A Floating World…poetic history of tanka

photo: Genie Nakano, Kyoto, 2018

Before Japan

could read or write, tanka

was performed

as short songs in five lines

short  long  short   long   long

Heian imperial court

was well versed in  tanka

after a love affair

exchanges of erotic tanka

was expected proper etiquette


were the best of tanka’s golden era

yearning, soaring

tales of love, nature, war

passion prevailed

In 750 AD the emperor decreed

tanka to be recorded for history

4,000 love poems

brushed into exquisite scrolls

Manyoshu completed in 900

Five lines, waka

burning, tales of love

nature, war, erotica

themes of long ago Japan

treasured in Manyoshu

Tanka flourished

for hundreds of years

then suddenly jaded

grew out of touch

unconnected to society

Mother tanka

drops the last two lines

haiku is born

the three line form, short long short

evolves and travels far

Pre-world war 1

the poetry bureau censored

and controlled tanka

Asaka-Sha, brotherhood

led by Tekkan Yosan, rebelled

A shining star

Tekkan’s student and to be wife

Akiko Yosano, 1878-1942

sensuous, bold, controversial

her tanka rocked

softly I push open

that door

we call a mystery

these full breasts

held both in my hands  (Akiko Yosano)

I leave here

high on a woman’s note

the present

and the future

is for us to write

Published by genienakano

I love writing--It's my joy, my therapy--my confession. I'm a performer, dancer, yoga and meditation instructor, write a poetry column for Rafu Shimpo. Growth and love of life is a key to my happiness.

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