Jump to content
Poetry Magnum Opus
  • Announcements

    • tonyv

      Registration -- to join PMO ***UPDATED INSTRUCTIONS***   03/14/2017

      Automatic registration has been disabled. If you would like to join the Poetry Magnum Opus online community, use the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of this page and follow these instructions: 1. Check your email (including your spam folder) in a timely fashion for a reply. 2. After you receive a reply, use the "Sign Up" link at the top right corner of the page to create your account. Do this fast. I've lost my patience with people who use the "Contact Us" link to express interest in joining and then don't bother to check their email for a reply and don't bother to join after registration has been enabled. The queue fills up fast with spammers, and I have to spend my time sifting through the rubbish to delete them. The window of opportunity for joining will be short. I will not have my time wasted. If you don't check your email and you don't bother registering promptly, you will find that registration has been disabled and your future requests to join may go ignored. /s/ Tony ___________________ [Registration will only be enabled for a short while from the time your message is received, so please check your email for a reply and register within 12 hours of using the "Contact Us" link. (Be sure to check your spam folder if you don't see a reply to your message.)]
    • tonyv

      IMPORTANT: re Logging In to PMO ***Attention Members***   03/15/2017

      For security purposes, please use your email address when logging in to the site. This will prevent your account from being locked when malicious users try to log in to your account using your publicly visible display name. If you are unable to log in, use the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of the page.
    • tonyv

      Blogs   05/01/2017

      Blogs are now accessible to Guests. Guests may read and reply to blog entries. We'll see how this works out. If Guest participation becomes troublesome, I'll disable Guest access. Members are encouraged to make use of the PMO Members' Promotional Blog to promote their published works. Simply add your latest entry to the blog. Include relevant information (your name or screen name, poem title, periodical name, hyperlink to the site where published, etc). If you have a lot of them and feel you need your own blog, let me know, and I will try to accommodate you. Members are encouraged to continue also posting their promotional topics in the Promotions forum on the board itself which is better suited for archiving promotions.
Sign in to follow this  


Recommended Posts

Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Japanese Verse

The waka is said to be the classic verse form of Japanese poetry. It is from the waka that most Japanese forms develop. Originally the term waka 和歌, which means "Japanese poem", simply separated and identified a poem that was written in the Japanese language from kanshi which is a poem written in Chinese by Japanese poets. (Chinese was the language of early Japanese scholars and the earliest Japanese literature was mostly written in Chinese. The most common form of kanshi is written using the Chinese form Qi, Cheng, Zhuan,Jie which the Japanese call Shichigon-zekku and is written in quatrains; it is the most popular form of Japanese chanted (shigin) poetry.

L1 kiku - 起句 Beginning, sets the scene.
L2 shoku - 承句 development, expands image
L3 tenku - 転句 contrasting image
L4 kekku - 結句 insight drawn from the images

The early waka developed from the 4 line zekku and was expanded by the Bussokuseki ,style verse which is an archaic poetic form with lines of 5-7-5-7-7-7 onji. Today the term Bussokuseki refers to the ancient poems inscribed beside the stone Buddha Foot at Yakushi Temple in Nara.

As a poetic genre, waka encompassed such verse forms as the choka, katuata, tanka, renga and sedoka but in time it was only identified with the short poem, the frame of the tanka.

The brevity of the waka allows the poet to provide a miniscule glimpse into a perceived subject. It limits the poet to a specific count of 31 onji, in English we use the less complicated, syllable. The result of which is defined images, exacting dialog, and a concentrated glimpse into the poet's world. It does not allow for storytelling, moral definition or expressions of religious devotion.

Early poems in waka form were more often sorrowful than joyful. Sorrow over the passing of time was a dominant theme. The ancient custom of writing a "Death Poem" was often written in waka verse.

If only I had
Merely watched as they fell ---
The plum blossoms---
But, alas, their fragrance
Lingers still on my sleeve.
             --- Sosei (859-897) from Seeds in the Heart by Keene

Today the waka appears on the surface to be the same as the tanka (short song). The physical structure is rooted in the same earth. However, the early waka was written by nobles and commoners alike and tended to use plain language and remained true to the experience. While the tanka was originally considered court poetry in classical language and it was acceptable for the experience to be imagined. The line between waka and tanka is very thin and seems to be defined more by time line than definition. The terms in today's world seem interchangeable and tanka is the favored. In my attempt to discover and understand nuances of poetic forms, I view and offer the forms as separate.

The elements of the waka are:

  1. a pentastich, a poem written in 5 lines.
  2. syllabic, 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. 31 onji, in English, 31 syllables.
  3. true to the heart of the poet. The inspiration is to be drawn from the experience.
  4. an early model for the tanka and many other Japanese forms.
  5. gathered into collections. In most Japanese anthologies poems are arranged in seasonal sequence followed by considered, poetic-worthy topics such as love or grief.

    Purple fades to white,
    fragile plum blossoms retire
    to drift to the earth.
    Summer will pass, soon the fall,
    I too pale, my eyes water.
                          --- Judi Van Gorder

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  


Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.