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Burma: Than bauk / Ya Du

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Southeast Asian Verse

Burma is a country bordered by China, Laos, India, Bangladesh and Thailand and yet 1/3 of its perimeter is the coast line of the Andaman Sea. Its literary history dates back to 1310 with verse cut into stone. This was a record of the achievements of kings and other royalty and religious writings all in verse. There also are preserved palm leaf poems that date back to 1455 which is more emotional and less formal than the stone writings.

  • The Than bauk features "climbing rhyme" which is common in many Southeast Asian poetic patterns, such as the Viet, Luc-bat. It is meant to be a humorous, witty proverb or saying, an epigram. This form is a Burmese pattern found on the internet at Bob Newman's site.  The elements of the Than bauk are:
    1. syllabic, 4 syllables per line.
    2. a tristich, a poem in 3 lines; this is not meant to be stanzaic, the brevity is part of the charm.
    3. composed with "climbing rhyme", the rhyme appears in the 4th syllable of L1, the 3rd syllable of L2, and the 2nd syllable of L3.
    4. Often clever, a short epigram.



      To wish I flew
      is no new news
      to you who do.
                        --- jvg
  • The Ya-Du or ritú (season) is stanzaic form dedicated to the seasons. The theme should express the emotions the seasons evoke. The form is a 15th century Burmese pattern using a climbing rhyme.  The elements of the Ya-Du are:
    1. syllabic. L1-L4 tetrasyllabic (4) and L5 may be 5,7, 9, or 11 syllables. 4-4-4-4-(5,7,9, or 11)
    2. stanzaic, written in no more than 3 cinquains.
    3. rhymed. The form employs a climbing rhyme in which the 4th syllable of L1 rhymes with the 3rd syllable of L2 and the 2nd syllable of L3. L4 and L5 end rhyme.
    4. dedicated to the seasons and the emotions they evoke.
      x x x a
      x x a x
      x a x x
      x x x b
      x x x x b            or               x x x x x x b etc

      Fall Back by Judi Van Gorder

      Indian summer
      a warmer fall
      winter put off
      a month or two.
      seasons tipped askew.

      Sandals on sand
      air soft and warm
      a grand compass
      back to balmy days
      incites nature's praise.

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