Tuesday, April 14, 2015

One Man's Maple Moon: Silence Tanka by Susan Constable

English Original

silence comes
on little cat feet …
soft and warm
as a late-summer breeze
or a goodnight kiss

Susan Constable

Chinese Translation (Traditional)

悄悄地到來 ...

Chinese Translation (Simplified)

悄悄地到来 ...

Bio Sketch

Susan Constable’s tanka appear in numerous journals and anthologies, including Take Five. Her tanka collection, The Eternity of Waves, was one of the winning entries in the eChapbook Awards for 2012. She is currently the tanka editor for the international on-line journal, A Hundred Gourds.


  1. The allusive simile in the upper verse establishes the theme, and the evocative tactile images in the lower verse make the theme come alive and enhance the atmosphere of the poem.

    Susan's use of Honkadori (allusive variation) is emotionally effective, adding aesthetic depth to the poem.

    This lovely tanka makes me see "silence" from a new perspective.

    For more information about the technique of Honkadori, see "To the Lighthouse: Plagiarism or Honkadori (allusive variation)," http://neverendingstoryhaikutanka.blogspot.ca/2013/02/to-lighthouse-plagiarism-or-honkadori.html


    "Fog" by Carl Sandburg

    The fog comes
    on little cat feet.

    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on.

  2. According to Rein Raud's groundbreaking study on the use of Honkadori ("An Investigation of the Conditions of Literary Borrowings in late Heian and Early Kamakura Japan," The Culture of Copying in Japan: Critical and Historical Perspectives, pp. 143-155), there are different techniques of borrowing, alluding and imitating that could be used for poetic practice, and different rules applied for their use:

    1 Simple quotation (as in the case of Susan's tanka)
    2 Inclusive imagery/expression
    3 Contrastive feeling (this kind of allusion is most ancient)
    4 Inclusion of narrative
    5 Inclusion of personality

    I"ll discuss these techniques in the forthcoming "To the Lighthouse" post.