Some Tanka, posted for d’versepoets…..

For those readers who are not familiar with tanka, it is a very ancient form of Japanese poetry.  It is based on lines of syllables (for English readers) that fall into this form:  5-7-5-7-7.  It is actually usually two poems, joined by the third line. It was and is a very important form of communication between lovers, and also was cultivated by the more educated classes in Japanese society. It was especially used in court and also great competitions, including the samurai.

Today in Japan there is still weekly newspaper competitions publishing tanka by readers.  Tanka is a form that has spread all over the world.

TANKA WHILE WALKING

Like the lithe bowing

Of a red maple sapling

My heart turns to you,

Yearns for those nights long ago

When pale skin challenged the moon.

Come into my arms.

Bury under the warm quilt.

Your scent makes me drunk

Like the wine we gulped last night.

Too much lust and drink to think!

So much bitterness

Between two who lusted deeply.

What happened to love?

One word could change night to day,

One word could unbind my soul!

I walked a landscape

Unfamiliar to my mind.

The only sound heard

Was the tinkling of bells

Then silence covered like snow.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011

from ‘White Cranes of Heaven” printed 2011, available from Lulu.com

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46 Responses to “Some Tanka, posted for d’versepoets…..”

  1. Steve E Says:

    Beautiful–I will try this tomorrow during my walk. The walking steps will keep track of the syllables Thank you for posting these…with explanation for Peeps like me who are “out-of-the-know”.
    PEACE!, Lady!

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Steve….it’s a pretty poor explanation I gave here…running out of steam this steamy day.

    I did a two part explanation on Tanka for Onestoppoetry.com….back in Feb. I believe. If you want it, I’ll send it to you..it’s an explanation of the classical form of tanka, the history, some examples of classical form and my own as dissection. And some riff on modern tanka. Let me know.

    Tanka is a remarkable form. I just pulled out (today) my “Awesome Nightfall”, by LaFleur…about Saigyo. It’s the definitive book to date on him. Wonderful history (a lot deducted by LaFleur doing some deep study of the Heian court times and old manuscripts.) I haven’t finished this book and am settling down this week to do so.

    I got away from tanka over the past few months, and wondered why my life felt…well, scattered. Tanka is a remarkable form for internal thoughts….contemplation, observation. And etc. It’s a beautiful form for strengthening the inners.

    Thank you for reading and your comment. Tanka has a internal rhythm all of its own. You being a musician would pick up on this very fast. It’s excellent to compose as you walk. I did a lot of tanka this way during the last 3 falls and winter walking. It allows something deeper to emerge, as you observe nature around you, mixed with your own issues…

    Peace,
    Lady Nyo

    Like

  3. Pat Hatt Says:

    Never heard of this form either. Guess I’m clouded by rhyme..haha. Really like how it weaves in and out different thoughts though, you must walk alot.

    Like

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Pat!

    I do..walk alot. I find that the rhythm of walking creates a rhythm in verse.

    Thanks for reading and your comment. Tanka rocks!

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  5. brian Says:

    tanka is nice and yours are certainly evocative…like the first two in particular…their sensual nature..a little fun under the blanket, not a bad night i would say…smiles…

    Like

  6. Claudia Says:

    so you really wrote this while walking..? i often do and type the words into my iphone… lovely and sad poem..When pale skin challenged the moon…loved this… and then the road goes somewhere we never want it to go… sensitively penned a always..

    Like

  7. Andy Says:

    I’m in the land of the unknown when it comes to poetry forms, but I liked the flow of this. The image is vivid albeit a little sad.

    Nicely done!

    Like

  8. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Andy.

    Tanka is a particularly sensitive of poetry form. I find that it, perhaps because of the restrictions, fits some mood swings…

    LOL!

    Thank you, Andy for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  9. Daydreamertoo Says:

    The Japanese certainly have a gifted way of expressing thought in their way. I always loved Haiku and have never heard of the Tanka.
    This was sad but, beautiful.

    Like

  10. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Claudia!
    Walking and composing poetry is a relationship that works between body and mind…something like this!
    I don’t have an iphone, so I try to rely on memory. sometimes I cheat and (walking in my backyard always) I have a piece of paper and a pen stuck on the roof of the henhouse….LOL! As I make a pass…I scribble a line.

    Thank you, Claudia for reading and your comment. I need to get an iphone….LOL!

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  11. Gavin P (@thezenofgavin) Says:

    Peace in every step…. Yes!

    “When pale skin challenged the moon.” Oh the zen of it all, thank you!

    Like

  12. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Brian,

    Yes…tanka is a particularly good form for lovepoems, erotica, etc. I have a bunch of erotic tanka I wrote two years ago, but haven’t posted these yet….LOL! Some of them are sensual, and some dip a little deeper….

    Glad you liked these….I am going to start “Awesome Nightfall”, W. LaFleur’s book on Saigyo and his marvelous tanka tonight. Have you read it? Very good book not only on Saigyo but a great collection of his beautiful tanka.

    Thanks for reading, Brian…and your comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  13. Dulce Says:

    This is sad, deep and reminds me of guilt, that guilt one feels after a hangover…

    IMO the best I’ve read so far today

    Like

  14. ayala Says:

    Lovely…what happens to love? bitterness like poison.

    Like

  15. Kelvin S. M. Says:

    ..ah, i love Tanka.. i fell in love with it along with haikus… though i know i have so much to learn in these forms.. more exposure and inspiration i guess… i simply like ‘em all ma’am… each touches and volumes to me deeply.. thanks for sharing!(:

    Like

  16. Mama Zen Says:

    You do these so well!

    Like

  17. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Mama Zen.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  18. ladynyo Says:

    Yeap, Ayala…sometimes…
    thanks…

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  19. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Dulce….someone was drunk in the second tanka.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  20. ladynyo Says:

    You are very welcome, Galvin.

