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4-21-09 Mann Library reading
Home | Home page | Bio for Tom | Haiku & Senryu -definitions/ thoughts | Haiku Chapbooks ( 1) Autumn Wind in the Cracks (1994) | (2) Unraked Leaves ( 1995) | (3) Standing Here ( 1998) | Homework (2000) Snapshot Press, UK | being there (2005) Swamp Press | Tanka chapbooks (1) A Work of Love (1997) Tiny Poems Press | Growing Late- (2006) Snapshot Press | A Haiku Way of Life | Assorted Haiku | Assorted Senryu | Assorted Tanka | Haibun | Favorite Links | Dim Sum -Tom | Robert T. Clausen | Favorite Haiku | Favorite Senryu | Favorite Tanka | Zen Entries | Memorable Quotes | Dalai Lama | Death Poems | Cat Poems | Dog Poems | Train Poems | Longer poems | Song Lyrics | Rt. 9 Haiku Group | Rt. 9 Haiku Group-Tom 3-23-06 | Haiku Circle (6-02-07) | 4-21-09 Mann Library reading | My email address: tpc2@cornell.edu

Mann Library reading 4-21-09 Frank Robinson & Tom Clausen
 
( the following is an expanded version that includes some of what Tom presented )
 
 
 
 

I will start by reading some haiku and being that these often have a seasonal reference I’ll begin with winter and move through the seasons and then read some haiku that are seasonless but hopefully in haiku spirit.

 

Btw:  despite reading and trying to write haiku for a long time I must admit that it is still difficult to know exactly what is a haiku!  To those editors and very engaged readers and writers of haiku this subject of what is and is not a haiku is much discussed and debated… Personally I prefer to leave that debate and issue for others… I enjoy just writing little poems and if some fit others idea of what is a haiku, great and if not that is fine too… I will assume/hope some of what I am about to read fit close to a haiku quality … I simply enjoy the fun of being a daily reporter of natural nuances and the underreported phenomena we all witness in our day to day lives. Haiku happen anywhere, anytime and the only equipment necessary for a haiku practice is a small pocket notebook and a pen and pencil… and of course your open and aware mind and senses taking a bit of time to jot notes as they move you to note them.

 

So here goes with a few of my winter haiku:

 

Winter sky-

An empty nest

Left behind

 

 

 

Cold wind-

A stranger looks at me

Like a friend

 

 

 

 

Snow flurrying…

The deer, one by one, look back

Before they vanish

 

 

 

 

Bitter cold morning-

Some of the sunrise compressed

With the trash

 

 

 

 

 

Out to get the paper…

Just enough snow

For footprints

 

 

 

 

 

The spread of stars

Wind moves the snow

From where it fell

 

 

 

 

 

Soft spoken-

On her windowsill

More snow

 

 

 

 

 

Picture window

In all that white

A cardinal

 

 

 

 

 

Near zero-

Just rabbits

And crows

 

 

 

 

 

Up late…

In the square of office light

Snow falling

 

 

 

 

 

Snowfall

My daughter asks where

We are going…

 

 

 

 

 

Heavy wet snow…

The cars creep by

In clumps

 

 

 

 

 

In love

Bicycling

Into the snowstorm

 

 

 

 

 

Undefended:

In the cold rain

Their snow fort

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPRING

 

 

 

 

 

The river

Full of ice

Broken free

 

 

 

 

 

Spring rain-

The cat in the window

Washes its face

 

 

 

 

 

A child standing guard

Over a last little bit

Of snow

 

 

 

 

 

Spring sun

Good enough

Right where I am

 

 

 

 

 

Downpour-

A duck waddles away

From the pond

 

 

 

 

 

Dried into the shape

Of an ampersand

The earthworm

 

 

 

 

 

Spring wind-

the kid in the neighborhood

Has a new whistle

 

 

 

 

 

Wasting not

A moment

Spring peepers

 

 

 

 

 

Forsythia-

In the yard again

Moving stones

 

 

 

 

 

Spring morning-

So many birds

Telling it

 

 

 

 

 

Heavy rain-

Lilac blooms smush

Against the window

 

 

 

 

 

Spring

Removing the neighbors

From view

 

 

 

 

 

The place emptied

A cool breeze

Blows through

 

 

 

 

 

Brilliant spring

The ambulance passes

Quietly

 

 

 

 

 

Here I am again

Hepaticas

too

 

 

 

 

 

Spring in the air

So many false starts

In my heart

 

 

 

 

 

