Skip to main content

Masnavi (or Mathnawi): Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the masnavi (or mathnawi), an old poetic form with Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu variants.

For many of the poetic forms I cover on here, I'm able to find examples in addition to the descriptions of the forms. However, I admit this week's form, the masnavi or mathnawi, is a little more elusive, because most of the examples I can find are translations that don't appear to stay true to the explained poetic rules, especially for internal rhyming. So I'm going share the rules and use those to guide my example attempt below.

Here are the guidelines:

  • Couplet (or two-line) form...
  • ...but with the qualifier that each "line" is actually a "half-line" and that they rhyme horizontally
  • Each line is 10 or 11 syllables long (I believe it's supposed to be consistent within the poem, so pick a number and stick with it)
  • Rhyme scheme is aa/bb/cc/dd and so on
  • No line length restrictions

In fact, many examples of masnavi are very long poems. One of the more popular examples is Rumi's Masnavi-ye-Ma'navi, which is a long spiritual or mystical poem. But other variants, whether Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or Urdu, cover other topics with varying degrees of didacticism in the poems.

*****

The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms

Play with poetic forms!

Poetic forms are fun poetic games, and this digital guide collects more than 100 poetic forms, including more established poetic forms (like sestinas and sonnets) and newer invented forms (like golden shovels and fibs).

Click to continue.

*****

Here’s my attempt at a masnavi:

Food for Thought, by Robert Lee Brewer

In a boat on the lake, we said what's at stake
is more than simple truth for an eye or tooth.
Rather, we, of a mind, cautioned to be kind
was the best gift of all to avoid a fall
into certain madness and echoed sadness.
So we side-stepped debate, tucked aside our hate
like hats hold a feather, and talked of whether
we should get off the lake and eat a fresh cake,
finding to our surprise our teeth and our eyes
had a similar goal to eat pastries whole.

The Importance of Book Clubs for Writers: Hanging Out in, and With, Books

The Importance of Book Clubs for Writers: Hanging Out in, and With, Books

Reading is often an independent practice—but book clubs offer a chance to share the experience and learn something along the way. Here, author Sheila Liming discusses the importance of book clubs for writers.

Unknown Number

Unknown Number

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, a message from an unknown number has surprising consequences.

Kerri Schlottman: On Giving Literary Voice to Visual Art

Kerri Schlottman: On Giving Literary Voice to Visual Art

Award-winning author Kerri Schlottman discusses the real-life documentary photograph that helped inspire her literary novel, Tell Me One Thing.

From Script

The Secret as a Narrative Framing Element (From Script)

In this week’s roundup brought to us by Script magazine, read more filmmaker interviews from the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, including an exclusive interview with Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award winning filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz.

How To Write a Protagonist Leading a Double Life

How To Write a Protagonist Leading a Double Life

Inspired by personal experiences, author Kyla Zhao discusses how to write a protagonist leading a double life.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Romance Writing Virtual Conference, 6 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce the Romance Writing Virtual Conference, six WDU courses, and more!

Popular Fantasy Tropes for Writers

21 Popular Fantasy Tropes for Writers

Here are 21 examples of fantasy tropes for writers to consider and subvert when writing fantastical fiction.

Writing Goals and Intentions: 25 Prompts

Writing Goals and Intentions: 25 Prompts

Make this year your most successful writing year ever by considering the following questions to set your goals and intentions.

Is a Personal Essay Considered Journalism?

Is a Personal Essay Considered Journalism?

Journalist Alison Hill answers the question of whether or not the personal essay is considered journalism by defining the genre and offering examples. Plus, outlets for you to publish your own personal essay.