Thursday, April 1, 2010

tanka - some observations

While I have not posted here in quite some time, I have still been exploring poetry. Admittedly not as much as I might like but between having a life (of sorts), building my freelance portfolio, taking on editing work and pursing matters for several organisations I am heavily involved with, that has left me not that much time. And of course, the world comes to a stand-still on Thursdays evenings for me to watch Law & Order: SVU.

I recently submitted some tanka to the tanka journal, Eucalyptus. These were rejected but I was given some advice on why they failed to capture the editors attention, along with some suggested reading. Like a good little swot, I have been doing some of that reading and have come to an important realisation.

The tanka that I submitted were little more than observing and telling, rather than drawing a reader in by their emotions. Intellectually I knew that this needed to be done, but utterly failed to do so.

I was also fixating on the strict technical form of 5-7-5-7-7 syllable counts per line respectively. But I now realise there was a flaw to my approach. That structure reflected the original Japanese structural approach. But within the original Japanese, this structure also reflected the structure of the language itself that significantly differs from English. The individual Japanese sound units tend to be short and of equal length. That is not the case with English which has far greater use of polysyllabic words, varying length of syllables, with both stressed and unstressed syllables. Again, intellectually I knew this but yet again, I failed to appreciate the significance of that point.

As English has a significantly different structure to Japanese, it becomes decidedly difficult to strictly emulate a structure that reflects a language whose sound units are so different. For that reason, to obtain the same poetic effect as intended with tanka, we need to relax inhibitions on going outside of that strict regime of 5-7-5-7-7.

What I had done was to slip quietly back into my left-brain, anal-retentive, analytical mode. Of course, being a banker-cum-accountant-cum-economic-statistician, that is not entirely unexpected. Yet it is poetry that has helped me not only realise the limitations of that mind-set, but helped me to develop much more abstract thinking than in the past. Those left-brain shackles are still there, although somewhat more rubbery than in the past.

I shall have to study these matters further and start experimenting more. But, alas, for now I had best get to work on an editing job I want to get finished.

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