Friday, January 16, 2015

Cool Announcement: New Release, The One That Flies Back

My Dear Friends:

I'm happy to share with you this exciting news: NeverEnding Story contributor Barry George just published a collection of tanka,  titled The One That Flies Back (Kattywompus Press, 2015)

About the Author:

Barry George’s haiku have been widely published in haiku journals, and in anthologies such as A New Resonance 2: Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku, The New Haiku, and Haiku 21. His poems have appeared in Japanese, German, Romanian, Croatian, and French translations. He has won international Japanese short-form competitions including First Prize in the Gerald R. Brady Senryu Contest.  Poems from his book, Wrecking Ball and Other Urban Haiku, were nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Selected Tanka:

In frangipani breezes
along the white-walled
Key West street
a cat moves and with it
part of the night

All dark
and boarded up
this year
the storefront where
the gypsy read my palm

In a room
just off the banquet
on election night
the victor’s teenage sons
stand in the dark

In my high-rise
ear to the floor
I listen for a heartbeat

After the flock
has swooped and soared
and swooped again and scattered…
the one that flies back
my way

Lying awake
on the night of a storm
even when I close my eyes
especially when I close my eyes
I see snow

Note: Below is excerpted from Katerina Stoykova-Klemer's interview with Barry George

Tell us more about the tanka form. What is the difference between a tanka and a five-line poem?

In Japanese, a tanka is distinguished by its pattern of 5-7-5-7-7 sound-syllables, much like a traditional haiku is in a 5-7-5 pattern. But because the English and Japanese languages are so different, many if not most writers and translators of tanka in English have found that 31 of our syllables usually result in a poem that’s too long and unwieldy. So rather than look to the number of syllables, it’s important to consider the qualities that a tanka embodies. I think a good definition is this: a tanka is an intensely focused, lyrical, rhythmic poem carefully phrased in five lines. The keys, I think, are compression, energy, and a kind of musicality. Japanese tanka—or waka as they were originally known—were sung. In English we can achieve something of the same effect with the sound qualities of the words—the flow and the rhythm of the lines.

In addition, tanka—the plural is the same as the singular—characteristically have two parts, with a break occurring after either the second or third line. The second part completes or fulfills the expectation of the first part. There’s a change between the two parts: a different shade of meaning or an acceleration of rhythm and the thoughts conveyed, perhaps—or a shift from objective to subjective, general to specific, or metaphorical to literal. In some of the best tanka the middle, or third, line functions as a “pivot” line that completes the first part of the poem (lines 1 to 3) and at the same time begins the second part (lines 3 to 5). So there are, in effect, two poems linked and redirected by the middle line. All of these characteristics make tanka a distinct kind of five-line poem.

I should say too that in the Japanese tradition, several kinds of tanka can be identified. One type is a lyrical outpouring of emotion, as in the tanka of the early courtesan-poets Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, or the 20th century poet Akiko Yosano. Another is a somewhat more objective yet still personal observation, which Shiki called a “sketch from life” and Takuboku Ishikawa likened to a “strict report” or emotional diary of the poet’s life. Other poets, including several notable Japanese modernists, have used tanka to express or embody views on a wide variety of subjects other than themselves. Finally, there is a companion tradition to tanka known as kyoka, or “mad verse,” which take a humorous or satirical approach. I’ve been influenced by reading tanka of all of these types, and I think you will find examples of each in my chapbook.

For people interested in starting to write tanka, I think the best thing to do is read examples of contemporary tanka in English, which as a starting point can be found in such places as the on-line journal A Hundred Gourds, the blog NeverEnding Story, the Tanka Splendor Awards website, where I first started to read tanka, and The Tanka Anthology. And then for translations of Japanese haiku, some good resources are Kozue Ozawa’s Ferris Wheel, Makoto Ueda’s Modern Japanese Tanka, Jane Hirschfield’s The Ink Dark Moon, and any of the Japanese masters as translated by Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinoda.

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