowledge) has never before been used in English - but Confucius, him say "There is no precedent for anything until it is done for first time".

The pathya vat has four lines of four syllables each, with the second and third lines rhyming. That's all there is to it.

An obscure form
of eastern verse
that is no worse
for being so.

Longer poems are made by chaining them together, with the last line of each rhyming with the second and third lines of the next. So the poem begun above could continue:

A form whose charms
not many know.
So, children, go
and write some more

Khmer poetry.
We can't ignore
this outlet for
our inner crow.

That last line wasn't required to rhyme with anything, but I felt crows ought to be mentioned - see below.


Cambodian poems are intended to be read aloud, recited, or even sung. According to the site where I found the pathya vat, "the beauty... lies not only in the writing styles... but also in the rich reciting styles, which provide the final touches to evoke the soul of Cambodian poetry". These reciting styles include kmeng vatt (temple boy), piporanea (description), tumnuonh (grief), smaut (reciting), kamhoeung (anger), chbapp (traditional code), ka-ek lot (crow hops) and ka-ek baul (crow calls).

This could be the next big movement in performance poetry. I have a vision of open-mike sessions all over the country - nay, the entire world - being dominated by pathya vat recited in the ka-ek lot style. Do please make it so!

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

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Bob Newman 2004. All rights reserved.

This page last updated 06/06/2004