Jump to content
Poetry Magnum Opus

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


Recommended Posts

Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Southeast Asian Verse                                         Map of Burma 2.jpg

Thailand, formerly known as Siam is at the center of Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma, Laos, 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 mostly by the Buddhist religion and by the monarchy and its military.  

                               Thailand  grand-palace-statue-Copy-940x624.jpg

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 often uses 17 or 18 syllables. Line count, rhyme and tone are alluded to but undefined. I was able to find 2 forms of the Chann at Wikipedia, both stress the heavy or light syllable.

  • Inthrawichian Chann which is written in a series of quatrains made up of 11 syllable lines. The lines may be made up of a 5 syllable phrase and a 6 syllable phrase, it is unclear.

    Syllables are measured by heavy = H and light = L  which is impossible to emulate in English.

    Rhyme scheme:  x being unrhymed
    x x x x a x x a x x b
    x x x x b x x x x x c
    x x x x d x x d x x c
    x x x x c x x x x x x
  • Wasantadilok Chann is written a series of quatrains, made up of 14 syllable lines, possibly made up of an 8 syllable phrase followed by a 6 syllable phrase. 

    Syllables are measured by heavy and light

    Rhyme scheme: x being unrhymed.
    x x x x x x x a x x a x x b
    x x x x x x x b x x x x x c
    x x x x x x x d x x d x x c
    x x x x x x x c x x x x x x 

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. (Which is a similar to a description of the Malaysian Pantun but with very different elements.)  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.

I read, (sorry I didn't write down the source), 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. Stanzas are linked by the repetition of the end rhyme of L4 repeated as the 5th syllable of L1 of the next stanza and the rhyme pattern repeats itself.
  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

    x 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

    Arctic Love

    Gnarly feet trudge on the ice,
    eighty miles entice a pawn
    of nature, the price to mate,
    four year cycle drawn up to create.
                             ~~ Judi Van Gorder

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, but with a very complicated rhyme scheme.
The elements of the Kloon are:

  1. stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains
  2. syllabic, 4 to 8 syllables per line.  (if 4 syllable lines, it is written in octaves.)
  3. composed with each line made up of 2 to 3 phrases.
  4. rhymed with an intricate rhyme pattern.  It is language specific making the internal rhyme difficult for English writers. Therefore the  internal rhyme may be optional or reduced when writing in English. The tone is looser than most Thai forms but the end syllable of each line is usually rising which is in sync with most Western verse in 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

    Rocking Out

    It's the beat repeating, heating
    up the singing, tingling, cool sounds
    that rock my mute world and rebounds
    off the ground, no frowns, just big smiles. 
                             ~~ Judi Van Gorder

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, language specific, tonal pattern which is impossible to emulate in English.  It is the oldest indigenous form of Thai poetry and dates back to the 13th century.  It is a chained verse, written with the end syllable of L1 rhymed with the beginning syllable of L2 and so on. 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 and so on.

    Gulf Coast Saturday Morning

     Hurricane Barry
    ferries destruction.
    Disruption of life,
    rife with wind and rain.
    Strain on Saturday,
    stay or flee the storm.
    Warm, muggy zephyr
    suffers light damage.
    Images of flood,
    mud and mess hit news.
                 ~~Judi Van Gorder 7-13-2019                     


    Give this form a try,
    Thai verse in July.
    Why not join the quest,
    test your writing skill?
    Will you meet with me,
    be brave, write a Raay.
           ~~ Judi Van Gorder

    Visit to the Vet  by Judi Van Gorder

    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 the word "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. uuS uuS uuS uuS
    3. unrhymed.


      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
      slipping Spring forth with showers and flowers and light.
                                                   ~~ Judi Van Gorder

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...
  • 5 months later...
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.