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Three-Five-Seven 3-5-7


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Three-Five-Seven was introduced to me by Xiao-zhen (screen name - worm), a Chinese student I met on the internet. Worm has written several translations of ancient Chinese poems into English.

Xiao-zhen explaining the form Three-Five-Seven to me wrote: "This novel style was created by poet genius Li Bai (Li Po). However, it was not widely adopted by ancient poets despite the popularity of this little poem. After Li Po, I just find another Tang poet Bai Juyi (also known as Bo Juyi and Po Chuyi) wrote in the Mid-Tang period. He was one of the most prolific of all Chinese poets, but is best known for his short occasional verses written in simple language. He imitated Li Po and left a thee-five-seven styled verse. It is surprising that many modern Chinese amateur poets like this style and have good tries. But the five and seven character verses are the major forms of Chinese classical poetry. The forms took a long time developing from folksongs."

Here is worm's translation of a Li Po poem written in the Three-Five-Seven form. (This translation, like most, attempts to capture the soul of the poem, but in this case it also attempts to capture the frame.)

Autumn Thoughts by Li Po translated by Xiao-zhen in Oct, 2007
                                              (Three-five-seven-character-styled verse)
autumn winds breeze; autumn moon shines.
fallen leaves gather and scatter, jackdaws perch and away flutter.
when each other lovers in thirst meet? at the moment tonight my heart cries.

The elements of the Three-Five-Seven are:

  1. written in 3 lines, however the 3 lines may be broken into 6 lines at the caesura.
  2. measured, counting words not syllables,  L1 6 words, L2 = 10 words, L3 = 14 words (Most Chinese words are mono syllabic, therefore syllable count would be the same as word count in Chinese. Worm has interpreted the criteria to allow for English words that carry more than one syllable.)
  3. each line is broken mid way by caesura, L1 = 3, 3; L2 = 5,5 and L3 = 7,7. Thus the name Three-Five-Seven.
  4. each line carries a parallel, the halves of the line reflect or answer each other.

    Chilly Forecast by Judi Van Gorder 1-13-08

    Cumulous clouds grey, winter sun hides,
    wind whips from the north, unseen snow banks chill gusts.
    How long must I endure the cold? Seasons pass too quickly while I grow old.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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

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  • 2 years later...

Li Po’s Challenge

Ancient Chinese form, still written today,
count chosen words not syllables, lines paused at the center.
Poet Li Po first introduced this frame, you too can write Three-Five-Seven.
                                                                ~~ Judi Van Gorder

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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

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