Saturday, December 3, 2022

Poetic Musings: Gnat's Smudge Tanka by William Ramsey

a gnat’s smudge
on my forearm --
the smallest death
i have known this year
but typical

The Tanka Anthology, 2003

William Ramsey

Commentary: This typical, bipartite tanka consists of one unpleasant yet seemingly trivial image, Ls 1&2, and the speaker's statement, Ls 3-5, a reflection on its preceding image, which is part of daily life:  "the smallest death (of a gnat) I have known this year, but typical." 

Syntactically and structurally speaking, the speaker's response / reflection in Ls 3-5 is made more acerbic by falling back to a short, concluding line: "but typical." Thematically and emotionally speaking, this typical case of the smallest death reveals something about the speaker's lifeworld, limited and boring  / nothing unusual, and more importantly, about his personality because of the matter-of-fact tone of Ls 3-5. 

And it might be interesting to do a thematic comparative reading of the following tanka about the view of death:

in the garden
the dwindling petals
of the daffodil
the blessing of a death
from natural causes 

Dance into the World, 2020                                               

Marianne Paul 

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