General Poetry posted June 5, 2017 Chapters: 1 -2- 3... 

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tanka prose

A chapter in the book 2017


by mountainwriter49

Tanka Prose
It’s dark-thirty.  I cannot sleep.  Restless leg syndrome has kicked in, and my mind is fully awake.  So much to think about, contemplate before I begin my trip home later this morning.  A gentle drizzle begins to fall.  I follow its gentle pinging sound on my windowpanes to where it leads me…
night becomes day
as rain sifts through the trees
are the memories
of a time that no longer exists
It has been many years since I last visited this once beautiful, vibrant place built upon a minor promontory above the river at its confluence with the bay.  Four-hours in the car seemed to fly by.  Memories.  How many times did I reach for your hand as I drove? Stopping at the entrance gate to the old plantation, I step out of my car, close my eyes and breathe deeply. Why is it that the scent of home never truly leaves a person?  How is it that I can still smell Mama’s apple pie coming out of the oven?  I hear my brother’s laughter as we’d swing from a rope tied to an old tree before we would jump into the edge of the river. We were married here. I touch one of the four stone chimneys where my ancestral home once stood.  Sentinels. Enduring guardians of all the love and joy that once thrived here.  I can still smell the fragrance of your cologne wafting in the gentle breeze…
fields have yielded
to the encroaching forest
forty years
yet I still feel one
with you, and this place—home

5 June 2017

Poem of the Month contest entry


Tanka prose is the first cousin of haibun. Both are similar in that they blend poetic prose and Japanese short form poetry. The former uses a more elegant, lengthy poetic prose and tanka, while the latter uses a more terse, short burst of energy type of prose and haiku. The tanka prose form is particularly well suited to emotive content, much more so than haibun because of the greater flexibility with the writing of the prose.

Tanka is written in a 5 line format of short/long/short/long/long. The English didactic method is 5/7/5/7/7, but it is not necessary to write in this strict format. Generally following the short/long/short/long/long and being under 31 syllables is very acceptable. Tanka is a complex form, indeed, the 'sonnet' of Japanese short form poetry. It is lyrical, lovely, emotive and contemplative. It can personify nature, use metaphor and simile. Generally speaking, the first two lines utilize a natural component to 'set up' the tanka. The third line serves the most critical part of the poem. First, it serves as a commentary, or satori on the haiku like first two lines. It also serves as a pivot line to being the last lines. It is in the last two lines that the poet releases the human emotive element. Tanka is non-rhyming, not written in meter, and avoids unnecessary punctuation and capitalization.

Ann Brixley taught me a new word this week. It is from the Welsh language: hiraeth. This word has no direct English equivalent, but it is rather a blending of multiple emotions including homesickness for a homeland, home, family, etc., that maybe no longer exists or is in a place one can no longer access. It bespeaks a loneliness, yearning for home and all that is associated with it. I suppose it would be something akin to sabi, but not quite.

Like Ann, I am of Welsh origin, but my ancestors arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s, so my knowledge of my 'homeland' is limited to genealogical research and what I have found from books and people who have visited and lived there.

I'd be remiss if I did not thank Sue Campion (spaghetti) for teaching me the elements of tanka prose. She is a former active, talented poet and instructor of Japanese short form on this site. Her absence and talent is greatly missed.

Thank you for reading my poetry.
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