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As some of you know, we have completed our monthly poetry form challenges – sonnet, rubaiyat, pantoum and villanelle. I am now hosting the next poetry form with the basic lai and the variation, lai nouveau.


This form looks to be a very simple form comprising of a five syllabled couplet followed by a two syllable line. The number of lines in each stanza is fixed at nine and the couplets must rhyme with each other, as the two syllable lines must also rhyme. In English this line is probably the most difficult part of the poem.

The Lai is a very old French form and tradition states that the short line must not be indented, it must be left dressed to the poem. This is known as Arbre Fourchu (Forked Tree); there is a pattern meant to be set up as a tree.

The number of lines in each stanza is fixed at nine. The number of stanzas is not fixed and each stanza has its own rhyme pattern. The stanza’s rhyme pattern is… a. a. b. a. a. b. a. a. b. 

Here is my example:

First Earth Day (a tribute to Rachel Carson)

I won’t be- silent       (a) (Five syllables)
I’ll roar, my trident     (a) (Five syllables)
Red flag                    (b) (Two syllables)
Of lies you brighten   (a) (Five syllables)
Green, as you riot     (a) (Five syllables)
Waste bag                (b) (Two syllables)
Of toxic diet              (a) (Five syllables)
I’ll stand, defiant       (a) (Five syllables)
Old nag                    (b) (Two syllables)

Here is another example:  Lai of the Cow

The praises I sing
Of that wondrous thing
The cow.
Let the rafters ring!
My Muse shall take wing,
I vow.
Foods our cattle bring
Are fit for a king,
And how!

As white as can be,
The smooth quality
Of silk,
The epitome
Of maternity,
Its milk.
You have to agree
You never will see
Its ilk.

For an honoured guest
Save the very best:
The cream.
While those not so blest
Make do with the rest,
And dream.
So nice to digest,
That when it’s suppressed,
Folk scream!

You can churn milk, so
It becomes yellow
What could beat that? Oh,
Don’t scoff in that low
I will not forgo
Such pleasure; I’m no

Or you cheddar it.
Thus you make a bit
Of cheese,
A prerequisite
For one exquisite
Good wheeze:
Let’s get the grill lit
And make Welsh rarebit.
Yes please!

Our bovine-sourced feast,
Has it still not ceased?
Good grief!
No, last but not least,
Its flesh when deceased:
The beef.
The worth of this beast
Could not be increased,
In brief.

Lai Nouveau

This is a much harder form than the lai and only has an eight line stanza and is similar in idea to the Villanelle. In this case the first two lines are the refrain and are used as the last lines of the subsequent verses. The last verse including both lines but in reverse order.
The difficulty with this form is of course picking a rhyme pattern that is strong enough to last even two verses. The alternative rhyme can vary from stanza to stanza.

Here is my example:

I wrestle with words                      (A1) (Five syllables)
Bland, coarse, dulled end swords    (A2) (Five syllables)
What hues                                    (b) (Two syllables)
to paint the firebirds                      (a) (Five syllables)
to catch hummingbirds                   (a) Five syllables)
The muse                                      (b) (Two syllables)
flips in house of cards                     (a) (Five syllables)
Where I stand on guard                  (a) (Five syllables)

Do I go with herd                           (a) (Five syllables)
milling in the yard                          (a) (Five syllables)
Or choose                                      (b) (Two syllables)
To spice, sprinkle herbs,                  (a) (Five syllables)
percolating curds                            (a) (Five syllables)
To ruse                                           (b) (Two syllables)
Bland, coarse, dulled end words      (A2) (Five syllables)
I wrestle with words                       (A1) (Five syllables)

Tip:   I find that the trick was to choose the first/last two lines that would mesh in either position.

This article on Lai and Lai Nouveau will be updated based on your inputs and grow into an entry for our upcoming book.
  • Please write a Lai and/or Lai Nouveau and link up below. Use the opportunity to read through the comment you receive, and edit if you like to.
  • You are welcome to link up an old Lai or Lai Nouveau that you feel fits the prompt or you can take a favorite free verse poem and rewrite it as a lai or lai nouveau.
  • Comment as usual and if you would like to receive constructive feedback on your poem please indicate that in your comments. Please note that if you asked for constructive feedback be prepared to give constructive feedback as well
  • If you would like to edit and improve your poem please update a new link in Mr Linky so it shows.
  • As Mr. Linky is open for 1 month, please come back and read, comment on later entries.

Thank you for supporting our poetry form challenges.  See you in the poetry trail.