Exam week

She lies face up

In the rain

 

 

 

 

 

Spring sun-

Making a list

Of what makes me happy

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUMMER

 

 

 

 

 

Day break-

The spider centered

In its web

 

 

 

 

 

My arm snagged-

A good look at

The wild rose

 

 

 

 

 

Taking me back…

Water laps gently

At the shore

 

 

 

 

 

High clouds

One horse leans its head

Against another

 

 

 

 

 

The day lilies

Some have crossed

The road

 

 

 

 

 

Left and right

He follows the way

Of his kicked stone

 

 

 

 

 

A little tree-

Not enough shade

To sit in

 

 

 

 

 

Letting her

Walk all over me

Ladybug

 

 

 

 

 

Drought-

Ants disappearing

Into cracked earth

 

 

 

 

 

Late day sun-

Deep on the forest floor

A seedling

 

 

 

 

 

Train receding

Its wake in the grasses

Still waving

 

 

 

 

 

Walking alone-

A submerged log

Comes to light

 

 

 

 

 

Empty classroom

Windows open

To summer

 

 

 

 

 

Crickets…

My eyes closed

To the day

 

 

 

 

 

Still summer night

Shining a flashlight

Around the garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perseids-

The space between clouds

For one

 

 

 

 

 

Cold front-

The forgotten dulcimer

Pings

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting four leaf clovers

Students discuss

Their childhoods

 

 

 

 

 

Sidewalk sale-

Wind twists a lifetime

Guarantee tag

 

 

 

 

 

Rundown docks-

Minnows schooling

Around the trawler

 

 

 

 

 

Offset from its stain

A rusted washer

On the boats deck

 

 

 

 

 

Extended goodbye-

Their paved driveway

Buckled by roots

 

 

 

 

 

One tree

One bird, one song

The dusk

 

 

 

 

 

Class in the forest

They all look up

To the trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTUMN

 

 

 

 

 

Empty parking lot

Some wind collects and swirls

Leaves into a shape

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn moonlight

     Folded in

        The clothes on the floor

 

 

 

 

 

Cold autumn wind

In all the cracks

Eyes of barn cats

 

 

 

 

 

Fall colors

In the lake-

One thought after another

 

 

 

 

 

Deep overcast

Chickory blue

Out of concrete rubble

 

 

 

 

 

Abandoned farmhouse

Twilight darkest

In the empty windows

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lying in the leaves

The sun shares the shape

Of her corduroys

 

 

 

 

 

Potluck luncheon-

A yellow jacket cleans

Its antennae

 

 

 

 

 

Our turn

To stand here

Falls overlook

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home

     More geese

          On the way home

 

 

 

 

 

As we talk…

Wind blowing leaves

    Out of the trees

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn nightfall

Dropping my son off

For something else

 

 

 

 

 

Day break-

From the bread truck’s roof

Frost swirls

 

 

 

 

 

 

NON-SEASONAL

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain top

    Giving back

        Each breath

 

 

 

 

 

Calling

    For the lost cat…

             Windchimes

 

 

 

 

 

In the waiting room

   Checking the plant

        For reality

 

 

 

 

 

After our visit

In quiet, the things

I forgot to say

 

 

 

 

 

Long wait alone

In the parking lot

A dog in the next car

 

 

 

 

 

Passing through

The battlefield

Now a rest area

 

 

 

 

 

Twilight-

The only car ahead

Turns off

 

 

 

 

 

The way

The light bulb rests

In the rest of the trash

 

 

 

 

 

All the voices

Songs, waiting

In the broken radio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few floors down

In another building

Someone else looks out

 

 

 

 

 

Standing here

At this window, remembering mother

Standing here

 

 

 

 

 

Last ray of sun

In the feeder

A sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

The cats eyes

So wide…

For a gnat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

SENRYU

 

 

 

…. Senryu are a humorous cousin to haiku… usually written in the same brief three line format, these are little poems touching on the foibles of humanity… often they are ironic, witty, joke- like commentary on the human condition, poking fun or making biting remark on what a predicament it is to be human…and if you recognize yourself or others in any of these then they have achieved their intention!

