Whittled Words – Lai Poem

Welcome to the weekly series, Whittled Words. A series highlighting the innumerable types and styles of poetry to challenge any creative wordsmith. This week’s selection:




The lai is another French form. It is a nine-line poem or stanza that uses an “a” and “b” rhyme following this pattern: aabaabaab. The lines with an “a” rhyme use 5 syllables; the “b” rhyme lines have 2 syllables. It feels kind of like an organized skeltonic verse. Here is a visual representation of the form:











Although somewhat restrictive in its form, there is a rhythmic beauty here that can lead to some powerful phrasing. Also, the use on near rhymes or slant rhymes can help if the rhyme scheme becomes a hurdle.

My research has shown that this style has morphed through the ages to include, “Lai Breton”, which is a lyrical, narrative poem written in octosyllabic couplets that often deals with tales of adventure and romance, and the “Virelai” with variable forms most often set to music and thus written in a number of bars with a refrain. For this entry, we will stick to this earliest form.


Examples of Lai Poems:




By Lawrencealot

Hang the mistletoe

tie it with a bow

then wait.

You’re aware, I know

You just use it though

for bait.

It’s most apropos

how it works, with no




 By nogginquest

Are you really there?

So kind and so fair

I dream

Your vison is near

So strong and so clear

It seems

You stand by me here

And banish my fear




By Catherine Wilson


For years, I have tried
to hide pain inside
of me.

Call it stubborn pride.
Really I’ve denied
the plea.

Strong on the outside
my heart truly cried
a sea.



By Brad Osborne


Life is not a race

A metronomed pace

Sheer will

Find your happy place

Worries there erase

Hope fill

Nothing left to chase

A natural grace

Be still


I hope you have enjoyed this entry to the series, Whittled Words. I look forward to your comments, and if you dare, maybe share your own Lai poem. Thanks for reading!


14 Responses to “Whittled Words – Lai Poem”
  1. beth says:

    this almost feels like a whimsical form, thought the content can be serious

  2. Alan says:

    I do not know why
    you only came by
    to leave.

    You gave no reply.
    What reason should I

    Although I might sigh,
    I’ll try not to cry
    or grieve.

  3. Jim Borden says:

    I like the rhyming style and structure of this poem. Nice job with your poem, it seems like it would be challenging to find the right words to fit into such a restrictive style, but you did it!

  4. Another most interesting form Brad, thank you so much for bringing these very creative ways to express art to us all!

  5. I long to hear more
    So open the door
    And dive

    With words we adore
    Make them sing and roar

    It won’t be a chore
    Write a stanza four
    And five

  6. jonicaggiano says:

    Beautiful form Brad and sounds a bit like a song. As always I enjoyed your version the best but I also enjoyed the examples. Big hugs 🤗 Jonikins

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