Interlocking Rubaiyat: Poetic Form

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It's been a while since I've shared a poetic form on here. And strange as it seems, this form has been hiding under my nose for years without me even realizing it. Of course, I'm speaking of interlocking rubaiyat, sometimes referred to as rubai.

I've long been familiar with the 12th-century Persian work, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, but I did not recognize it as a form. And without piecing it together, one of my all-time favorite poems ("Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," by Robert Frost) executes interlocking rubaiyat to perfection.

Just goes to show that no matter how much one thinks he knows, there's still so much more to learn. Or at least, there's still "miles to go before I sleep."

Here are the rules of the interlocking rubaiyat:

  • The poem is comprised of quatrains following an aaba rhyme pattern.
  • Each successive quatrain picks up the unrhymed line as the rhyme for that stanza. So a three-stanza rubaiyat might rhyme so: aaba/bbcb/ccdc. Sometimes the final stanza, as in Frost's example above, rhymes all four lines.
  • Lines are usually tetrameter and pentameter.

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Here's my attempt at an interlocking rubaiyat:

Ringing

Forget the day he plummeted to earth
in a mess of wings and excessive girth
because he once knew the secret of flight
and may someday experience rebirth

like a phoenix transfixed by its own light
with fire that burns against the frozen night
he'll turn to ash like all worldly things do
and be renewed through a pure divine rite.

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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.

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