Thursday, November 24, 2016

Carpe Diem Tanka Splendor 25th Teika's 9th Tanka Writing Technique "Exquisite Detail" (prompt: charcoal)

!! I have replaced the e-books of CDHK to our Carpe Diem Library and I created a new page for our own E-zine Souchou!!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode of Carpe Diem Tanka Splendor. This month our main goal is to improve our tanka writing skills through the Ten Tanka Writing Techniques by Teika. Today I will introduce to you Teika's 9th Tanka Writing Technique "Exquisite Detail" and I will try to create a tanka with it prompted "charcoal".

Let me first take you back in time to the century in which the tanka was known as waka. In ancient times, it was a custom between two writers to exchange waka instead of letters in prose. In particular, it was common between lovers. Reflecting this custom, five of the twenty volumes of the Kokin Wakashū gathered waka for love. In the Heian period the lovers would exchange waka in the morning when lovers met at the woman's home. The exchanged waka were called Kinuginu, because it was thought the man wanted to stay with his lover and when the sun rose he had almost no time to put on his clothes on which he had lain instead of a mattress (it being the custom in those days). Works of this period, The Pillow Book and The Tale of Genji provide us with such examples in the life of aristocrats. Murasaki Shikibu uses 795 waka in her The Tale of Genji as waka her characters made in the story. Some of these are her own, although most are taken from existing sources. Shortly, making and reciting waka became a part of aristocratic culture. They recited a part of appropriate waka freely to imply something on an occasion.

Illustration from the Tale of Genji (woodblock print)

Much like with tea, there were a number of rituals and events surrounding the composition, presentation, and judgment of waka. There were two types of waka party that produced occasional poetry: Utakai and Uta-awase. Utakai was a party in which all participants wrote a waka and recited them. Utakai derived from Shikai, Kanshi party and was held in occasion people gathered like seasonal party for the New Year, some celebrations for a newborn baby, a birthday, or a newly built house. Utaawase was a contest in two teams. Themes were determined and a chosen poet from each team wrote a waka for a given theme. The judge appointed a winner for each theme and gave points to the winning team. The team which received the largest sum was the winner. The first recorded Utaawase was held in around 885. At first, Utaawase was playful and mere entertainment, but as the poetic tradition deepened and grew, it turned into a serious aesthetic contest, with considerably more formality. (source:wikipedia)

Okay back to our episode.

Exquisite detail - komayaka naru tei

This style is indicated by exact and precise details with often complex imagery. In Teika's anthology of tanka styles he has 29 examples. One of which is one from the Kokinshū, #4:193, written by Ōno Chisato (890-905):

tsuki mireba / chiji ni mono koso / kanashikere / waga ni hitiostu no / /aki ni wa aranedo

gazing at the moon
a thousand sad things
overcome me
not only I feel this
in autumn alone

This "exquisite detail" technique we can imagine quit well I think, because we are all haiku poets and are proud on the details we can use in our haiku. For example think about the haiku by Basho on "shepherd's purse", which we have seen here earlier:

if you look closely
a sheperd's purse flowering
underneath the hedge

© Basho

I have tried to create a tanka with "charcoal" and with the use of this "exquisite detail" technique. I don't know if it has become a good one.

in the meadow
peeling the leaves of daisies,
does she loves me?
dreaming In front of the fireplace
I look into the charcoal

© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until November 29th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, meditation, later on.


  1. Very interesting about the contests. I think they must have been great fun, and serious, too. Haiku and tanka leand themselves to competition so well. The kukai you do are riveting, and perhaps of others on other sites had more confidence they would partipate. I know some also are scared yo participate unless they do not win, and thus shatter their self-image. I hope that changes and more join.
    Anyway, was very interesting. Maybe we can do an impromptu kukai with tanka in a few days or the last day of the month, where each of us can vote for the tanka we think is best on that day, just emailing you the entry number here at the link up of the one tanka they voted for.

    1. Thank you for you words Hamish. I like the idea of an impromptu kukai. I will give it a thought.

    2. Great idea, Hamish. I just thought I'd better let you know that I am having great difficulty with your posts at the moment - for the last week or so I haven't been able to comment and now they are loading very slowly or not at all. I'm not sure if it's something to do with my laptop, WordPress or something else. I hope you didn't think I've been ignoring you!

  2. Great idea, Hamish! A kukai in the spirit of the Utaawase. I'm not fussed about winning - it's joining in that's important. It makes me feel part of the haiku/tanka-writing community. :)