Empat Perkataan


The Empat Perkataan is a traditional Southeast Asian form originating from the Malaccan empire around the 15th century. It was popular in the Riau Archipelago and Malay Peninsula, and is associated with languages such as Malay, Tagalog, Sundanese and Javanese, although examples can be found in English as well. The word Empat is derived from the Malay words for ‘four’ and ‘words’.


  • has no fixed length
  • each line is four words
  • each line is not to be in traditional sentence form but instead fragments associated by meaning or sound
  • rhyme scheme are either couplets or alternating, and can either be rhymed or assonant
  • strictly speaking each word in the empty perkataan sound be two syllables


I’ll confess, I sourced in wikipedia, but in my defense the April Form Poetry Challenge is getting ever closer and I have a ton of forms to go.


*Note: It is possible that the Empat Perkataan and the Empat Empat are one in the same poem form. There is very little information I was able to find about either one outside of poets quoting each other round robin and repeating the same information that one random poet said without proper sourcing. What I could find in academic scholarship about Malay poetry does not, in fact, mention either of the two forms among the traditional Malay forms from that time period.

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