I was doing a little research on an obscure poetic form, the Hsinku, today.  I found two sources that were somewhat helpful in understanding it beyond the basic definition I’d been given by the South Arkansas Poets of the Pines chapter of PRA: “Line count 4, syllable count optional; Lines 2 and 4 rhymed; line 4, twist or surprise ending based on subject.”

The first source is a translation from an address by the innovator, Dr. Fan Kuanling, of this Neo-classical Chinese form.  Apparently Hsinku also involves an element of oil painting, although I have no idea how the two actually interplay.  In my ignorance, I limit myself to the poetic form and hope more information will come with time.  Dr. Fan gives this definition:

“What is Neo-classical poetry? Neo-classical poetry is written in verse; a modernization of ancient Chinese poems.  Basically four lines each poem. There’re foot rhymes on both the second and fourth lines. But rhymes can be in a natural sense of music. To copy ancient sayings and verses are not encouraged.

The entire address, including his own example of the Hsinku, can be found here.

My second source was Nathaniel Hellerstein’s blog, Paradox Point, in which he mentions his first experience with Hsinku and Dr. Fan, himself, in 1993.  Hellerstein includes a group of his own compositions.  One, in particular, prompted me to write a response in form.  The original renders praise to the clam for being the creator of the pearl.  (I looked it up–although the preponderance of pearls come from oysters, they occasionally develop inside mussels and clams as well.)  My response, and my first Hsinku, follows.

Why praise the clam?
Little Reactionary secreted nacre
thoughtlessly. Pearl: choice creation
unchosen by its maker.


Black Pearl and shell by Brocken Inaglory (I know. It’s not a clam. But it’s gorgeous!)


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