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Tinker

Somonka

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry
Japanese Verse

The Somonka, is a Japanese verse form that takes the frame of 2 tankas and carries a central theme of love. From that point there are differences of opinion in the scope of the subject and in how many poets are involved. The earliest Somonkas can be found as far back as the Man'yôshû, 1st century AD. They were the exchange of romantic poems between court lovers. Viola Berg's Pathways For a Poet-1973 refers to the Somonka as the Rengo.

The Somonka can be simply an exchange of romantic love poems. But there are other Somonkas in which the exchange expresses all types of love; love between friends, sisters, parent and child etc. All sources suggest the first tanka should be a statement of love and the second a response to that statement. "Love" has also been broadened to "What does the world need?" by students in LA California who joined with a group of students in Africa's Kenya. In their project, each student wrote a statement tanka and exchanged it with a student from the other country for response.

Although the Somanka is most commonly found written by 2 poets, there are Somonkas written by a single poet.

The elements of the Somonka are:

  1. a poem in 10 lines, made up of 2 tankas.
  2. syllabic, 5-7-5-7-7 5-7-5-7-7 syllables per line.
  3. composed in the form of statement-response,
  4. often written by 2 poets, one writing the statement the other the response but a single poet can write both parts.
  5. titled.
  6. unrhymed.
  7. built around the theme of love.

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