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15760Writing Japanese Poetry in English, was Titles of Address;

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  • makiwara_no_yetsuko
    Aug 4, 2004
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      --- In sca-jml@yahoogroups.com, Maria <tace@m...> wrote:
      > 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?

      [Grin] I occasionally contribute some of these on the Outlands Bardic
      list in response to weekly challenges on given themes. A couple of
      weeks ago, the challenge was to write a lament. I gave them this:

      Waiting in the dark
      To hear the faintest footfall -
      But he did not come.
      Sorrow's dew weights silken sleeves,
      A tear for each leaden hour.

      The wet sleeves image got "Wows" from my readers. THEY didn't think
      it was a cliche because they didn't know it was one. English readers
      may not recognize allusions or quotations from Japanese classics. I
      think that the appreciation a Japanese would have of a makura-katoba
      may be akin to an SCA audience appreciating a filk. "Ah, that's
      familiar so it's funny!" Or sad or whatever.

      As a non-Japanese speaker limited to reading translated works, I am
      aware that there are nuances I am missing because there are
      linguistic cues I am by necessity divorced from. (It bugs the hell
      out of me, but I don't have the time or resources to try to learn to
      read Japanese. So I stick to the syllable count as it is what gives a
      non-rhymed, non-metric poem its structure. It's also an exercise in
      discipline. I concentrate on trying to distill a thought or image
      within said structure. If I can effectively use an image or allusion
      to give the poem a Japanese flavor that a Western reader can "get"
      without a four paragraph preface on context, I figure I've
      succeeded.

      > We are all students here, and we are all learning.
      Here here.

      Makiwara, eternal student
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