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The liwuli is a poetic form derived from Asian (particularly Southeast Asian) literary and rhetorical traditions. The liwuli can be in any language, although it is most commonly composed in one or more of the major languages used in Singapore, where the form is most commonly practised.
The singular and plural of the noun liwuli are the same. While some have referred to multiple poems as "liwulis", this is incorrect. This similarly occurs with haiku, which is one of the predecessors of the liwuli form. Known users of the form include Singaporean poets Alvin Pang, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingde, and Joshua Ip.
In its most basic form, a liwuli consists of three stanzas:
1. The first stanza contains exactly 31 syllables in the form of a prose poem. The first stanza is phrased as imperatives or instructions.
2. The second stanza consists of 14 syllables, broken into 3 lines. The length and subject of each line is left to the poet's discretion.
3. The third stanza consists of 10 syllables, broken into 2 lines of discretionary length. The third stanza is phrased in terms of one or more questions.
An inverted version of the form, the iluwil, consists of the same tripartite stanza structure, but in reverse order of appearance. Some poems combine a set of each to form a double liwuli, also known as a liwuliluwil (or iluwiliwuli). Other variants include the liwulili, where a fourth stanza is appended to a regular liwuli, with the same rules as the first stanza. A liwuliiluwil by Ian Chung was recently featured at City Hall MRT in Singapore as part of "Poetry on Platforms", a programme sponsored by the National Library Board and National Arts Council.