Monday, January 14, 2013

Poetry experiment

Here's a follow-up on yesterday's semi-poem. I call myself a prose writer, but every now and then something with shorter lines or a poetic gesture emerges. For example, I took a walk to the bakery on Sunday morning and made this Facebook posting when I got back.

Frozen morning: crunching opaque ice membranes stretched over ruts in the path is fun like popping bubble wrap only entirely more musical.

Several friends clicked "like" and commented. Amy Sheon saw the haiku potential here, which I, too, had noticed during another walk late afternoon. A haiku's brief 17 syllables seemed a challenge; I had a lot more words. So, I looked for "that other" Japanese short syllabic poetry form that I vaguely recalled. I searched on "haiku and" with immediate results: Haiku and Tanka courtesy of the Virtual Museum of Japanese Arts presented by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

You can follow the link yourself to find a charming presentation about the forms, but here's the basic information. Haiku is three lines, syllable pattern 5-7-5 (a total of 17 syllables). Tanka has five lines with the syllable pattern 5-7-5-7-7 (31 syllables). I have written one of each, essentially simultaneously, taking off from my original observation and wording. I have allowed myself a 4-syllable title, and I don't know if that's breaking form or not.

I imagine that writing syllabic poetry in Japanese feels quite different from English. The Japanese equivalent to an alphabet is a "syllabary." It's a system of syllables ordered by initial consonant, each ending in one of five vowels. The exception is final "n", which also counts as a syllable. For example, the word "haiku" counts as three syllables: ha-i-ku. "Tanka" is the same: ta-nn-ka. English pronounces both words in two syllables.

Soundwise, Japanese reminds me of Italian, with all those words ending in vowels (a fact that appears to make rhyme schemes in Italian ever so much simpler). I look at a lengthy one-syllable English word like "stretched" and imagine syllables in Japanese to be more obvious, more like breathing. I need my tapping fingers. (That's a 7-syllable sentence right there.)


Frozen morning

crunching opaque ice
membranes stretched in rutted path
is fun like popping
bursting sheets of bubble wrap
ethereal chimes in ice


Frozen morning

crunching opaque ice
rutted path of bubble wrap
joyful winter chimes

A previous winter moment prompted my other recent haiku. Now there are three of these poems. I believe I may be working my way toward a page of poetry on this blog.

Snow haiku, December 7, 2012

snow tumbling through air
downward halting plunging spread
outside my warm room

From another frozen morning during a horse-driven sleigh ride with Austrian relatives, January 2011. (c) Mary Craig