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Tinker

Katuata - Mondo - Sedoka

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Japanese Verse

  • Katuata, (片歌, side poem or half poem) is emotive verse. Intuitive rather than logical; the katuata asks a sudden question or makes an emotional statement and then responds to it. This is a stand alone, 3 line poem, however it is often written as a side poem to the renga. This dates back to 8th century Japan found in the Manyõshú (the oldest collection of Japanese poetry)
    The elements of the Katuata are:
    1. syllabic, 19 syllables or less.
    2. usually a tercet. 5-7-7. This can also be reduced to a 5-7-5 syllable count if desired.
    3. emotive not necessarily logical.

      lost in haze of doubt
      thoughts of you fog my vision
      will mist clear? in due season
                         --- Judi Van Gorder

  • Mondo comes from the Zen practice of rapid question-answer between Master and student. Often the answer would be in nonverbal form such as pointing to a natural object. The poetic tradition of the Mondo is similar in nature, it can be a single line containing statement-response such as "summer sun sets, I am done". Such lines are often found in the Renga. But it can also be a 2 stanza poem written by two authors, one asking and one answering. The answer of course should reflect the spirit of the Zen student taking understanding from nature.
    The elements of the Mondo are:
    1. written by 2 separate poets, one asking, one answering.
    2. 2 stanzas of 3 lines each, 19 syllables or less, often 5-7-7, sometime 5-7- 5 is used for each stanza. The first stanza is the question, the 2nd is the response.
    3. written in the spirit of Zen, responsive through meditation and observation of natural surroundings.
       
  • Sedoka, (旋頭歌 whirling head poem) is in many ways the same verse form as the Mondo or 2 Katuata.  However the Sedoka is written by 1 poet and rather than question-answer, the 2 stanzas are often parallels. This verse can be found as far back as the 6th century.
    The elements of Sedoka are:
    1. 2 stanzas of 3 lines each, 19 syllables or less, often 5-7-7, sometime 5-7- 5 is used for each stanza.
    2. the stanzas should parallel each other.

      I throw away time
      lost under the bohdi tree
      though my journey will end soon

      dhyana - lost no more
      I settle within myself
      joining all that surrounds me.
                            ---Judi Van Gorder
      dhyana is Sanskrit term for a state of mind equivalent to being actively engaged in meditation which is contrast to being passive or static.

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