WD Poetic Form Challenge: Lai

Are you ready for the next poetic form challenge? I hope you are.

This time, we’ll be writing the lai, a nine-line French form that utilizes the following “a” and “b” rhyme scheme: aabaabaab. The “a” rhyme lines have five syllables, the “b” lines offer two. Click here to read more about the lai.

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Workshop your poetry!

Get feedback on your poetry and connect with other poets serious about the craft. Plus, do it all online–so you don’t have to deal with traffic, being on time, or getting dressed. Click to continue.

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Here are the WD Poetic Form Challenge guidelines:

  • Challenge is free. There is no entry fee.
  • The winner (and sometimes a runner-up or two) will be featured in a future edition of Writer’s Digest magazine as part of the Poetic Asides column.
  • Deadline: 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on October 6, 2013.
  • Poets can enter as many lai (lais?) as they wish. Feel free to pummel me with them.
  • Also, I’ll allow poets to string together as many as three lai together if they wish. This is NOT a suggestion–just as an allowance for poets who like to string things together. I’m totally fine with poets who stop at nine lines.
  • All poems should be previously unpublished. If you have a specific question about your specific situation, e-mail me at robert.brewer@fwmedia.com. Or just write a new lai.
  • I will only consider lai shared in the comments for this post. It gets too complicated trying to hunt them down elsewhere.
  • Speaking of posting, if it’s your first time commenting on this site, it might take a day or three for your comment to be manually approved by me (or another WD editor). So hang tight. If it starts to drag out or is super close to the deadline, just shoot me an e-mail to confirm receipt.
  • Please include your name as you would like it to appear in print. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use your screen name (which might be something like HaikuPrincess007 or MrLineBreaker). WD has a healthy circulation, so be sure to make it easy for me to get your byline right.
  • Finally–and most importantly–have fun!

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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and a guy who loves traditional forms, especially French forms. He edits books, creates blog posts, writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, edits a free weekly newsletter on getting published, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff. Voted Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere in 2010, Brewer recently celebrated the release of his debut full-length collection of poems, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He also curates an Insta-poetry series for Virginia Quarterly Review. 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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181 thoughts on “WD Poetic Form Challenge: Lai

  1. PressOn

    FLIGHT

    Not furrows of loam
    nor crashes of foam
    compare
    to the urge to roam
    through the blue-limned dome
    of air;
    and now, in my gloam,
    I am most at home
    up there.

    William Preston

  2. Artambrosia

    Writer’s Block

    I struggle to write
    Night after long night
    Nowhere
    I try to do right
    With all of my might
    Page bare
    Stare at all that white
    It just gets too bright
    I’m scared

    I keep up the fight
    Night after long night
    Words form
    I leave on the light
    A bit more each night
    More come
    The white’s not so bright
    I’m over my fright
    I’m done

    ©2013 Tracey Witt

    Chasing Moonlight

    Moonlight flows like gold
    Though hands long to hold
    Boundless
    Magic to behold
    A pageant foretold
    Ceaseless
    Flowing uncontrolled
    Prisoner paroled
    Dauntless

    ©2013 Tracey Witt

  3. JRSimmang

    LAY THEE DOWN TO SLEEP

    Though his fingers clutch
    his cigarette, much
    unsaid
    leaves only his touch.
    The railroad tracks, such
    a dread-
    leaden, soiled, red smutch,
    are more than his crutch:
    his bed.

    -JR Simmang

  4. JRSimmang

    BARRICADES

    There’s no compromise,
    and to our surprise,
    there’s not.
    I can just surmise,
    someone tells us lies
    and rot.
    There ain’t a disguise
    to hide from the prize
    they’ve got.

    -JR Simmang

  5. PressOn

    IN MID-OCTOBER,

    yellow butterflies
    collect and comprise
    the sky;
    auburn leaves despise
    winter’s coming cries
    to die
    and autumn tells lies
    while life satisfies
    my eye.

    William Preston

  6. taylor graham

    two more:

    PASTORAL

    This is how we keep
    order among sheep –
    a lace
    of grasses knee-deep
    against hunger’s creep,
    a place
    night-safe as we sleep
    in lamb-dreams that leap
    like grace.

    AUTUMN DOG DREAMS

    The old shepherd-dog
    wanders in a fog
    of days,
    of trails at a jog,
    a pond by the bog,
    its lais
    of blackbirds, bullfrog…
    cozy home, the log
    ablaze.

  7. vbholmes

    “Dreams of a Teenage Techie” (Viralai)

    The future I seek
    No way will be bleak
    For me.

    No longer the geek
    I’ll be oh so chic
    You’ll see.

    The old apps I’ll tweak
    Write programs that speak
    To thee.

    I’ll get my degree
    Be “Super Trainee”
    Can’t fail.

    Commence fitness spree
    Strong man I foresee
    Not frail.

    A-1 I will be
    I’ll welcome the fee
    To sail.

    Success will prevail
    I’ll weather the gale
    Each week.

    I’ll travel the trail
    To the Holy Grail
    And peak.

    The heights I will scale
    No one can curtail
    “Tech Sheik.”

  8. JRSimmang

    LIVING LIKE WE DID

    Let’s live like we did
    in June. Where you bid
    your lies
    goodbye, left amid
    my mouth; placed this lid
    roof-wise,
    while your sweet sweat slid
    down my katydid
    sunrise.

