jornales

for a moment of joy or moments no one pays for, i give myself a ‘jornal’. this makes me rich. try it.

Tanka? Lady Nyo replies to my plea (and tanka from haikuverse to here)

Two reasons why this re-post but more: First, at Red Dragonfly, my friend Melissa Allen’s blog, in her Lucky 13 edition of haikuverse, I read an intense discussion on tanka. I’ve been a tanka-pretender of late because a few of my tanka-ish (because they are in truth free verses) poems have been quite successful. Reading more on it though pulled me in deeper into the mist, into fog/understanding fades/–smoky white thickens. (By the way, if you wish to grow and expand as a haiku poet, follow Red Dragonfly, on my blogroll, especially her flights in the haikuverse.)

Second, I met Lady Nyo in cyberspace, at One Stop Poetry to be exact, through my post the other day, which I’ve pulled out here to include her reply to my plea that she take a look at my tanka. She kindly did and what a lesson I got using my tanka. My ignorance or better yet, bull-headedness, not paying attention to details of what I read about the art–honestly, I often gloss over most discussions and plunge straight into the poems–was bared. Her discussion of tanka through my attempts in this post has waken me up, bolting upright to seriously study it. Arigato gozaimas, Lady Nyo!

Here is my Valentine post of 5 after-the-classical tanka and 3 of my-own-version of modern tanka:

Could these five tanka attempts I wrote after rereading cover to cover Thomas Gurgal’s Japanese Tanka: The Court Poetry of a Golden Age mentioned twice here and Lady Nyo’s almost intimately written background on tanka writing be tanka? Lady Nyo and the tanka book I found at the Vancouver Public Library describe tanka written during the Heian dynasty. It’s the topic today on One Stop Poetry where I’m posting the following tanka. I did imagine myself as a lady of the court, scribbling notes for a lover but still I’m not certain. Could these be tanka?

1.
The roses you sent
I kissed each petal like lips
your vows blossoming–
Were you here I would ask again
Is your love unlike roses?

2.
In my hand your note
takes wings with my heart
I fly to you tonight–
Will the moon you promised
meet me among stars I bring?

3.
We sit under stars
skidding in the hemispheres
you make me wish
I whisper to the willows this:
Bring his wish to the winds

4.
Before I knew you
I wrote a poem on love
now you declare love
I am losing my poem
in my fluttering heart

5.
Will you be sad
you ask me like a songbird
singing to no one
you took my name and my heart
neatly tied in your knapsack

Three tanka–my own–of which I must ask the same question, could this be tanka? My subject is the same, yes, it’s on love but not courtly love. I also followed the structure but just can’t be certain. Would you tell me?

1.
driving into fog
our hearts in our hands–
same hands
scribbling secret codes
our midnight whispers

2.
under frozen skies
oriole songs fill a dome–
divining our dawns
the path our suns travel
distances our longing defy

3.
the full moon stalls
listening to midnight whispers–
skidding stars
spark the skies our eyes
on nothing else but ours

Lady Nyo’s reply to my plea:

I want to clear something up. Tanka isn’t only about love: it’s a vehicle to carry a message about mourning, praise, grief, death (as in Death Poems from Samurai) observations on nature, etc. So we should broaden our attempts at tanka to partake of so many themes.

I think these top 5 are very much in the tanka form. As to spirit? Yes, they are.

However, I do see a difference in the Court tanka, the more immediate tanka in something like the “Man-yoshu”…where the romantic sentiment is a bit more complex. It’s just different and this is hard to explain without a study of it.

But we aren’t Heian court women poets…we are modern women poets, and that ‘sensibility’ is very different I believe now.

The last three are lovely freeverse to me. What is missing here is the syllable count: 5-7-5, etc. If you read the romanji script…the original Japanese tanka, you see, by sounding it out that these tanka follow this form. They don’t necessarily stray from it because it is a discipline and has a purpose.

Tanka is to be read in two breaths. However, the top five very much carry correctly that important Kakekotoba, that pivot or bridge between the top poem (Kami no ku) and the bottom poem (Shimo no ku)

This is what is most hard (well, one of those hard things) in tanka to pull off…the unifying but also the recognition of tanka being actually TWO poems.

It takes a lot of work, process and study to begin to be ‘easy’ in this formation.

But we will get there. This is a good start.

Lady Nyo

We continued our discussion at Lady Nyo’s weblog (click on the blogroll) on the ‘elusive’ spirit of tanka as well as haiku. Next Tuesday at One Stop Poetry, Lady Nyo has promised to discuss the ‘two poems’ in a tanka.

February 17, 2011 Posted by | critique/self-critique, free verse, poetry, tanka | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

grey relentless rain (is it tanka?)

grey relentless rain
on moss covered cherry trees—
he counts his regrets
since the dawn he missed the sun
days half-lived appear each turn

Is it tanka? Possibly because it follows the thirty-one (5/7/5/7/7) Japanese form.

But it can’t possibly be tanka because it does not express “passionate or delicate sentiments”, which its original form did.

Tanka reached its peak in the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries also known as the “Heian period, Japan’s golden age”, as identified by Alfred H. Marks, editor-in-chief of Literature East & West. He introduces the period when no written language existed in Japan as yet and so, tanka, was recited. Each year, under the sponsorship of the emperor, a contest would be held. Professor Marks is a “renowned translator and dynamic scholar”.

Here’s a concrete vision of tanka a drawn by Professor Marks in his introduction: “…a languid lady in a palace lined with screens and colorful sliding walls, reading the thirty-one syllable statement of the heart of some moody nobleman and answering the missive in another thirty-one syllables in tasteful imagery and elegant calligraphy. It was the Heian greeting card, and it is today, in Japan as elsewhere, an apt medium for sentiments passionate or delicate.”

The book, Japanese Tanka, The Court Poetry of a Golden Age for which Professor Marks wrote this introduction contains 56 exquisite tanka by Thomas Gurgal, a former student of Marks, with Illustrations by Maggie Jarvies published by The Peter Pauper Press, Inc. Mount Vernon, NY, 1972.

I found the book squeezed between giant poetry tomes and collections at Vancouver Public Library’s central branch on West Georgia here in downtown Vancouver. The tiny pocketbook-size hardbound edition has been quite a discovery, which could hold me in awe even after I close the covers and must turn it back in when it’s due to circulation…I guess I’ll have to line up forever to get it back.

My tanka is far from the sentiments Gurgal so wondrously expresses. I could pretend to be a lady in some imperial court but I know I would be stretching my imagination too far out. My culture won’t give me a shadow to wing from. I would have to visit Japan, I guess. And so, I conclude, what I wrote is not a tanka by these ancient standards except, and this could be stretching it so much so it could snap, it also expresses a sentiment, that of ‘loss’, which seem to rule my subsconscious.

Japanese Tanka, The Court Poetry of a Golden Age by Thomas Gurgal

February 7, 2011 Posted by | critique/self-critique, poetry, tanka | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment