empat perkataan

The empat perkataan is a traditional Southeast Asian poetic form originating from the Malaccan Empire in the 15th century. It was popular among inhabitants of the Riau Archipelago and Malay Peninsula. It is primarily associated with Austronesian languages such as MalayTagalogSundanese and Javanese, but modern examples can also be found in English. The term is derived from the Malay words for 'four' and 'words'. Singaporean poets including Alvin Pang have been reviving the form for its elegance, versatility and association with Language poetry. The earliest example of the modern empat perkataan is "Inventory", which can be found in Dr Lee Tzu Pheng's 1991 anthology, "The Brink of an Amen".  [Wikipedia]


  • 1Structure
  • 2Variants
  • 3Examples


The classic empat perkataan abides by the following rules and has no fixed length.
  • All lines consist of exactly four words.
  • The four words should not proceed in traditional sentence form but consist of fragments associated by either meaning or sound.
  • The lines are rhymed or assonant with a rhyme scheme either conforming to couplets (aabbccdd), or alternating rhymes (ababcdcd).
  • In its strictest form, all of the words in an empat perkataan should be of two syllables.
At its best, the empat perkataan can create a surprising confluence of associated meaning and mood reminiscent of more post-modern forms. See also the definition in Malay.


The classic version of the form with adherence to all rules is known as the empat perkataan perempuan. Less adherent versions omitting the two-syllable rule are known as empat perkataan sajak, whereas the simplest version not adhering to any rhyme scheme or syllabic constraints is known as the empat perkataan kosong.


  • Graphic Designer Tina Rim did a moving photographic exhibition where words were extracted from hour-long interviews with low-income families and transcribed into loose empat perkataan (sajak/kosong) on slides.
  • Shelly Bryant wrote an informative article on empat perkataan in Scifaikuest Aug 2016. Several of her own pieces are published in the issue as well.
  • Rambutan Literary published an empat perkataan perempuan by Jerome Lim in their second issue. Jerome has also written multiple empat perkataan. 
  • Songs of Eretz Poetry Review published John Reinhart's empat perkataan, "24th century lullaby", and mentioned it as "an ideal form for speculative poetry".
  • A fragmentary empat perkataan perempuan by Lin Yanxiang.
  • The lines are rhymed or assonant with a rhyme scheme either conforming to couplets (aabbccdd), or alternating rhymes (ababcdcd).
  • Rachel T's first empat perkataan.
  • Akshaya Meena's empat perkataan kosong for her daughter.
  • The 2015 edition of SingPoWriMo featured empat perkataan as a prompt.
  • Several empat perkataan were included in the annual anthology, and this review of the anthology makes several references to the form's usage.
  • Empat perkataan is a featured form in Unfree Verse, the anthology edited by Tse Hao Guang et al.
  • Famed Singapore poet Alvin Pang is another known exponent of the form.


  1. easy peasy lemon squeezy
    cleaning meaning useful squeegee
    squeezing sensing ceiling sentence
    ending present mindless entrance


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