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Tinker

Katuata - Mondo - Sedoka

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

Japanese Poetry

  • 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)

     

    Katuata is:

    • syllabic, 19 syllables or less.
    • usually a tercet. 5-7-7. This can also be reduced to a 5-7-5 syllable count if desired.
    • 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 Mondo is:

    • written by 2 separate poets, one asking, one answering.
    • 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.
    • 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. 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 Sedoka is:

    • 2 stanzas of 3 lines each, 19 syllables or less, often 5-7-7, sometime 5-7- 5 is used for each stanza.
    • 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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