 

The easiest and best person for me to make fun of is… yes, you guessed it:  ME

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myself

Monopolizes

 Me

 

 

 

 

 

Where I sit

On my usual bench

Remains of a nut

 

 

 

 

 

In the car singing

Until I’m passed

And seen…

 

 

 

 

 

Lingering in bed

The ceiling

Has no answers

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mistakes

No matter how many

Coats of paint

 

 

 

 

 

Sneaking M & M’s…

The crunching

In my ears

 

 

 

 

 

Wanting my old life

When I wanted

My present life

 

 

 

 

 

Just as we’re

Introduced

He yawns

 

 

 

 

 

After the party

Undressing

Myself

 

 

 

 

 

On the bench

A young couple carries on

As if I’m not there

 

 

 

 

 

As the music goes

Into overdrive

I check the speedometer

 

 

 

 

 

My cat comes up close

Then shies away

Alcohol on my breath

 

 

 

 

 

Older and older

The strangers saying hello

To me

 

 

 

 

 

Down the trail

The horsefly follows

My bald spot

 

 

 

 

 

Arriving at work, soaked

Just as the rain

Lets up

 

 

 

 

 

 

So many years

To remember…

I sit up straight

 

 

 

 

 

What a great smile

And greeting to someone

Just behind me

 

 

 

 

 

Asleep

 in my lap    the new kitten

                    I didn’t want

 

 

 

 

 

Just oatmeal

The waitress says:

    “enjoy”

 

 

 

 

 

Before sleep

Laughing to myself

At myself

 

 

 

 

 

In the middle

Of my life

An ulcer

 

 

 

 

 

Hospital form

Asks for religious preference

I put “haiku”

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s…

Recycling last year’s

Resolutions

 

 

 

 

 

In the shower

An economy-size bar of soap

Lands on my toe

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch alone

Without a book

  I read my mind

 

 

 

 

 

My wife tells me

I’m going to make it-

Common cold

 

 

 

 

 

 

My wife asks

If she should feel sorry for me:

“I’ve got it covered”

 

 

 

 

 

Walking the tracks

My thoughts

Go nowhere

 

 

 

 

 

Rushing

     To the zendo

                    To sit still

 

 

 

 

 

The sudoku

I’m stuck on

Light and easy

 

 

 

 

 

Trying to figure

How to spend it…

A little free time

 

 

 

 

 

Most of the rain

Not falling

On me

 

 

 

 

 

outside

in the dark

I let my imagination go

 

 

 

 

 

Looking busy

As my wife

Pulls in

 

 

 

 

 

From computer

To computer

My life

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just in case-

Weighing myself again

After the shower

 

 

 

 

 

Almost out of money

   At my parents

          Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the officer

Writing out a ticket

I write this

 

 

 

 

 

Quickly

After the artery scan

A Danish

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading into it

As much as I can

My life

 

 

 

 

 

The universe

Of my thoughts

contracting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAMILY SENRYU

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of an air conditioner

        I return

        With popsicles

 

 

 

 

 

My children

Don’t want to stop

Historical marker

 

 

 

 

 

She wanders away…

Her snail disembarks

The matchbox truck

 

 

 

 

 

Yelling

At my daughter to stop

Yelling

 

 

 

 

 

Thunder and lightning…

My wife gets up

To lock the door

 

 

 

 

 

Before the auction-

My wife trying to catch

A chicken

 

 

 

 

 

Last day of school-

She tells me there was nothing

More to learn

 

 

 

 

 

In the garden

Right by St. Francis

The woodchuck hole

 

 

 

 

 

To start the day

Her slipper sounds

Too fast

 

 

 

 

 

On the wall

Jesus on the cross

Above her side of the bed

 

 

 

 

 

In her sleep

She steals back

Her hand

 

 

 

 

 

My wife catches me

Picking from our trash

Again

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed blessing

My best critic

At home

 

 

 

 

 

Our child

Who will not go to sleep-

Sheep on her pajamas

 

 

 

 

 

My wife admits

She is not perfect,

But is glad I am

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that I’m over

My bad mood,

She’s in one

 

 

 

 

 

To the goldfish

  She speaks

    More softly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rivals:

My wife has named our computer

Charlotte

 

 

 

 

 

She turns down

My favorite music…

Plays recorder for me

 

 

 

 

 

Relatives set to visit

So  many cobwebs

To remove

 

 

 

 

 

First night away-

We discuss

Our pets

 

 

 

 

 

 

GENERAL SENRYU

 

 

 

 

 

On hold…

Branches in the window

Wave wildly

 

 

 

 

 

Pawn shop

Guitars and guns

Lined up

 

 

 

 

 

Side by side

His and her

computers

 

 

 

 

 

Up in the dark

The toilet

  Overflows

 

 

 

 

 

Done-

The repairman tells me

Any fool can do it

 

 

