Sunday, May 1, 2022

Cool Announcement: Celebrate Tanka Poetry Month with NeverEnding Story

My Dear Friends/Readers:

Please join NeverEnding Story to expand the readership base for tanka by tweeting at least one tanka a day throughout the month of May. The hashtags for Tanka Poetry Month are #MayTanka and #NaTankaMo.

Please help spread the word about this celebration via your poetry blogs, websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. And NeverEnding Story seeks the tanka that can bite and bite hard. 

a poet's
greatest dilemma
a rosebud
about to bloom
civilians killed in battle

Bright Stars 6: An Organic Tanka Anthology, 2014, edited by M. Kei

Eve Castle

We love to read, even recite, the following tanka by the most famous Buddhist monk-poet Saigyo’s (1118–1190 AD):

even someone
free of passion as myself
feels sorrow:
snipe rising from a marsh
at evening in autumn

(The transience of the world, represented by the Japanese term aware, the pity of things that pass away, is an integral part of Japanese aesthetics as incorporated into Anglophone tanka. -- excerpted from To the Lighthouse: "The Problem of Tanka : Definition and Differentiation" by M. Kei)

However, most tanka poets don't know, or even don't want to know, that the same monk-poet wrote the following thematically significant and sociopolitically charged anti-war tanka with the longest joshi (prefatory note):

In the world of men it came to be a time of warfare. Throughout the country -- west, east, north, and south -- there was no place where the war was not being fought. The count of those dying because of it climbed continually and reached an enormous number. It was beyond belief! And for what on earth was this struggle taking place? A most tragic state of affairs 

There's no gap or break
In the rank of those marching
Under the hill:
An endless line of dying men,
Moving on and on and on ...


(This lengthy and sociopolitically conscious prefatory note establishes the thematic and emotive context of the poem while the tanka visually enhances the tone and mood. Saigyo's use of repetition in the last line adds extra emotional weight and psychological depth to the poem... (For detailed comments, see "To the Lighthouse: Joshi (Prefatory Note) as a Poetic Device" and "Poetic Musings: Dying Men Tanka by Saigyo Hoshi.")

Living in times of crisis, threat and uncertainty, I think we should and can write something new and relevant to the world we live in.  

What poetry can, must, and will always do for us: it complicates us, it doesn't "soothe."
-- Jorie Graham

For we tend to view [poetry] as a witness and participant in one of mankind's major transformations.

-- Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature who reflects upon poetry's testimony to the events of our tumultuous time in his "1984" book of essays, The Witness of Poetry

Poetry can act as a witness in, to, and most importantly, through troubled times.

-- Chen-ou Liu, An Interview with Dimitar Anakiev, author of  upcoming Bulgarian-English Tanka Handbook 

for Lawrence Ferlinghetti, author of "Poetry as Insurgent Art."

Strive to change the world in such a way that there’s no further need to be a dissident. Read between the lives, and write between the lines. Be committed to something outside yourself. 

The Dagger of a Poet's Mind

after the Free Expression March
and asked 
if I carry a weapon ...
I hand over my pen

the blood
crusting to claret
on the paper ...
in the jail cell my words
stronger than steel bars

Happy Tanka Month 


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