Sunday, January 4, 2015

Poetic Musings: Mist Tanka by A. A. Marcoff

I am
I am not
I am
as I walk in & out
of mist

Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, 2009

A. A. Marcoff


Structurally speaking, Marcoff's minimalist (15-syllable/word) tanka varies slightly  from the classic short-long-short-long-long syllabic structure, and it is divided into two parts: one theme statement about ever-shifting subjectivities and one visually evocative and symbolically rich image of the speaker walking in and out of mist.

Thematically speaking, the opening theme statement is fully grounded in the closing image. This short tanka works effectively on at least two levels, literal and metaphoric, invoking profound existential angst ("I am/I am not/I am") through this theologically/philosophically laden metaphor -- life as a mist, which reminds me of the following passage from James 4:14, New Testament (NIV):

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

1 comment:

  1. This quirky tanka immediately brought to mind the game we used to play using a daisy. We removed the petals individually, chanting, 'he loves me, he loves me not' and the statement we arrived at, upon reaching the final petal, revealed whether or not the person we loved returned the sentiment. The use of 'I am/I am not' in this context evokes the game of life and our musings upon the nature of existence. The revelation that the narrator is walking through mist brings it back to earth. It's very clever and I will remember this one!