Here’s what the Interlocking Rubaiyat poetry form is:
The interlocking rubaiyat is a quatrain-based verse form tracing its origins to ancient Persia.
The version of the poem we know today was popularized by Edward Fitzgerald, who first introduced the form to western audiences.
It utilizes an AABA rhyme scheme that has come to be known as the ‘rubaiyat quatrain.’
So if you want to learn all about the Interlocking Rubaiyat poetry type, then you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s dig in!
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Forms of Poetry: Interlocking Rubaiyat
The interlocking rubaiyat is an ancient Persian verse form that has since been used by a variety of poets around the world.
The key feature of the form is that the verses all link to each other by sharing one line’s end sound with the next verse.
The word “rubaiyat” comes from the Persian rubāʿī (meaning quatrain). English variants of the interlocking rubaiyat typically opt for AABA, popularized by Edward Fitzgerald’s translations in the 19th century.
The form has undergone significant transformations following its transition to English and the interlocking rubaiyat we know and love today actually looks more like an English form than a Persian one.
Basic Properties of an Interlocking Rubaiyat
|Typically iambic pentameter
|Achieved widespread international popularity, but the western form is strikingly different from the original Persian form
How Is an Interlocking Rubaiyat Structured?
An English interlocking rubaiyat starts with a quatrain that has a rhyme scheme of AABA, then utilizes the one unrhymed line as the end sound for the next verse.
So the rhyme scheme will go AABA BBCB CCDC and so on.
It has become popular to make the final verse cyclical, by making the unrhymed line of the final verse have the same end sound as the first line of the poem, or even to have the last quatrain all share a rhyme sound instead of having an unrhymed line.
These are optional, however, and the poet can simply leave the last unrhymed line as-is if they so choose.
English interlocking rubaiyats are usually written in tetrameter or pentameter.
The most common foot used seems to be the iamb.
This is notably quite different from the Persian conceptualization of the rubāʿī which assigns a pattern of long and short syllables in the following pattern, where ‘u’ represents a short syllable:
– – u u – u – u – – u u –
Note that the above pattern does not break evenly into metrical feet in the same sense that English writers generally expect, which is probably why the form ended up so heavily bastardized for a western audience.
The interlocking rubaiyat that we use in English today barely resembles the original Persian form at all.
Example of Interlocking Rubaiyat
As Days Fall Fast
As days fall fast into each other’s shade,
becoming one long memory to fade,
we look to where we were the day before
almost as if the past should be obeyed.
But still we have to always ask for more
and love surprises life may choose to store.
Do not accept the dues you have been paid
until you know just what they were paid for.
The above example sticks with the English conventions of iambic pentameter and an AABA rhyme scheme.
It’s a bit short for an interlocking rubaiyat, but it’s long enough to learn about the conventions.
The main takeaway here is how the third lines are used.
The unrhymed third line of the first stanza becomes the main end sound for the second stanza.
Meanwhile, the third line of the second stanza actually links back to the beginning of the poem, which in this case is the only other verse.
As mentioned before, this ‘cycling’ is completely optional.
I could have simply left the third line of the second verse unrhymed, and the poem would have still correctly been identifiable as an interlocking rubaiyat.
Tips for Writing an Interlocking Rubaiyat
Our modern understanding of the form in English honestly hinges much more on the “interlocking” aspect of the poem than on the “rubaiyat” traditions.
It’s not necessary to attach yourself to the age-old traditions of the original Persian form since that’s not the variant that western audiences are familiar with, so focus your efforts on the new traditions set forth by writers like Edward Fitzgerald and Robert Frost.
The interlocking rubaiyat, in its current interpretation, isn’t really all that different from writing in traditional English forms like sonnets.
The biggest hurdle for most writers will be in the rhyme scheme, since repeating each end sound four times is harder in English than it is in most other languages.
Still, try to avoid repeated end words and slant rhymes if possible.
One way to make this a little easier on yourself is to purposely choose words that are easy to rhyme with from the beginning.
Words that end in vowel sounds or common suffixes are especially easy to work with.
As for the meter, I tend to find that pentameter (five feet) gives you a little more space to set up the next end sound than tetrameter (four feet).
This extra space is more useful in an interlocking rubaiyat than it is in many similar forms, so I do recommend taking advantage of it if you find that tetrameter isn’t working out for you.
If you’re going to write an interlocking rubaiyat based more closely on the Persian meter, then take note that English really doesn’t lend itself well to irregular meter, so you’re going to be in for a challenge.
The reason we use iambs in English is that they’re surprisingly similar to our normal everyday speech patterns.
The interlocking rubaiyat is a form that’s easy to learn and hard to master, which is probably why veteran poets love to experiment with it.
Not many other forms in poetry offer the unique combination of a low bar to entry and a high skill ceiling.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t like rhyme schemes that use an end sound more than twice.
It’s just a matter of personal preference, but I find them to be more exhausting than rhyme schemes that use a sound two or three times, and usually find myself rushing to get such poems over with.
The interlocking rubaiyat is an interesting take on an ancient form, but it’s not really my cup of tea.
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