Usually when I tell people that I’m interested in poetry, I see a vacant look in their faces before they start talking about something else. Poetry interest is not very high among my technology friends. A couple of months ago though, I told a friend from Iran about my interest, and he started to tell me of poetry and his favorite Iranian poets. He urged me to check out the Rubáiyát by Omar Khayaam, and how he loved these poems. Probably for most of you this is a well-known book, and for a good reason, the interpretation by Edward Fitzgerald have had a tremendous influence on many poets. It had also meant a new interest in Iran about Omar Khayaam (1048-1131) as a poet. He was also a philosopher and a mathematician. There are many long and interesting articles and books both about Fitzgerald and Khayaam.
Today I want us to take a closer look on the ruba’i as a form, and focus on how Fitzgerald created it. First of all ruba’i means quatrain, and rubáyát is the plural. Let’s take a look on perhaps the most famous of these quatrains from Fitzgerald’s translation:
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
So first of all, this is itself a short poem, the rhyme-scheme being AABA, furthermore it’s written in iambic pentamete. Also note that the last line, summarize and conclude the three preceding lines, often in a spiritual way. The quatrain can be also be used as a stanza in a longer poem, and many times as an extra challenge a nested rhyme-scheme can be used so that the non-rhymed word becomes the rhyme-word in the next stanza (AABA – BBCB – CCDC – ..). It can be used in a sonnet where a concluding couplet is added, or you can take a look at Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a snowy evening”, where he conclude with all lines having the same rhyme, if you are really up to the challenge, let the last unrhymed line pick up the rhyme from the first stanza.
So today I want you to write Ruba’i and Rubáiyát and focus on only three rules
– Rhyme-scheme AABA
– All lines approximately the same length
– The last line in the quatrain summarize the other three
If you want to write several nested ones why not try to follow the same rules. I think this form has some great potential for renewal and revitalization, maybe you can look at other rhythms, you can use all cool metaphors and techniques we have had before, here at the bar.
Also remember that this Saturday it’s time for Open Link Night. The bar opens 3 hours earlier than what we normally do. That means at noon EST or 6 PM CET, so if you miss the deadline for this prompt or any other prompt — please come around and have fun.
Another reminder, the new dVerse anthology deadline is getting close, check out the rules for entering here.
Here is how it works:
- Write a ruba’i or several and post it to your webpage.
- Enter a link directly to your poem and your name by clicking Mr Linky below
- There you will find links to other poets, and more will join
- Read and comment on other poet’s work, we all go here to have our poems read
- Promote your site and poetry you like on social media of your choice
And remember to have a lot of fun.