15746Re: [SCA-JML] Re: Titles of Address; Formal Correspondence
- Aug 4, 2004Solveig wrote:
> Noble Cousin!Certainly, Solveig-dono, you are correct.
> Greetings from Solveig! I am not saying that classical Japanese poetry is
> a bad thing. I am saying that writing classical Japanese poetry correctly
> is a HARD thing. It is HARD for modern Japanese. There is rather more to
> the sensibility of classical Japanese poetry than simply doing the
One of the problems that English-speaking poets face now in approaching
the Tanka is that there has not been a consensus on how it _should_ be
written in English. While 5-7-5-7-7 is what is generally taught, there
is a movement to consider using less syllables. See this excellent
article for reference: http://www.ahapoetry.com/wildonji.htm .
As I've often said here: my Japanese is self-taught and half-baked.
However, even in my poor studies I have learned something of the
differences between Japanese and English. Because our languages are so
different, how must we approach a poetic form?
Certainly, we must keep in mind themes and aesthetics. However, the
themes and aesthetics gradually change over the years, even during the
Classical period. Compare the poems of the Man'yoshu to the Shin
Kokinshu and it is very evident. Today, in English-speaking poetic
circles, there are different schools of thought as to how to approach
the tanka. Some people go almost to the point of free-form poetry (as
the Japanese have, in turn, taken new values in their own approach to
tanka, especially in the 20th century). I personally disagree with this
approach, but many do not.
Some poets stick to the English-syllable 5-7-5-7-7 approach, regardless
of topic. I started out this way, as many people do. It is a way to
get people used to the art form, but it is not pure in the aesthetic
sense. Achieving that takes time and practice. I know I am not there
yet, although looking at my work versus my work a year ago, I think
perhaps I have progressed.
Going further, some approach English tanka in a way akin to the haiku.
I think this is maybe late-period thinking? The waka written in the
later middle ages differed a great deal from that written during the
Heian era in its themes.
Trying to use such forms as makura-katoba are difficult in English
because it comes over as trite and cliched. Our tradition is such that
we are not supposed to use a previously coined phrase from another
poet. Yet it was expected and admired in classical Japanese poetry. So
how do we adapt that into English? Do we take the Japanese phrases,
which may have no context in our culture? Do we use our own cultural
contexts? I once wrote a tanka using the phrase "wine-dark sea" as an
attempt at a makura-katoba
(http://www.shef.ac.uk/japan2001/makurakotoba.shtml) . It was forced
and didn't sound quite right, but it was the best thing I could come up
with at the time that had a cultural context and feeling that would be
We are all students here, and we are all learning. In the meantime, it
is refreshing to know that there are others around who are also
interested in this time and era, and who would take the time to attempt
a poem with their correspondence, just as an Heian-era lady might do.
From my home overlooking the Great River,
Ki no Torahime
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