Posts Tagged ‘some of this tanka from “A Seasoning of Lust”’

Tanka for OneShotPoetry

February 8, 2011


OneShotPoetry has asked me to do a presentation on tanka February 14th and February 21st.   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.  Basically tanka is a vehicle for  emotional verse.  In some cases, it’s deeply erotic, in other examples it celebrates nature, seasons, etc.  I am no expert, having stumbled upon  tanka  about 5 years ago, but I have fallen in love with the form.  It is a short and powerful  vehicle for poetic thought.  My intent in this presentation- to- come is to introduce tanka to those poets and readers who are not familiar with the form and to present some of my favorite tanka writers from ancient Japanese literature, in particular the priest-poet, Saigyo, and Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, two Heian court women who were excellent and could stand in any era as superb poets.

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.  That is my excuse for my poor offerings.

Lady Nyo

The moon floats on wisps

Of clouds extending outward.

Tendrils of white fire

Blanketing the universe

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.

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.


Give me a moment!

To catch my breath and settle.

Give me some peace now.

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.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008,2011

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