Yesterday I went to the Yass Valley Writers monthly meet for an introductory workshop on Tanka given by Kathy Kituai (a Canberra poet well versed on the subject).
Some notes from the session …
. Tanka is traditionally 5 lines in 5/7/5 7/7 syllabic form … the first three lines focused on observing the natural world with the last two forming a ‘reflective couplet’.
For Tanka in english it is more acceptable to use the syllabic form 3/5/3 5/5.
. It is quite acceptable to base the 5 lines using short/long/short long/long without worrying too much about syllables
. writing the first 3 lines of Tanka teaches observation and definition focusing on a specific object
. writing the last two lines gives an internal perspective that others may identify
. explanation is to be avoided … the text is a catalyst … the reader must discover
. reread over several days … absorb and discover … many readings may be necessary before any ‘aha’
. the third line may be a ‘pivotal line’ … read the first 3 lines then repeat the third line again with the last two … is the third line applicable to both readings? (married into both – pivotal)
. use enjambment when reading … i.e. keep twisting around the ends of the lines … there are no full stops
. when reading Tanka which is a translation the syllabic structure will disappear
. mull over words especially where there is symbolic meaning common in Japanese and Asian work (I recommend using a mind-map as a tool for personal discovery)
. try it for yourself ... to capture the moment ... to relive that moment
Two Tanka examples discussed …
red wind chimes
hanging upside down
just out of reach
of plum blossoms
we eat our eggs
starting our day with
tiny, lopsided smiles
If you get the chance to attend one of Kathy's workshops you will not be disappointed. It will open a new window on this poetic form and even if you do not normally use this form in your writing the concepts can be applied elsewhere to surprising benefit.
Recommended Website … http://www.tankaonline.com/