On Tanka…..Sometimes I despair of ever

really getting to the core of something. Of turning a thing inside out and really knowing it. I play with tanka, but I have not studied the classical form. Not really. I think it takes years and a certain amount of patience and maturity to grasp the essentials, and I am not there yet. Perhaps my generation (and I am not young) is so involved in our ‘self-expression’, in our communications by phone, in our writing if we are writers, and especially in our internet correspondence, we don’t take the time to sit and contemplate the power and shape of words. We ‘scat-sing’ in our communications, and perhaps it shows in our thought procedures, too.

Something to do with this ‘sound bite’ issue?

I never know how much or even “if” I am reaching others with my efforts in writing. When I receive affirmation that I am, even in small ways, it is a revelation to me.

This morning, I opened my email and found a number of very nice messages about what my tanka meant to these writers, and that my writing resonated in their experiences and touched them in some fundamental ways.

All this is to say that it gives me pause, and makes me reconsider the efforts I have put into them. Not enough, actually. And this is what is important to me.

Our poetry is very subjective, personal. But it can’t, in my estimation, only be our ‘personal insight’. It must have some sort of universality. It must touch, and deeply touch where possible, other experiences. Those unknown and known to us. It reflects our ‘internal landscape’ but has the potential to travel much farther.

After all, our languages, customs, habits, traditions might be very different, but the heart springs from the same place in all of us. That identification of being part of a common experience, that ‘thing’ that draws us up together and produces an easier identity.

More tanka coming, cause I got it.

Lady Nyo



This is the problem!
Do not give over your soul,
it returns tattered.
What tailor can mend the rips?
The fabric too frayed by life.

A modest woman
does not seek comfort with thieves
Emptiness is fate.
Better her eyes turn upwards
to Heaven, soul comforted.

Human frailties
wounds that bleed such heated blood
leave a dry vessel.
Without the moisture of love
the clay reverts to the ground.

Tears soften venom.
Knives bring satisfaction to
hands still covered with love.
Trembling, can’t find the mark
but the shame returns, pierces.

The heart is brittle.
Hands can not soothe its aching
only honest words
can make the sore mind attend
unless pain ever constant.

A woman in grief,
is force that races nature.
Better now anger
contempt will replace her love.
She will be stronger for it.

Minute to the hour
The heart races on the edge,
sharpened existence.
Feet trammel the rocky ground
While pain flies up to Heaven.

Birds fly in the blue.
All is gray upon the earth,
heart is stopped with bile.
White crane lifts off lake water,
my heart tries to follow it.

Shall an old gray wolf
subdue a woman like me?
I shall be born soon.
The wolf head I will cut off
and nail the pelt to the cross.

The morning wren sings,
I stand in the moonlit dawn
kimono wrapped tight.
Last night I made my peace
now free from all attachments.

Bolts of lightening flash!
The sky brightens like the day
too soon it darkens.
My eyes opened or closed see
the futility of love.

Had I not known life
I would have thought it all dreams.
Who is to tell truth?
It comes at too sharp a price.
Better to bear flattery.

Jane kohut-bartels

copyrighted, 2008

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2 Responses to “On Tanka…..Sometimes I despair of ever”

  1. Athene Says:

    My mom once told me to be very careful with words.

    Words are powerful. They can make or break something – or someone. They can change minds, perceptions, beliefs, ideals. They are permanent.

    That idea has always stayed with me.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    I very much agree. Unkindness, cruelty, dismissal, all these things are so well portrayed through words, and they don’t have to be harsh ones.

    But they can destroy confidence, beliefs, all the things that make up someone.

    They can unbalance or even destroy a life.

    The trick I think, it seeing those who would do such things to another, any other, …seeing those for the monsters they really are.

    Lady Nyo


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