    Thanks for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  21. ladynyo Says:

    Hello Daydreamer…
    Tanka is very old..much older than haiku. Tanka, 6-7th century….Haiku…17th! A thousand years apart.

    Thank you for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  22. Heaven Says:

    I enjoyed reading these… I must try this form.. thanks for sharing it.

    Like

  23. ladynyo Says:

    You are welcome, Heaven…it’s a wonderful form…though it does come with a few ‘rules’…but I think most people ignore the classical forms…

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  24. wolfsrosebud Says:

    “Then silence covered like snow.”, my favorite line.

    Like

  25. Charles Elliott Says:

    Lovely.

    Like

  26. waysidewordgarden Says:

    I appreciate the explanation of the tanka form, had heard of it, but didn’t know anything about it. “What happened to love?” — I like how you changed the direction in that stanza toward a different ending than how it began.

    Like

  27. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Charles.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  28. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, wolfsrosebud…for reading these tankas.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  29. leslie Says:

    thank you for introducing me to this beautiful poetry form. yours is lovely – i especially like the tender love in the first lines:

    “Like the lithe bowing

    Of a red maple sapling

    My heart turns to you,”

    Like

  30. Joanne Elliott aka soulsprite Says:

    Beautiful and beautifully done. Thank you for sharing beauty.

    Like

  31. marousia Says:

    The last one transported me:

    I walked a landscape

    Unfamiliar to my mind.

    The only sound heard

    Was the tinkling of bells

    Then silence covered like snow.

    Like

  32. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Marousia!

    I am so glad you like that one…many don’t…or don’t understand it. Only tonight did I realize that this was a ‘spiritual’ statement for me….and conflicted as I have always been about religion, it’s enough, it’s enough.

    Sometimes the seeds of our spiritual seeking is buried in our poetry. Recently I have started to attend a Unitarian Universalist congregation here in Atlanta, and I see where that tanka fits within my religious intellectualism.

    I have felt that the words: “I have walked a landscape unfamiliar to my mind” has been this seeking….

    Thank you so much Marousia for reading and your comment.

    Hugs and Peace,

    Jane

    Like

  33. ladynyo Says:

    Oh! You are so welcome, Soulsprite!

    Thank you for reading and your lovely, generous comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  34. ladynyo Says:

    Hello Leslie…

    I like that one too. It is more the ‘proper’ tanka…more of the classical form, where there are two poems….united by that third line (5). You can end it on that third line, and you can start the second poem on it too. Dual service, that line! LOL!

    Thank you, for reading and you comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  35. Elizabeth Young Says:

    Beautifully written Jane, I love this tanka, but especially the last stanza. Wonderful!

    Like

  36. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Elizabeth!!~~~~~

    Thank you darling, for reading this and your comment. I have so many people to get back and read their poetry ths week.

    I’ll be around this afternoon, making the rounds!

    Cheers!

    Jane

    Like

  37. Heaven Says:

    I read your share over at OSP about this, and I enjoyed it.

    I am going to try it out next week; hopefully I get it right.

    Thanks again ~

    Like

  38. hedgewitch Says:

    Loved these, especially the last two…I have the hardest time with this form–takes me hours to get a line the way I want it, but I do respect it for the amazing way it revolves and condenses thoughts and makes perfect gifts of them to the reader. i enjoyed my present.Thanks much.

    Like

  39. Joseph Hesch Says:

    As I noted in the past, I cut my poetic baby teeth on the Japanese forms and I think I love Tanka most of all, it’s pivot line so important to the separation, joining and balance of the whole. You’ve done a masterful job here, Jane. I was so happy to see you do these for us.

    Like

  40. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Joe!

    Thank you for the compliment…but it was probably two years before I was able to do that pivot line….LOL! Or was even aware of it…

    Otherwise, it’s just freeverse to me. There are reasons for the classical form…as you have said, balance is just one.
    I love tanka most of all the forms, too…and there are many….I have been studying Japanese for a while just to be able to read some of the classical tanka in the original….More I should say I can identify WORDS of these tankas…someday perhaps whole sentences. LOL!

    I did a two part series back in Feb. for Oneshotpoetry….it’s still available. I did a bit on history, but for me more important was the dissection of the tanka.

    Thank you, Joe for reading and your gracious comment.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  41. ladynyo Says:

    Hiya Hedgewitch!

    I think tanka is a very spontaneous form….and overthinking usually ruins mine! LOL!

    Perhaps the walking connects the mind with a flow, and that is rather conversational in tanka. I don’t know, but I do know when I’m misfiring on tanka~ LOL!

    Thank you, Joy for reading and your comment.

    Jane

    Like

  42. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Heaven….oh, you’ll do fine. It’s a wonderful conversation with yourself with tanka sometimes….keeping it simple and loose helps for me…but falling into the form and having fun is a great beginning.

    I am so happy to hear that you are trying this ancient form. And thanks for reading that series over on OSP.

    Tanka can open a whole new world for a poet.

    Jane

    Like

  43. Rosemary Nissen-Wade aka SnakyPoet Says:

    I like writing tanka too, or attempting to. These are very beautiful. I have never before seen it explained as two poems joined by the third line. That’s a really useful piece of information; thank you.

    Like

  44. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Rosemary,

    It took me a few years to realize the ‘inners’ of tanka. I read and reread stuff, but it never sunk in until about a year ago….or so.

    It just takes a lot of practice. Luckily, tanka is short! LOL!

    Thank you for reading and your comment. Much appreciated.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  45. ladynyo Says:

    Tanka can be a lifetime learning experience which grows with each tanka.

    Lady Nyo

    Like

  46. rtyecript Says:

    I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

    Like

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