 

 

 

     In the kiddie pool

A couple of ducks

    Go at it

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ninety years

Each of her cocker spaniels

Named “Honey”

 

 

 

 

 

Summer-

Seeing more

Of her

 

 

 

 

 

Muffler shop

A man managing

His cough

 

 

 

 

 

Busy bar

Another case of

Mistaken identity

 

 

 

 

 

Having brushed off

Several small ants

An extra large one…

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed in

With the instructions

Her perfume

 

 

 

 

 

Urologist’s office-

A framed photograph

Of the falls

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Christmas card

Of the year:

L.L. Bean

 

 

 

 

 

How liveable

Our house

Once we move out

 

 

 

 

 

Breeding pairs

At the zoo

With strollers

 

 

 

 

 

Boardwalk-

We go to one end

Then the other

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going the same way…

Exchanging looks with the driver

Of the hearse

 

 

 

 

 

Quiet part…

Out loud a little one asks

“when will it end?”

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the wheel-

Yet another of his

personalities

 

 

 

 

 

Blowing her nose

Just like me

The pharmacist

 

 

 

 

 

Defensive drivers

Each waving

The other through

 

 

 

 

 

By the ocean

Again filled

With emptiness

 

 

 

 

 

Another full moon

My checkbook

Still unbalanced

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the prison wall

A woodchuck stands

For a view

 

 

 

 

 

A couple

Holding hands

Testing the ice

 

 

 

 

 

Cold season

Who gave who what

At the office

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting to see

The odometers big change…

Missed it!

 

 

 

 

 

Farm country back road :

Just like them I lift one finger

From the steering wheel

 

 

 

 

 

Gourmet pizza place

 Dominos delivers

 next door

 

 

 

 

 

 

TANKA

 

Tanka… sometimes called a 5 line spill by Sanford Goldstein, the tanka is a 5 line poem with a 1200 year history in Japan. As my favorite tanka poet, Takuboku states:  Poetry must be an exact report, an honest diary, of the changes in a man’s writers emotional life.

Takuboku  had a very difficult life due to poor health and died at the young age of 26. He wrote tanka as a tool  of cathartic expression to help him cope with poverty, illness and unhappiness in matters of love and relationships with others.  His tanka are exceptionally spare, confessional and many might find his writing sad and depressing. When I discovered his collection of tanka, Poems to Eat, I was instantly captivated and found his honesty transcendently uplifting no matter how dark his subject. The honesty of Takuboku to confront his problems and transform the worst of his experiences into 5 little lines really captivated me and gave me inspiration and hope that maybe some of my attempts might give a reader a sense of knowing and sharing in a truthfulness of circumstance.

 

Much like some of the films of Ingmar Bergman I felt Takuboku offered his readers a chance to see his unique troubles in a universal light. We all have troubles and go through difficult times. The confession of one offers a sense of solace and liberation just to know that others are sharing the same problems that we experience. My own attempts with tanka have often taken on the themes of love, loneliness, loss, change in fortunes and perspective, aging, the cycles and seasons in ones life and the fleetingness of experience.

Many writers of these brief poetic forms will collect those that fit a similar theme and sequence them to essentially create a longer poem… where the individual brief poems work to enhance each other. I have made sequences of tanka on love, aging, landscapes, urban life and remembering childhood for example.

 

Today I’ll read from a variety of the themes I’ve enjoyed writing about including those I just  mentioned… Here is a sampling of my tanka:

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
During the time
 I watch
The hawk just circles…
There is always more
Than meets the eye
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
the farther away it gets
the more magical it becomes,
those
                                    times at night
in the back seat,
my parents taking us someplace....
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it was a hot day
when I dropped a penny
in the soft tar...
almost
                                    a year now
I've paid visits to it
 
 
 
 
 
 

a storm coming up

and as I take the laundry

off the line

it occurs to me

this is a moment to savor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

those two birds flying

so close together

swiftly across the twilight sky―

a certain happy sad witness

I provide for them . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cold rain

In another town

The streets empty-

From one house

A gift of woodsmoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

standing here just watching

the spring sun sparkle

on the water...

what is it they say

about living life to the fullest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

early summer breeze

plays the sun

across the forest ferns-

everything so nice

I hardly know what to do

 

 

 

 

 

 

The river must make

So many curves

To pass through the lowlands

               The way nature always

                Says something to us

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pushed by the wind

At the far end of the sky

A few clouds…

I can see that what I want

Keeps changing too

 

 

 

 

 

 

