Thursday, November 30, 2023

lucky us: lục bát

Greetings on this first (not sixth, not eighth) of December!  I have sixes and eights on my mind because the Inklings are challenged (again so soon?) by dear Molly to try a Vietnamese poetry form called the lục bát. Her charge went like this:
Last month there was an Ethical ELA challenge to write a lục bát poem. I was really intrigued by the interwoven rhyme scheme. ... Here’s a link to more information about this form: luc bats Or maybe you’ll get inspired by something in this fascinating blog post about Vietnamese language and poetry:
And if that’s not working for you, feel free to do whatever the hell you want :)

I do appreciate Molly's plainspokenness and flexibility, but I went for the lục bát--which means, in Sino-Vietnamese, "six eight". It has a looping, syllable-counted rhyme scheme that looks like this:


From Wikipedia I also learned that Vietnamese, being a tonal language, bestows a pattern of flat (bằng) and sharp (trắc) tones to the lines of a Lục bát that sounds like this, if you know how to do it.

Bằng bằng trắc trắc bằng bằng 

Bằng bằng trắc trắc bằng bằng trắc bằng.

That's pretty cool, right?
So first I just goofed around with the six-eight idea and wrote certainly the most foolish lục bát ever:

six shakes, cuz seven ate

nine; swelled up; celebrates their new

round belly, how they grew

from two scrappy sticks who spent all

their lives between the balls

of six and eight, now calls their name

“sweet sixteen,” got some game,

lords ten over the same fat six

which crowded seven’s sticks

forever. now lil six just quakes.

          draft ©HM 2023 

But this morning I decided to get serious and it really helped to know that the lục bát has "iambic tendency." I know someone who died last week 1 month shy of 100, and now Henry Kissinger as well.

I have a strong feeling that the last word should match one of the previous ones, like A or D, so there it is.  Are you hoping to live to 100?

Pop in to all the other Inklings to see what they've done with the sixes and the eights, and if you've had enough of that you might enjoy this 6's to 9's song.

Catherine @ Reading to the Core
Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading 
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Two other notes:  the November issue of WHISPERshout Poetry Magazine features moon poems you won't want to miss (2nd and 3rd grade poets keep knocking my socks off).

And, yesterday kicked off the UN Conference of Parties on Climate, or COP28.

Here's an explainer about this year's COP from the UN and from The Guardian, and why it matters. (Yep, it matters for exactly the reasons you think it does.)

Here are Grist's "4 Issues to Watch."

And here's We Don't Have Time, a world citizen organization which streams live from COP28 and gives a good overview and update from each day's sessions with options to dig deeper if you have time.  Because we DON'T have time.

Finally, I'm thanking Anastasia Suen at Small Poems for hosting us, and for the little book TODDLER TWO that I read and read with my toddler back when Anastasia was just getting going with her publishing career! Happy publication anniversary, Anastasia!


  1. Heidi, you hit a homerun--or two! The first one was fun to read and hilarious. The second is substantive, and also lovely and lyrical to read. Those last three lines are perfect with some well-played word order! "We aren't for so long made, not most / of us."

  2. So glad you risked foolish - I love trying anything out and look how it helped you into '100'. And no, I don't have any need/desire/hope to live that long! Watching 90/91 now and that's hard enough!

  3. Heidi, I love both the silly and serious versions of your luc bat poems. You demonstrated that it can be a very versatile! I also appreciate that you offered the option to “do whatever the hell you want.” That is often my favorite way to go! : )

  4. I love your wordplay with the numbers, Heidi, the 'scrappy sticks' holding their own, and then the serious & somber speaking of age, seems like it would be a special one for saying aloud, to a crowd! It would be both warming and chilling & that doesn't always happen! Well-done!

  5. There is so much joy in this post. Thank you, Heidi! I adore the foolishness in your luc bat. I like how some silliness can lighten my mood. Thanks for the links to COP. I usually feel so overwhlemed I don't know where to start. But, I can read...that I can do!

  6. You really ran with this one, Heidi, and your two poems showcase the versatility of the form. The power of your second luc bat really wowed me. " a knife that cuts/two ways across time" Wow. I also appreciate how you considered that ending rhyme. Its echo back to earlier rhymes provides the perfect closure.

  7. The first one still makes me giggle, but that second one is giving me Kay Ryan vibes. I love the repetition of "most/of us."

  8. While I had an Aha moment on your first luc bat that made me feel like the math nonwiz that I am, the second one is a question I'm pondering a lot since my mother has lost her mind at 87 and my mother-in-law powers through living independently at 92. Do I want that for myself or for my children? Aging is not for the weak at heart or feeble of mind.

  9. "we aren't for so long made" is an interesting sounding line and true, because most of us aren't. These poems are fun. Love how you began the first one and I always wondered what happened when seven ate nine!

  10. Thanks so much, Heidi. I'm so glad you and your toddler enjoyed TODDLER TWO! :-)

  11. Reading all these luc bats is making me want to try one out! I love the different voices in yours, Heidi, and your first one demonstrates how important it is to play with words. Thank you!

  12. Love these! Yes, tonal languages--I grew up speaking Thai, and a change in tone--with the same word--changes the meaning altogether. I love "they grew from two scrappy sticks" I think I really love the way "scrappy sticks" sounds.

  13. Ooh. Leave our ghosts and shine and fade--such moments of beauty here. I'd like to hit 90 still active and healthy and loving. Anytime after that, I'd like to die "unexpectedly" in my sleep, with all those I love knowing how fiercely they've been loved. Not too much to ask, right?

  14. So much to take in & ponder here, Heidi - and warnings, too, with your links. Thanks for sifting a challenge through your superfast brain and offering some creative wonder, as always. And, hey - I was telling my hubby you mentioned our "stage of life" in your blog comment re. our getting the puppy, but if we live to be 100, we're not too far from the puppy stage ourselves - kinda. Well, in my mind. HA! ;0)

  15. You are amazing, Heidi! You ran with this really tricky form and came up with two luc bats! Like six, I was quaking as I worked through this rhyme scheme. I agree with you about the last word rhyming with a previous word. It makes the poem feel more complete.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!