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Thai Poetry

Foreigners looking for Thai poetry online usually are searching for Thai poetry in English. The problem with finding Thai poetry in English is that it is difficult to translate Thai poetry into the English language. Translating any type of poetry from one language into another is hard—and even more so when it comes to translating Thai poetry into English.

Simply being fluent in both Thai and English isn’t enough to produce accurate and beautiful translations of Thai poetry into English. Successfully translating Thai poetry into English requires that the translator be fluent in Thai and an accomplished poet in the English language.

Over the years, Thai and Western academics have made attempts at English translations of the three main types of Thai poetry (Khlong, Glawn, and Râi) but have fallen short in the eyes of many critics. For more information on these scholarly attempts at translating Thai poetry into English click here.

Most foreigner looking for Thai poetry online are doing so because they are either learning Thai and want something more interesting to learn than what is provided in the typical dry Thai language book, or they are in love and want some evocative Thai language they can use with their Thai lover. For these people, we recommend checking out the website BookofZen.com.

Book of Zen is a contemporary literary work that is part Thai poetry, part Thai proverbs, part Thai philosophy. It appeals to the lover and philosopher inside us all, and is a useful resource for anyone interested in reading Thai poetry in English translation. Here are two samples:

Zen Thai Poetry for Lovers

คนรักที่ไม่ได้เป็นคู่แข่งก็ไม่เป็นทั้งสองอย่าง (Audio)

Khon-rák thêe mâi-dâi bpen khôo-khàeng gâw mâi bpen tháng-săwng yàhng.

Lover who not be competitor (linking) not be both way.

A lover who is not a fighter is neither.

Zen Thai Poetry for Philosophers

ความรู้สร้างคนฉลาด เช่นเดียวกับคนโง่ (Audio)

Khwahm-róo sâhng khon chà-làht chên-dio-gàp khon ngô.

Knowledge builds person smart as-well-as person fool.

Knowledge makes wise men, as well as dunces.

To read more from the Book of Zen, go to Zen Thai Poetry.

eLearn Thai Culture Tip: There are five types of traditional Thai poetry. Râi (ร่าย) is the oldest form of Thai poetry. It is the simplest type of Thai verse and includes rhyming syllables. Khlong (โคลง) is the 2nd oldest form of Thai poetry, with many scholars believing it to have developed from Râi verse. It has a more sophisticated form than Râi verse and includes rules for both tone and rhyme.

Chăn (ฉันท์) is a form of Thai poetry that was developed during the Ayutthaya  period (1350-1767). It was derived from Pali and Sanskrit metres. Gahp (กาพย์) is a form of Thai poetry that has several different rhyming and metre rules, and is thought to have its origin in either Indian or Cambodian poetry.

Glawn (กลอน) can refer to any type of Thai poetry or a more recently developed form of Thai poetry with unique metre and tone rules.

For a deeper analysis of the different forms of Thai poetry, head on over to Wikipedia.

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  • by the staff at e-Learn Thai: Learn Thai Language Online
  • December 21, 2012. 8:09:00 am, Chachoengsao, Thailand

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