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Thailand: Chan / Kaap / Kloang / Lilit / Klon / Totok/ Raay

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Southeast Asian Verse

Thailand, formerly known as Siam is at the center of Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma, Loas, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. It is the only country in south-east Asia to never have been under colonial rule. The poetry has been influenced most by the Buddhist religion and by the monarchy and its military.

  • Chann seems to be the most variable of the Thai forms with indistinct features which are vague and change with whatever source one reads. The syllables are measured as light or heavy. Most sources agree that it is a descendant of the Pali meters and uses 17 or 18 syllables. Line count, rhyme and tone are alluded to but undefined.
  • The Kaap is a genre of Thai verse that describes nature.
  • The Kloang is stanzaic verse usually of proverbs originating in Thailand. One source suggests the Kloang attempts to capture the rhythm of oar strokes on the water. A Thai landmark Phra Mondob (Scripture Hall) built in the 19th century is decorated with Thai Verse proverbs called Kloang Lokaniti engraved on the outer-walls . The form is considered poetry of the intellectual because of its complicated tonal and rhyme patterns. Along with the Raay, it is one of the oldest forms of Thai poetry. It was developed when the Thai language had only 3 tones, high, low and neutral, the language now has 5 tones. The tonal pattern of the Kloang creates a unique rhythm which is its defining feature and impossible to emulate in English.

    Thailand's honored poet Sunthorn Phy's (1786-1855) most exciting adventure poem "Nirat Suphan" was written in the Kloang form.

    The elements of the Kloang are:

    1. syllabic. L1, L2, L3 are 7 syllables each, L4 is 9 syllables.
    2. stanzaic, written with any number of quatrains.
    3. composed with an interweaving or cross rhyme scheme. The end word of L1 rhymes with the 5th syllables of L2 and L3. The end word of L2 rhymes with the 5th syllable of L4. L3 and L4 end rhyme.
    4. is most often a poem of nature.
    5. tonal which is impossible in the English language.
      x x x x a x b
      x x x x b x a
      x x x x b x c
      x x x x a x x x c

      Arctic Love --Judi Van Gorder

      Gnarly feet trudge on the ice,
      eighty miles entice a pawn
      of nature, the price to mate,
      four year cycle drawn up to create
  • The Kloon or Klon (meaning simple verse) is sometimes known as the "true Thai poetic form". It is the basic and most common Thai verse written with simple subjects and simple words.
    The elements of the Kloon are:
    1. stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains
    2. syllabic, 4 to 8 syllables per line.
    3. composed with each line made up of 2 to 3 phrases.
    4. rhymed with an intricate rhyme pattern. The internal rhyme can be optional or reduced. The tone is looser than most Thai forms but it the end syllable of each line is usually rising which is in sync with most Western verse of iambic meter.
      x x a x a x a b
      x x b x b x x c
      x x x x x x x c
      x x c x c x x d

      x d x d x a e
      x x e x e x x f
      x x x x x x x f
      x x f x f x x g
  • The Lilit is an alternating Raay and Kloang verse. Usually the Raay is used to describe the action and the Kloang is the dialogue. The elements of the Lilit are:
    1. stanzaic, alternating Raay couplets with Kloang quatrains.
    2. syllabic, the couplets are 5 syllable lines and the quatrains are L1-L3 7 syllable lines and L4 is a 9 syllable line.
    3. couplets composed with a chain, linking the lines of the couplet and linking the stanzas.
    4. rhymed, composed with cross, interlaced and end rhyme .
      x x x x a
      a x x x b

      b x x x c x d
      x x x x d x c
      x x x x d x e
      x x x x c x x x e

      e x x x f
      f x x x g

      g x x x h x I
      x x x x i x h
      x x x x i x j
      x x x x h x x x j
  • The Raay or Rai is a forerunner of the Kloang and has the same unique tonal pattern. It is a chained verse, written with the end syllable of L1 rhymed with the beginning syllable of L2. It was often used to record laws and chronicle events in verse. The elements of the Raay are
    1. stanzaic, written in a series of couplets.
    2. syllabic, 5 syllables per line.
    3. chain rhymed, the last syllable of L1 rhymes with the first syllable of L2.
  • The Totok is a verse form in 4 unrhymed lines of anapestic tetrameter. I found this form in only one source although I was able to find that "Totok" refers to Cantonese immigrants that come to Thailand and tend to retain their Chinese language and customs.  The elements of the Totok are:
    1. a poem in 4 lines.
    2. accentual syllabic, anapestic tetrameter.
    3. unrhymed.

      Anticipated ---Judi Van Gorder

      A tick ticking of earth's endless seasonal clock,
      though our Winter stayed late, Spring began without fanfare,
      silent sprouts broke the surface of frost covered ground
      bringing Spring with its showers and flowers and light.

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