Thai poetry. A skill I once mastered as a child. I had the gift of words, fancy ones especially. I had a gift of finding rhymes.
I had a gift of poetry.
I loved writing the poems, and even more so reading them. I love knowing the fancy Pali/Sanskrit based words my friends didn’t know about. I studied more intensely than my classmates when it came to the great Thai poet Sunthorn Phu’s classics. I even paid a tribute to him by writing my own spoof version of “Phra Apai Manee”, entirely in Klon Padd, the 8-syllable poems, same as how the poet had it. With perfect rhymes, my prince Apai Manee conquered over the female sea yaksa with not the Thai clarinet but a saxophone.
Oh yes. Gotta love the 80s.
Anyway. It’s been a long time for me to talk about Thai poetry, so I had to resort to the POETRY section of the Thai Language Audio Resource Center for some help with definitions and pointing to the audio guide for those who’d like to know more. (Click on the English text for information in English.)
According to the ThaiARC, all classical Thai poetry, from its earliest appearance during the Sukhothai period (1240s-1345/50) to the present, can be classified into the following types:
Kloang – Possibly the oldest form of Thai poetry. It is a highly intellectual form poetry used only by the sophisticated and educated classes because of its elaborate tonal and rhyming constrains.
Chan – Borrowing seventeen or eighteen of the original Pali 109 meters, the Thai poets added rhyme schemes and changed the concept of the heavy and light syllable, transforming the Pali stanzas into Thai stanzas. The chan meters consist of syllables defined as light (lahu) and heavy (kharu) and arranged in invariable number and sequences
Kaap – It is believe that this type of poetry derived from Cambodia’s verses. The different types of Kaap are used to describe nature, or going into details describing something.
Rai – Often used for laws and chronicles. When mixed with Klon, they made up a new type of poetry called, Lilit. Rai would describe the action while the commentary and conversations are conducted in Klon.
And finally, what we’re talking about today, is Klon.
Klon – is probably the most basic form of Thai poetry. Within Klon itself, Klon Suparb (polite verse, in this case, it means simple verse) is the most common. It usually consists of simple words on simple subjects.
Klon Suparb is broken down in to 5, 6, 8, and 9 syllables.
The one I’m playing with today is my scheme of choice, Klon Padd or 8 syllable poem. It consists of, well, 8 syllables to a verse. It has a series of 3-2-3-syllable phrases. So, you’d read 3 syllables, pause, 2 syllables, pause, and 3 syllables. There can be internal rhyming scheme if you’d choose.
8 syllables make up one verse. 4 verses make up one stanza.
Here’s a diagram I lifted from ThaiARC to demonstrate the rhyming scheme. The internal rhyme within the verse is optional. Sometimes folks would play with the words so they are all start with the same letter, even. But the one that connect one verse to the other, and from the first stanza to the next are required.
Klon Padd isn’t as strict with the tones of the words as another form of Thai poetry. There are preferences of the rising tone on the end of the second verse.
For comparison as to what is easy and what is difficult:
Kloang Si Suparb (Common form 4 stanza poem) requires not only a very strict structure of 5 syllable – 2 syllable verse, but the sound of the syllable in each spot as well. 5 syllables here with the low tone on the fourth syllable and high on the fifth. You cannot have any other sound in that spot. That kind of thing.
I would try to give you an English language example. Ask me again in 5 years when I can actually find all the tonal words to fall in to the right syllable and have the poem makes sense in English.
That’s why, despite the fact that I shouldn’t even try this in another language other than Thai, I hereby present to you my first ever English Klon Padd!
Note: I threw in the dashes for the required break—Waak–in the Klon to help you understand how it is read.
Would I dare _ to do _ what you asked?
Would the task _ given _ burden me?
Would my heart _ be crushed _ in such spree?
Would you be _ my love, _ above all?
Would my life _ alter _ per your touch?
Would you rush? _ Would you wait? _ Would you fall?
Would you come _ to me _ when I call?
Would we all – part way – at day’s end?
I managed a bit of internal rhyming scheme in there as well, just to give you some idea.
I pray to the “Teachers” of Thai poetry that they don’t come to haunt me this night. I apologize for my attempt seems mocking, but I just want to prove one simple point.
Poetry has no boundary.
Well, almost. Then again, this ain’t Haiku…