e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “tanka”

Tanka for a foggy autumn

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Carpe Diem has started a series of posts on tanka techniques. Even for non-writers, it’s worth reading the post to enhance understanding and appreciation.

The first technique is to add mystery and depth. Autumn is a good time for mystery I think; not only do we have Hallowe’en and the supernatural, but we are in a sort of between-ness – assessing summer just gone and looking forward to/dreading winter to come.

But autumn is a time of its own, as the old Japanese writers knew so well and wrote about so movingly, as in this tanka written by Toshiyuri and quoted on Carpe Diem:

Cries of quail
from the shore of Mano cove
winds blow
waves of plume grass
ripple in autumn dusk.

My response is:

A dense, white fog fills
the garden; among yellowed
grasses no blade stirs.
A crow, hidden in whiteness,
croaks three times, then falls silent.

 

 

Picture from Photo Pin.

The arch: change of use

Wall and arch

Someone built this arch
of golden stone to lead to
his beloved garden.
How he’d weep to see it locked;
the cherished beauty hidden.

A new haiku challenge – ‘The rays of the setting sun’.

Once again the Carpe Diem site has come up with an interesting prompt. Its inspiration is a classic haiku by Kikaku, a contemporary of Basho.

This is a translation of the poem:

in the rays of the setting sun
there flutters along the city street
a butterfly

I think it is a lovely image. Mine however leaves the butterflies and concentrates on the sky:

Red-rimmed clouds gather
in the west. Behind them,
today’s sun sets.

As I roamed around the house and garden mulling the haiku and trying different versions in my head, I felt it should be expanded into a tanka.

Red-rimmed clouds gather
in the west. Behind, today’s
sun sets. My neighbour
passes me in the street.
‘Nice day tomorrow,’ he says.

Seasons of Sacred Celebration: Flowers and Poetry from an Imperial Convent

Cover artWhile attempting to organise some of my books, I came across this one. I’ve owned it for some time and have read it before, but now, re-reading it I was thrilled all over again.

It presents a set of poetry cards from the Diashoji Imperial Convent in Kyoto. Each card is reproduced on its own page and opposite are a Japanese and English version of the poem. The publishers are the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, part of Columbia University, New York.

The poems are waka (also called tanka), a style of short poem with a long history in Japan. Like most Japanese poems they are direct and seemingly simple but say so much:

Could it be that the maple leaf

fathoms the heart of one who feeds the fire …

The book is beautiful – the illustrations are magical; the poems show new ways of looking at flowers and trees; the scholarly introduction and essay are fascinating – I learned an amazing amount; the index to the calligraphers is well organised and useful.

And there is a mystery – who initiated the production of the set of cards and why?

And they are part of women’s Buddhist history and were published to celebrate a great woman, Zen Abbess Mugai Nyodai (1223 – 1298).

What more could one want?

The cover art is from Floating World Editions.

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