Updated: Jun 7
hosts: Firdaus Parvez, Kala Ramesh, Priti Aisola & Suraja Menon Roychowdhury
Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!
It is our pleasure to feature well known haijin and poet Sonam Chokki this month. Welcome Sonam! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! We hope you will visit us and share your comments and insights on the poems that will be posted.
1.TTH: Do you come from a literary background? What writers did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you write as a child?
SC: The earliest introduction to a literary background was the oral traditions in Bhutan. Tales about the historical Buddha, Phajo Drukgom Shig-po (1184-1251), the founder of the Druk-pa Kagyug school, from which Bhutan gets its name: “Druk Yul” (“Land of the Druk-pa teachings”), Milarepa, the cave-dwelling hermit-sage (1028 - 1053), Machig-Labdrön, the woman ascetic (1055- 1149), Druk-pa Kunley, the Divine Madman (1455- 1529), the mythical Gesar of Ling with his magical, flying stead. The local oracle accounts of the guardian deities of the valleys, the mountains, rivers and forests were another source of literary tradition.
I didn’t write as a child.
2. TTH: How did you get started as a poet? What was it about tanka that inspired you to embrace this ancient form of poetry? In short, why do you keep writing tanka.
SC: It was in The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, that I first read waka, a precursor of the tanka. Murasaki interlaces some 800-waka poem into the narrative. The prose passages are mostly descriptions of the palace, the elaborate court ceremonials, the clothes worn by the protagonists, the gardens and courtyards, temples and festivals. But it is in the waka that the principal protagonists come alive as individuals as they express excitement and anticipation of meeting, sorrow at parting, longing, disappointment, doubt, rebuke or pleas. This 11th century novel is the defining literary work that underpins the sensibility of the tanka for me.
We have moved away from the courtly love-poetry of the waka-era. But the basic element of the tanka as a song encompasses rhythm, wordplay and the inclusion of deeply-felt emotions. All this in mere five lines, is an inspiration to articulate our deepest thoughts and our individual experiences. Undoubtedly challenging but also hugely rewarding and addictive.
The major tanka journals are print but for those of us who can’t afford subscriptions in foreign currencies, the internet is a blessing. The many online publications continue to inspire me to use the tanka form.
I am presenting a tanka and a tanka sequence written by Sonam for your reading pleasure
long drive –
as I unload my car
a raven watches
how far has it flown
how lightly it has travelled
Simply Haiku Winter 2010 Issue
This tanka shows a lovely comparison between the poet's 'stuff' that she has loaded in her car, as well as perhaps the 'stuff' that she's carrying emotionally, with the freely flying raven. It carries nothing, it soars, comes and goes as it pleases. A touch of the classic, a touch of the modern, and yet the issue is ageless...
Long trek to silence
their occupied homeland
carry fear and grief
in their numbed hearts
gathers their wounds,
soaks their torment
Skylark 3:1, Summer 2015
What a powerful sequence! Imagine, if you will, the sight of Tibetan children refugees fleeing, perhaps on foot, over the mighty Himalaya mountains through all that snow and ice and altitude. Perhaps carrying a small bag over their shoulders. Separated from their parents. If they survive they make their way to India or other neighboring countries that give them asylum. The Dalai Lama, who lives in India after having undergone this long trek himself, is an outspoken advocate for Tibetan freedom from China. The world is silent, as in many cases, despite the horrors that these people endure.
This week's challenge: Think of burdens that people carry. Write a tanka or a tanka prose or a tanka art. Tanka off-prompt are welcome too.
An essay on how to write tanka: https://www.trivenihaikai.in/post/tanka-flights
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, too.
3. Share your best-polished pieces. 4. We are not looking at SEQUENCES NOW, of any length.
5. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.
6. Post your final edited version on top of your original verse.
7. 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.