Without fanfare at dusk

I drag the dead branch

To the brush pile-

Another day risen

And fallen from my life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could be I’m tired

Or lost, but to close my eyes

And nod off

While the world goes on

Gives me a certain peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full of rain

The river races along

Past everything here-

I can’t shake this sense

I’m living on borrowed time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My youth spent

Gathering strength and solace

Of friends near and far-

These short years later

Losing them one by one

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanting my old life

When I wanted

My present life

Stirring the soup she made

As a cold rain falls outside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We work briskly

Into the momentum of the day

A long list of what to do,

Once all there was

Was to fall in love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wind outside the mall

And as I wait

With my eyes closed

A killdeer calls

From another life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I sit here

Taking in the river view

I see my feelings for this life

Quite like the trees

Leaning slightly downstream

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a reverie

At the long traffic light

It occurs to me

Why would I want

To do more, faster

 

 

 

 

 

 

How ironic

Coming to love

This life and world

And at the same time

Letting it all go…

 

 

 

 

 

 

While planting bulbs

My wife unearths

A childhood cap gun of mine

I hold it

Trying to grasp back then

 

 

 

 

 

 

What attracted me most

To the poem

Had not so much to do

With the poem

But that she liked it…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scribbling,

That’s it,

What I do and tell

The inquisitive stranger

Who asks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I smile broadly

At one, then another

And another…

This fascination with faces

Smiling back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About to be worked on

I wait in the dentist chair

A little dance of thoughts

And nothingness

To go with the muzak

 

 

 

 

 

 

All these years

In one house, one job

One town and in me-

Too many changes to fathom

As I sweep away autumn leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wind in the trees

Reminds me

That what once was

So important

Just passes by

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each day a cycle

Home to work, work to home

A quiet faith in things,

As real as unreal this way

Of being here all these seasons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching

The smooth flow of water

Over stones…

How few of my thoughts

Are new

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the old parking lot

The sparrows bathe

In a big puddle

Sometimes I’m so happy

Just to be here as witness

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blowing across

The plowed field

A sheet of newspaper

With who knows what

Kind of news

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asked to arrange

The flowers in a vase

I put them in any which way-

So glad there are some things

Which can’t go wrong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ask him about his day

What he did,

If he got enough sleep

And in response

A soulful look and purring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

high clouds...

one horse leans in

against another-

before our children

my wife and I were like that

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

so many things

to have opinions on

yet as I drive along

I don't arrive

at any of them

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

every few bounces

the robin pauses on the lawn

to look and listen

as if that were all

there was to do

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the tentative start-up

of talk...

                to a new friend?

begins the old doubt

of just who I am, again

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in my daughter's room

which used to be my room

her shelf

full of model horses

all looking at me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

with thunder very close

our little dog

gets in under my legs,

if only I could feel

so safe with myself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

before the new puppy

my wife got ten chickens,

before them two parakeets, two cats,

our two children and long ago

just me...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

my wife needs a room

of her own,

a place to close the door,

a place I never saw

in the sunnier days before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've never been homeless

but think of it

seeing that shed

with a broken window

dawn light streaming in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

for all that

which I will not get to

do in this life

the fountain carries on

in the rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ten years later...

both married with one child

we all pass on a path

and smile politely

without a word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

showing my daughter

my childhood 'fish' jackknife

she promptly says:

"i'll put that in your grave

when you die"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

beneath the open

library window

she wakes slightly to stretch,

and beautifully

change position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

creating a space

in himself

that can't be filled

        - his lengthy ritual

          seaside walks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in line

at the post office

I watch her

pen point search

for the last thing to say

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in the wind

I rake and gather

leaves

with thoughts of people

I've known before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another ball game

And she wonders why

I’m so taken by the win and lose

As if our lives were

Nothing like that

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the trail to the top

My family hikes best

During the time

They combine

To make light of me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few leaves left

On the tree

And here I am at loss

With or without

The love I so desperately sought

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wondering if this is what

My parents felt,

In their own time

Seeing a better past slip

Ever further behind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How many people

Can you connect to

And lose in a life,

Without feeling

Quite lost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ambivalence

I believe is what

I’ve come to, sitting here

Watching wave after wave

Land itself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My beer gone flat

But out of duty

I finish it-

Living all these

Middle-aged days

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revealed so long

This grain of wood

On our floor-

    The distance yet

     We have to go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again  I review

The big mistakes in my life

And try to let them go…

How long it is from autumn

Till next spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just when I was feeling

There is always

Too much to do,

Cassiopeia so sharp

In the autumn night sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 What is Tanka?

