hosts: Firdaus Parvez, Kala Ramesh, Priti Aisola & Suraja Menon Roychowdhury
Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!
featured book: The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan. Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani November 15, 2023
“Yamazato no / aretaru yado o / terashi tsutsu / ikuyo henu ran / aki no tsukikage”
This abandoned house
in the mountain village—
how many nights
has the autumn moon spent here?
– Ono no Komachi
"Natsu no yo wa / maki no to tataki / kado tataki / hito tanome naru / kuina nari keri"
a rap at the gate,
a rap at the door…
how hope answers
the water rail’s knock.
– Izumi Shikibu
"Of the many differences between the language in which these poems were composed and that into which they have come, one of the most significant is that Heian-era Japanese (and present-day Japanese) is a highly inflected language. This means that grammatical constructions are often contained within the words themselves, usually in their endings, as in Latin; when an auxiliary word is used, it generally follows rather than precedes its companion. English, by comparison, is a partially inflected language; although some information is given in word endings—for example, the distinction between singular and plural—word order also greatly determines grammar. “The man ate the lion” means something quite different from “the lion ate the man."
Because of the conventions of ordering in English grammar, the understanding of a sentence tends to develop from beginning to end, and when auxiliary words are used (“I will have left by then”), they generally precede the part of speech they modify. For novice readers of Japanese, the order in which a poem’s information unfolds, both within phrases and over the course of the poem, at first often seems reversed. Again, anyone who has studied Latin or another inflected language knows how quickly one learns to take one’s cues as they come; but until the originals’ order begins to seem natural, reading the phrases backwards word by word or starting the poem from its end will usually help in untangling the meaning. (An additional source of potential confusion is the fact that the language of the Heian era differs more greatly from contemporary Japanese than that of Chaucer from contemporary English, and some of the words in these poems were archaic even at the time of composition.)"
– Jane Hirshfield
—The Ink Dark Moon - Love poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu.
Women of ancient Court of Japan.
Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani
Note: This book has the English translation of poems by two great Japanese women tanka poets. It has Japanese versions as well, and if you want to read how they have translated the verses I recommend that you buy the book. I can only post the tanka and probably a short excerpt. There’s a good portion of the book dedicated to the translation method and some interesting facts.
Important: Since we're swamped with submissions, and our editors are only human, mistakes can happen. Please, please, remember to put your name, followed by your country, below each poem, even after revisions. It really helps our editors; they won't have to type it in, saving them from potential typos. Thanks a ton!
Please also, in case of tanka-art, tell us if it's your own picture or someone else's. We will be unable to accept it otherwise.
The challenge for this week:
Even after over a thousand years we can relate to these tanka; they are timeless. What do you feel about them? Do they take you somewhere into the past? Write about solitude, of waiting, of looking for something perhaps, or just anything these tanka inspire. Most of all, have fun!
And remember – tanka, because of those two extra lines, lends itself most beautifully when revealing a story. And tanka prose is storytelling.
Give these ideas some thought and share your tanka and tanka-prose with us here. Keep your senses open, observe things that happen around you and write. You can post tanka and tanka-prose outside these themes too.
An essay on how to write tanka: Tanka Flights here
1. Post only one poem at a time, only one per day.
2. Only 2 tanka and two tanka-prose per poet per prompt.
Tanka art of course if you want to.
3. Share your best-polished pieces.
4. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.
5. Post your final edited version on top of your original verse.
6. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems.
We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished tanka and tanka-prose (within 250 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly magazine. <> <>