Friday, September 29, 2017

To the Lighthouse: Kyoka, Madcap Verse

Kyoka (狂歌, "madcap verse") is a popular, parodic  subgenre of waka (ancient name for tanka),  as a form of amusement and diversion, and it characteristically uses puns for language play and humor, and mixes high and low language to express freedom and radically redefines traditional waka. For example, a kyoka might start off sounding like a typical courtly verse, with elevated diction and evocative imagery, only to crash to earth in the final lines, in a witty or ironic utterance of  the commoner's practical/worldly concerns, expressed in the language of everyday life

As a genre of entertainment, kyoka has an ancient lineage; the 14th century collection, Hyakushu Kyoka (One Hundred Madcap Verses on Alcohol), was the first to bear the genre's name. Kyoka flourished in the Edo period (1600-1868) and reached its peak in the Temmei era (1781-89), when two women poets, Fushimatsu no Kaka and Chie no Naishi, were prominent (Understanding Humor in Japan edited by Jessica Milner Davis p.111).

The following is a set of selected kyoka, which I hope  it will bring a big smile on your face:

heading in
the same direction --
I watch
from the sidelines

Ishikawa Takuboku

wrote GREAT
in the sand
a hundred times
forgot about dying
and went on home

Ishikawa Takuboku

writing a poem
of longing for her
I'm irritated
by the interruption
of her phone call

George Swede

my husband
for criticizing me
I miss the exit
from the traffic circle

Angela Leuck

a couple fussing
over which tea is which ...
I tell myself,
I made a God choice
not to get married

Chen-ou Liu

thirty years
on the job
I've become
something of an expert
on what's unimportant

John Stevenson

Fox news
with the weight of "isms"
my eyelids sink
into a dream world
of plain talk

Guy Simser

talking, talking
over each other ...
a Trump fan
and the parrot

Chen-ou Liu

If I sit here
listening to your poetry
very much longer
I will be wrinkled
like an old woman!

M. Kei

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