Friday, September 20, 2013

Carpe Diem's "Little Ones"#4, Tanka

Dear haijin, visitors and travelers,

I am a bit late with this new episode of "Little Ones" in which I challenge you to write another short poem instead of haiku. So other short poems can be, Pi-ku, Naisaiku, Cinquain, Sijo or some other short Japanese poetry form.
This week I will ask you to write a Tanka, identical with the Tan renga, but written by one poet instead of two. Tanka is also known as Waka, that's the old way (old name) of a five-line poem. Let me give you some examples of classical Tanka (with and without the strict syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7):

Ono no Komachi, a female poet, lived ca. 850:

was it because I went to sleep
thinking always of him
that I caught a glimpse of him?
had I known it a dream
I would not have awoken

Or what do you think of this Tanka by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241):

the path at the feet of the mountain
through which the one I wait for wents his way
must by now be blocked
for, on the cedar by the eaves
the snow is heavy

Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241)

From Tanka's long history - over 1300 years recorded in Japan - the most famous use of the poetry form of Tanka was as secret messages between lovers. Arriving home in the morning, after having dallied with a lover all night, it became the custom of well-mannered persons to write an immediate thank-you note for the pleasures of the hospitality. Stylized into a convenient five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 onji (characters), the little poem expressing one's feelings were sent in special paper containers, written on a fan, or knotted on a branch or stem of a single blossom. These were delivered to the lover by personal messengers who then was given something to drink along with his chance to flirt with the household staff. during this interval a responding Tanka was to be written in reply to the first note which the messenger would return to his master.

A modern example of Tanka written by Ellen Compton (Washington DC)

night cries ...
wild geese leaving, winter
bring winter -
I wear remembrance
in a necklace of shells

Or this one by a fellow Dutch poetess named Marianne Kiauta:

over the heads
of the shopping crowd
a red balloon -
as elusive as you
that remained unborn

Also human emotions, as in the above Tanka, are part of Tanka (and Haiku) writing. And to honor the source of this post,, a Tanka written by Jane reichhold. It's Tanka from her book 'A Gift of Tanka'.

desert leaving
one of dream souls
in the lizard
patterns on his back
passport to change

As you have seen maybe, also Tanka uses a syllable structure, 5-7-5-7-7, but as you know about our beloved Haiku, that syllable-count isn't that a strong rule in Western Haiku and Tanka.
As Iwas preparing this episode of Carpe Diem's "Little Ones" I ran into a form of Japanese poetry I didn't know of. So in our next episode of "Little Ones" I will tell you more about the Choka or the Japanese long poem.

Now to end this episode I have composed a Tanka, by the way Tanka isn't my "cup of tea", I even don't really like the Tanka, but I have to do it, because I ask it of you all ...

crystal cobweb
sparkles in the early sun
dewdrops vaporize
just a little while
I felt a rich haiku poet

(c) Chèvrefeuille (your host)

Not a strong Tanka I think, but it was worth the try. Have fun, be inspired and share your Tanka, or another short form of Japanese poetry with us all here at Carpe Diem.
This episode of CD's "Little Ones" will be open for submissions 'till September 30th 11.59 AM (CET) and I will try to post a new CD's "Little Ones", about Choka, later on that day.
!! CD's Little Ones is now open for your submissions !!

1 comment:

  1. I love all kinds of poetry.. I find the complexity of tanka very challenging and fun. Today I decided to share a tanka...