Lai: Poetic Forms

The lai is another French form. It’s a nine-line poem or stanza that uses an “a” and “b” rhyme following this pattern: aabaabaab. The lines with an “a” rhyme use 5 syllables; the “b” rhyme lines have 2 syllables. It feels kind of like organized skeltonic verse.

Here’s an example lai I wrote:

“16,” by Robert Lee Brewer

been ’round here before
I know what’s in store
this way
middle of my four
miles and I’m bored
that way
each mile is four
laps and I get bored
one way


In my version, I used a slant rhyme with “bored” and I converted “mile” to a 2-syllable word–because that’s how I say it.

We currently have the gwawdodyn poetic form challenge running through the end of August (click to check that out), but this will probably be the next form challenge in September. Just a heads up.


Learn more poetic forms and get published…

…with the 2014 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer. In addition to hundreds of publishing opportunities for poets, this essential poetry resource includes articles on the craft, business, and promotion of poetry–including a list of poetic forms.

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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor for the Writer’s Digest Writing Community. In that role, he edits books, creates blog posts, writes a column for Writer’s Digest magazine, edits a free weekly newsletter, and other fun stuff. Voted Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere in 2010, Brewer’s debut full-length poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems, is hot off the presses from Press 53 (learn more). He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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39 thoughts on “Lai: Poetic Forms

  1. Jane Shlensky

    Snow Blow

    He shovels wet snows
    but he seldom goes
    to dry out his clothes
    and warm where his toes
    Do you think he knows
    his negligence shows
    his pride?

  2. Jane Shlensky

    Limited Application

    Her life is her phone—
    with others, alone,
    she texts.
    Upright or stretched prone,
    she’s wired to its tone.
    What’s next?
    If her thumbs were gone,
    she’d be mute as stone
    and vexed.

  3. Clae

    Each Day Alike

    Struggle to focus
    Swarms form like locust
    Forced to the surface
    Smiles cold and mirthless
    Holidays purpose
    Passes by worthless

  4. Cin5456

    His Wife

    He went out for fun,
    or maybe a run
    and gym.
    At the park in sun,
    he saw that someone
    for him.
    Years later it’s done.
    Down the aisle as one,
    they brim.

  5. Cin5456

    Little Boys’ Project

    On sleep-over night
    They built a box kite
    With sticks.
    The cloth started white,
    and dye turned it bright.
    Mom’s tricks
    finished it for flight.
    But it fell from sight
    Like bricks.

  6. james.ticknor

    Pen In My Pocket

    I pricked my finger
    On my pen’s stinger
    Die pen!
    The pain did linger
    On my poor finger
    Dumb pen!
    Damn that small stinger
    That inked my finger
    Close pen…

  7. Cin5456


    The slip of a leaf
    Through still air is brief.
    And time
    runs short for a thief
    who’s bent upon grief
    through crime.
    Less time for belief.
    And hope for relief…
    A chime.

    1. PressOn

      This personified fire and captures the fear well, I think. Yet it leaves me ambivalent: the fire has “business” to attend to, and in the nature of things, that’s probably so. Very thoughtful piece.

  8. RJ Clarken

    A Big Lai about a Lie

    “Legend: A lie that has attained the dignity of age.” ~H.L. Mencken

    Dignity of age;
    it tends to assuage
    a lie
    (or so says one sage.)
    Is time a just gauge?
    How wry:
    a lie turns the page
    while truth hides backstage.
    But why?


  9. RJ Clarken

    A Big Lai about Fishing, and also, Good and Evil

    “There is a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” ~Steven Wright

    A fine line exists
    ‘tween brains, hearts and fists
    and so
    the world’s full of twists
    and therefore persists
    to show
    through antagonists
    and heroes. The lists
    just grow.


  10. RJ Clarken

    A Big Lai about Life’s Meaning

    “Life may have no meaning. Or even worse, it may have a meaning of which I disapprove.” ~Ashleigh Brilliant

    In our universe,
    there’s naught that is worse
    than to
    find meaning’s adverse
    and/or worse: a curse.
    World view:
    Perspective’s quite terse
    even if in verse.


  11. RJ Clarken

    A Big Lai about the Sun

    “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” ~Steve Martin

    Sunshine is, you know,
    kind of sunny, ‘though
    if it’s
    hidden, it won’t show,
    like, through clouds or snow
    or spritz.
    The sun makes stuff grow
    like grass, I now mow.
    (The pits.)


    1. PressOn

      The two-syllable rhymes make this for me, and have me trying to imagine atmospheric spritz. I also need to check my pronunciation of “lai,” which is reminding me of the old song, Let’s call the Whole Thing Off.

  12. Cin5456

    For Progress

    Here, you see a land
    crippled by the hand
    that should
    be making it grand.
    Our rights have been banned.
    We could
    be milquetoast, be bland,
    but I’d rather stand.
    I would!

  13. Cin5456

    Hidden Harm

    The bruise doesn’t show
    on skin, but I know
    it’s there
    Underneath the glow
    deep down lies the snow
    I wear
    around my heart, though
    the source of my woe
    lay bare

  14. PressOn


    I think, with dismay
    my words, all so grey,
    show it:
    my writing is fey
    and folks, every day,
    know it;
    but, writing a lai,
    this writer can play

      1. PressOn

        Whoops! I always trip up on that one; it comes out as two which I talk, but I talk funny. Thanks for noticing:


        I think, with dismay
        my words, all so grey,
        show it:
        my writing is fey
        and people, each day,
        know it;
        but, writing a lai,
        this writer can play


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