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#3201 - Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - Editor: Gloria Lee

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  • Gloria Lee
    #3201 - Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - Editor: Gloria Lee Nonduality Highlights - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights For today, we have a reader
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 19 12:44 PM
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      #3201 - Wednesday, June 18, 2008 - Editor: Gloria Lee
      Nonduality Highlights
      -
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NDhighlights 
       
       
       
      For today, we have a reader contribution from ts, an article he found on tanka.
       
       
       
      nice spiel on tanka.

      i like very much this form
      which is capable of transmitting:

      ... a sense of subconscious recognition,
      a kind of emotional déjà vu as well as an
      original encounter with life ...

      and

       ... the sense of refined human dignity and
      elegance in the face of what was (and is)
      essentially transient ...

      and

       ... accept and express all that life can
      bring and take away. Both joy and sorrow
      being the mirror of each at that point where
      the present is always becoming the past ...

      enjoy

      -ts-
      ~~~

      Tanka: poetry of reconciliation
      by Brian Tasker


      Originating more than 1200 years ago, tanka is the classical lyric
      poem of Japanese literature. The first anthology (Manyoshu) containing
      some 4,000 poems was published in the 8th century and over six
      centuries some twenty-one anthologies were published comprising around
      30,000 poems. From about 700 to 1200 A.D., tanka or waka a they were
      then known, were written by courtiers often in the form of notes
      between lovers expressing love, desire or unrequited love as well as
      an appreciation of nature. The development of tanka broadly paralleled
      the absorption of Buddhism into Japanese culture from the 6th century
      onwards. 

      What appears evident in the content of many tanka is the tension
      between the pull of human affairs and the world of nature.  This was
      reflected in the way that human experience, the ever-changing constant
      of the natural world and the ceaseless flow of time refined the
      feelings of poets into a compressed poem. As in this example from the
      Manyo­shu, by an anonymous frontier guard in a translation by Kenneth
      Rexroth:

       
      Over the reeds
      Twilight mists rise and settle
      Wild ducks cry out
      As the evening turns cold
      Lover, how I long for you.

       
      A mood of unmitigated loneliness pervades the poem.  But what resolves
      this surface reading is an acceptance and reconciliation to the
      passage of time and to the cycles of nature that will eventually yield
      a reunion. The frontier guard's initial inaction is contrasted with
      the action of nature.  Actually, the frontier guard was fulfilling his
      role of watching: observing the process of unfolding events until he
      had no choice but to respond - his defences were breached.  What is
      striking about this poem is that the frontier guard was allowed to
      feel his loneliness - his humanity was respected.

       
      Over the centuries specific poetic concepts were developed. The use of
      pivot words (kaketoba) to shift the meaning between one phrase and the
      next, (yojo) surplus meaning, (hakanasa)  the lack of stay in human
      affairs and (mihatenu yume), the likening of life to an unfinished
      dream among many others. Earl Miner has described tanka as
      'island-like moments of rich significance that might arrest, however
      briefly, the inexorable flow of time.'  An important characteristic
      was the sense of refined human dignity and elegance in the face of
      what was (and is) essentially transient. Another aspect is that the
      Japanese have always lived under some sort of social restraint. In a
      moment of openness, with the need to express their feelings in a brief
      poem, the depth of feeling became implicit rather than stated; an
      implicitness also rooted in the Japanese language. The feeling or mood
      would be contextualized in time and place to root it in the personal,
      yet operate on an archetypal level, universal rather than just the
      personal, enabling anyone whether moving forwards or backwards in time
      to relate to the underlying mood, if not always the context.  It is
      this archetypal transference, at the same time, a sense of
      subconscious recognition, a kind of emotional déjà vu as well as an
      original encounter with life, that needs to be preserved in the tanka
      that we write in the West. Otherwise, tanka risks becoming just
      another vehicle of self-expression or artistic statement and losing
      its essentially defining characteristic and attraction. The
      differences between the archetypal and homogeneity, between ancestral
      feeling (something that we are constantly adding to) and dull
      uniformity can be explored through the medium of tanka as a poetry
      born more of experience than of ideas.


      By the 12th century, Court poetry had according to Burton Watson,
      become increasingly shallow and mannered and the monk-poet Saigyo was
      a major influence in introducing unconventional subject matter, more
      rustic and more openly spiritual than the previous courtly
      preoccupations. This new style was marked by images that conveyed the
      loneliness, melancholy and colourlessness embodied in the concepts of
      sabi and yugen. One of Saigyo's most famous poems in a translation by
      William LaFleur illustrates this theme:

       
      Thought I was free
      of passion, so this melancholy
      comes as surprise:
      a woodcock shoots up from the marsh
      where autumn's twilight falls.

       
      I have chosen LaFleur's translation over Watson's (and they are very
      different) because of the commentary that LaFleur provides in his book
      The Karma of Words, Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan
      (pages 103 - 105). This commentary is far too complex to summarise
      here other than to say that LaFleur explains that it would be a
      complete misunderstanding to classify Saigyo's poem as a sad poem, and
      says that 'while the imagery and emotional range of the poem encompass
      the two poles of our usual dichotomies - light and darkness, life and
      death, being and non-being, joy and sadness. One always implies and
      elicits the other.'  I'd suggest that it's well worth tracking down
      this book (now out of print) as it shows how limited our Western
      understanding of Japanese poetics can be and how much our lives can be
      enriched by its study.

      But even with our limited understanding, I feel that there is some
      intuitive connection that can point to a quality of authentic and
      genuine contact with life, (the external world) and our human
      vulnerability (the internal world) that can be found in tanka as a
      moment of reconciliation and acceptance to give tanka its place in
      world poetry. Tanka can offer an opportunity to accept and express
      (and I feel that the acceptance is somehow deepened and integrated in
      the expression) of all that life can bring and take away. Both joy and
      sorrow being the mirror of each at that point where the present is
      always becoming the past. The poetry is in the spontaneity and
      unguardedness of that: the somehow effortless reconciliation of our
      human life to life itself.

       
      long after she's left
      the garden she tended
      weeds reclaim the flowerbeds
      my heart too
      has grown wild


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