    -JR Simmang

  9. PressOn

    SWOOPING HOPE

    I love the grand sport
    when swallows cavort
    in air
    and send a retort
    to all who would court
    despair:
    though dreams may fall short,
    love lives to resort
    and care.

    William Preston

  10. Tracy Davidson

    Trapped

    Cuts she tries to hide,
    I wish she’d confide
    in me.
    The bruise on her side,
    and others I tried
    to see.
    Her damn stubborn pride
    that meant she denied
    my plea.

    “Just leave him,” I said.
    “Or you’ll end up dead
    one night.”
    But she shook her head,
    as her wounds still bled,
    face white.
    I left her with dread,
    now hope that she’s fled
    this plight.

  11. Jane Shlensky

    Heirloom

    Your locketed face
    shows shadows of grace
    you bore.
    Your smile shows a trace
    of sadness: you brace
    for more.
    Your eyes seem to chase
    hopes woven like lace
    you wore.

    This family knows
    the stories of woes
    long past—
    burns healed by aloes,
    contusions and blows
    amassed.
    Your life’s legend grows
    with years; sorrow shows
    loves last.

  12. Jane Shlensky

    Overheard

    She waits on the stair
    as words without care
    are said.
    No way to repair
    unkindness, despair,
    cold bed.
    She’s caught unaware
    by fears that her par-
    ents bred.

  13. Jane Shlensky

    Snow Blow

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

  14. Jane Shlensky

    Sunday

    She’s washed and smooth pressed,
    bright broach at her breast
    for church.
    She prays an hour’s rest,
    her grave sins confessed,
    pew-perched.
    Her life is her test;
    she longs to be blessed,
    soul searched.

    1. PressOn

      This fits so well the folks I’d see in pews near the confessional.The salient line for me, though, is “Her life is her test.” Another superb little vignette.

  15. 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.

  16. Jane Shlensky

    Duty

    He’s weary of war;
    he longs to do more
    than fight.
    His soul aches, so sore;
    he’s sick to the core
    of might.
    What is it all for?
    He quotes: “to restore
    the right.”

    1. PressOn

      This reminds me of a couple of Vietnam veterans I’ve known, both of whom, in younger days, wondered what it had all been for, but, as they aged, began to say just what you said.

  17. PressOn

    RUSTY RAILS

    Red leaves are falling,
    their swishes calling
    me back
    to nights enthralling
    beside a sprawling
    old shack
    when steamers, crawling,
    still were long-hauling
    this track.

    William Preston

    1. PressOn

      The first line, recalling a lovely song of the same name, captured me. The rest of the poem put a tongue-in-cheek light on the moonlight. Love it; just love it.

  18. Michelle Hed

    Death of a Marriage

    I was sitting there
    in that very chair,
    you talk…
    claiming your affair
    reeling, I just stare…
    I walk
    right out, with no flare
    I was gone, don’t dare,
    don’t gawk.

    Don’t even try, swear!
    You had best beware,
    don’t knock,
    don’t think, say a prayer
    if I catch you where
    I walk
    you should run, suck air
    you’ll bleed from my glare
    no rock.

  19. Cin5456

    I revised this one to make better sense.

    OFFICE POLITICS

    I’ll make concessions
    for most transgressions
    and quirks,
    but when attentions
    turn to aggressions
    by jerks,
    I’ll change professions
    for perks.

    Cynthia Page

  20. Cin5456

    Hidden Harm

    The bruise doesn’t show
    on skin, but I know
    it’s there
    hidden in my glow.
    Deep down lies the snow
    I wear
    around my heart, slow
    frozen hope, below
    despair.

    Cynthia Page

  21. PressOn

    TABBY

    My little grey cat
    could sleep in a hat,
    her fur
    laying soft and flat
    as a mossy mat;
    her purr,
    thrumming in B-flat,
    an antidote that
    could cure.

    William Preston

  22. PressOn

    LOVE

    It comes as the tide:
    tossing fear aside;
    lifting
    new hopes for a ride
    with a life-long guide;
    sifting
    lies and drowning snide
    words; setting false pride
    drifting.

    William Preston

  23. DanielAri

    “Moonrise Due East”

    A flat macaroon,
    the magnified moon—
    epic—

    made town picayune
    as a falling spoon—
    a flick

    and its cream is strewn
    across a maroon
    fabric. 

    —Daniel Ari

  24. Clae

    Temples of Time

    Vibrant minds here age
    Into stagnant beige
    Exile
    Linoleum cage
    Thin, gnarl-fisted mage
    Senile
    Whispered shouts of rage
    Echo off your stage
    Of tile

    T.S.Gray

  25. mnj1193

    She called out my sins
    those glorious twins;
    Slammed door
    The journey begins
    one more bottle ends;
    need more
    My aching head spins
    my inner Puck grins;
    Hey floor

  26. JRSimmang

    THE TEETH YOU HAVE WILL CARVE YOUR GRAVE

    A horse, a horse, said
    he, while he instead
    tripped
    from the sword, his head
    topped with kingly lead
    tipped
    to the ground. Lame, dead,
    the kingdom his bed,
    slept.

    -JR Simmang

    1. PressOn

      This is wonderful, and makes me wonder if it was Richard’s horse that lost that nail. I’m mixing things, I know, but this poem strikes me as rich in possibilities.

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