Monday, February 10, 2020

Carpe Diem #1809 Wedding Bells

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode of our wonderful Kai. Yesterday I challenged you to create an Acrostic Dodoitsu, a nice Japanese poetry form, but also a short poem. So today I love to challenge you with a Long Japanese Poetry form, the Choka. Let me tell you a little bit more about the Choka.

The choka can be of almost any length, because its form depends on alternating phrases (or lines) containing either seven of five sound units (onji). The end of the poem is signaled by two lines of seven sounds. So the form is five/seven, five/seven, five seven, .... , seven/seven.
This was the most popular form of poetry in the 9th century as indicated by the large number of works in the celebrated anthology Man'yoshu (The Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves). This anthology of anthologies contained 260 choka and 4200 tanka.

Page from The Man'yoshu

The poet Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, who composed most of his work in the last decade of the 7th century, took the choka to its highest lyrical point with his finesse in the use of ritual language.
The connection to tanka is evidenced by the envoy or hanka - a tanka-like poem attached at the end of the choka. Occasionally more than one envoy will close the choka. There have been a few efforts to revivie the form over the intervening centuries, but the form has failed to gain any popularity in Japan, and even less has been accomplished in English. (Based on Jane Reichhold's "Writing and Enjoying Haiku")

Here is an example of a choka from the Man'yoshu (no. 802):

The briefest chōka documented is Man'yōshū no. 802, which is of a pattern 5-7 5-7 5-7 5-7-7. It was composed in the Nara period and goes:

When I eat melons
My children come to my mind;
When I eat chestnuts
The longing is even worse.
Where do they come from,
Flickering before my eyes.
Making me helpless
Endlessly night after night.
Not letting me sleep in peace?

(envoy or hanka)

What are they to me,
Silver, or gold, or jewels?
How could they ever
Equal the greater treasure
That is a child? They cannot.

© Yamanoue no Okura (Tr. Edwin Cranston)

Choka ... a wonderful Japanese poetry form ... Today I love to challenge you to create a Choka in which Love is the main theme.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until February 17th at noon (CET). Have fun!

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