Liam Wilkinson, founder and former editor of Prune Juice: A Journal of Senryu and editor of the 3 Lights Series has recently introduced a new online journal, called Englyn, dedicated to the various types of four-line poem.
Quoting from his blog:
So, what is a good four-line poem? Well, there are plenty of examples. Over the centuries, many fine writers have turned their hand to quatrains — poems of four lines that often, but certainly not always, employ a strict meter and rhyme scheme.
Perhaps the most famous example of the individual rhymed quatrain is the ruba’i — a form of Persian poetry best exemplified by Omar Khayyám whose twelfth century quatrains were first translated into English by Edward FitzGerald and published in 1859. The collection known as The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám presents hundreds of the most spectacular quatrains ever written, mostly addressing spirituality, love, time and death.
Another great Persian poet also delivered an impressive collection of quatrains. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī — better known to us, simply, as Rumi — left a wealth of four line poems; the English translations by Coleman Barks being a good place to start. Rumi was, of course, a mystical poet and his quatrains address spirituality, a search for truth, love and the abandonment of ego.
Thanks to such translators as Red Pine, Burton Watson, Gary Snyder and J.P Seaton, we’re also able to enjoy English translations of quatrains by classical Chinese poets such as Stonehouse, Cold Mountain, Li Po, Tu Fu and Wang Wei. These poems often reflect daily life, reclusive life, the mountain landscape and a continual search for enlightenment.
Dodoitsu & Ryuka
Eastern literature has provided us with a plethora of short forms which have either laid their foundation with four lines or have adopted the quatrain approach. The Japanese-born dodoitsu is an often comical four line poem with a syllable structure of 7-7-7-5 whilst the ryuka, which emerged in the Ryukuan Islands at the time of the Satsuma invasion (1609), presents a folk song with a syllable structure of 8-8-8-6. Many writers of haiku and, indeed, tanka have departed from the usual three or five lines to create four line versions of these age-old forms.
And there are many other four line forms, including the ancient Welsh form of the Englyn — which lends this journal its name. Originally a three-line form, the four-line Englyn has been called the ‘celtic haiku’ and is best exemplified by the inscription on the staff of eighth-century bishop St. Padarn.
Whilst Englyn: Journal of Four Line Poetry welcomes submissions of all kinds of four line poem, written with of without strict meter or rhyme, we would recommend that all of our contributors first read works by the poets mentioned above to familiarize themselves with the limitless possibilities of the humble quatrain.
You are welcome, soft red dawn sun
To my tatty little hill hut
Where, all night, I’ve penned ryuka
Under a cold, dim moon
— Garry Eaton, Digital Librarian