Posts Tagged ‘magical spells’

Some Tanka…..inspired by the Beauty of Autumn

December 3, 2014

My beautiful picture

Tanka, as many readers know, is an ancient form of Japanese poetry.  Originally called waka, it is a predominant form in Japanese literature, along with the 17th century haiku.

Tanka is much earlier than haiku, with anthologies of tanka being produced in the 8th and 9th centuries, as in the great Man’yoshu.  Basically tanka is a vehicle for  emotional verse.  In some cases, it’s deeply erotic, in other examples it celebrates nature, seasons, etc.

People who read tanka wonder:  Why so short, and why only 31 syllables? One theory is that the rhythm possesses magical power: the poems are spells. I like that.  Certainly such poems (tanka) have been used as spells, for bringing down a deity, etc. and to this day are still found embedded in the tough loam of Tantric Buddhist rites. Another practical theory is that they are formed in such a way that they can be recited in two breaths.  These poems after all, are also called songs.

I am no expert, having stumbled upon  tanka  about 7 years ago, but I have fallen in love with the form.  It is a short and powerful  vehicle for poetic thought.  And perhaps, after all, to compose them as ‘spells’ isn’t far from their historical mark.

I have found tanka to be a refuge.  Perhaps of scoundrels, but certainly a living, breathing poetry form.  I won’t go into the mechanics of tanka here, but I do have a two part essay “Short Introduction to Tanka and Classical Examples” that I was asked to present by OneShot Poetry group a few years ago.  I will post that soon.

Below are some of my tanka, though I still struggle with the form.  It is not to be confused with freeverse in the classical sense of tanka, but then again, poetry and these forms do evolve. Also, most tanka in Japan is written without punctuation.  Most English writers of tanka are more comfortable with some punctuation.  Some of my tanka have punctuation, and some don’t.

Autumn is so beautiful, even with most of the leaves gone. There is something magical in this short season that pulls at the heart. Perhaps a season of spells…..

Lady Nyo

The moon floats on wisps

Of clouds extending outward

Tendrils of white fire

Blanketing the universe

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.

Cranes wheel in the sky

Chiding cries fall to hard earth

Warm mid winter day

A pale half moon calls the birds

To stroke her face with their wings.

The cat sits dozing

Beneath a thorny rosebush

No foot can reach him

His paws retract the sharp claws

A deep purr closes his eyes.

Give me a moment

To catch my breath and settle.

Give me some peace, please!

Stop kissing my hands, stop it!

What if someone is watching?


Presence of Autumn

Burst of color radiates

From Earth-bound anchors

Sun grabs prismatic beauty

And tosses the spectrum wide!

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.

I look up at blue

Sky this morning, watch leaves fall-

Whirling, colored tears

Clip my face like dull razors

The strokings of memory.

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.

When Autumn enters

Inexplicable sadness-

Season fades to death.

Hunter’s moon sits in Heaven–

Garden spiders finish, die.

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

The fat mountain deer listen-

Add their bellowing sorrow.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

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