Tanka may be defined in several ways, but this often lyrical, chiefly five-line poem, derived from the Japanese tanka and its predecessor, waka, continues to attract poets around the world. The following are three definitions or comments about tanka that may prove useful to members of the Tanka Society of America as we continue our study and appreciation of this poetry.

 

By Pat Shelley, from Footsteps in the Fog, Foster City, California: Press Here, 1994:

"Tanka in English is a small lyrical poem that belongs to everyone. Still written in thirty-one or fewer syllables in five rhythmic lines, as it was over 1,200 years ago, it can embrace all of human experience in its brief space with emotions of love, pity, suffering, loneliness, or death, expressed in the simplest language. It may sometimes seem fragmentary or lacking in unity because it is more intuitive than analytical, using imagery rather than abstractions . . . . One of the more challenging (and charming) of its elements is the subtle turn at the center of the poem, something unexpected perhaps, usually occurring after the second or third line as two seemingly unrelated events, images, or ideas are brought together, something less than narrative, an elliptical space that adds pleasure to our listening. Tanka is about our everyday lives in the smallest happenings, a little song of celebration."

Draft definition form the Haiku Society of America definitions committee led by William J. Higginson (published in the HSA Newsletter in early 1994):

"TANKA. The typical lyric poem of Japanese literature, composed of five unrhymed metrical units of 5,7,5,7,7 'sound symbols'; tanka in English have generally been in five lines with a total of thirty-one or fewer syllables, often observing a short, long, short, long, long pattern. Tanka usually need no titles, though in Japanese a 'topic' (dai) is often indicated where a title would normally stand in Western poetry. In Japan, the tanka is well over twelve hundred years old (haiku is about three hundred years old), and has gone through many periods of change in style and content. But it has always been a poem of feelings, often involving metaphor and other figurative language (not generally used in haiku). While tanka praising nature have been written, and seem to resemble "long haiku," most tanka deal with human relationships or the author's situation. In the words of Sanford Goldstein, "behind the scene is the autobiographical moment of the poet' ('Tanka Off the Back Burner,' Frogpond, XV:2 Fall-Winter 1992). The best tanka harmonizes the writer's emotional life with the elements of the outer world used to portray it."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the appealing aspects of haiku and other brief forms of poetry:

 

*An effective haiku never says TOO much… if you have a tendency for redundancy

Or run on writing then the haiku is a good antidote for that problem! Haiku guarantees no excess and helps the writer be concise and precise.

 

*Haiku is highly portable… can be worked on in your mind while walking, driving, waiting for an appointment and is a form of mental exercise trying to get the few chosen words into an order that is most effective. Trying to express something meaningful in as few words possible is a good challenge.

 

*Haiku as a practice enhances awareness and appreciation for the simple and subtle poetic cues that are constantly around us, there for our witness. Haiku in a sense keeps fresh the eternal childlike wonder and wide-eyed fascination with our life and world.

 

  • As Henry D. Thoreau remarked:  “All this is perfectly distinct to an observant eye, and yet could easily pass unnoticed by most.”

 

  • The practice of haiku is free, no need for equipment or anything more than your observing and recording those moments, juxtapositions in nature that create a little extra-sensory pause and intuitive recognition of something worth noting & sharing what you see. It is a helpful centering tool in the perpetual practice of being here now.

 

*Haiku make a nice gift that is inexpensive and passes along the spirit of humility and

paying attention to the natural cues all around us, anywhere, anytime.

 

 

By Gerald St. Maur, from his 1999 Haiku Canada Newsletter article entitled "From Haiku to Tanka: Reversing Poetical History" (also published in the TSA Newsletter, II:1, Spring 2001)

"In going beyond the experience of the moment, the tanka takes us from delight to fulfillment, from insight to comprehension, and psycho-organism to love; in general, from the spontaneous to the measured. To achieve this requires a fundamental shift in emphasis: from glimpse to gaze, from first sight to exploration, and from juxtaposition to interplay, in short, from awareness to perspective . . . .It is thus evident that to compose a tanka is to articulate reflectively . . . . It is a shift which, in general, takes us from the simple to the complex. More pointedly, it moves us from the poetry of the noun to the poetry of the verb; in weaving terms, from the thread to the tapestry; in botanical terms, from seed to plant; in chemical terms, from element to compound; in painting terms, from sketch to picture; and in musical terms, from chord to melody."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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