Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tanka (perseverance)

my love's head bowed low
shoulders bloody, he takes it
like a desert palm
whipped by a raging sand storm
the dunes are gone, he walks on

© 2011 Padmavani Karkera

This is my attempt at a Tanka, a Japanese form of poetry using 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. For an interesting article on Tanka please visit http://onestoppoetry.com/ written by Lady Nyo for One Stop Poetry Form.

This is my first attempt at any metered form. Feedback would help.

For the unedited version of the article you may visit http://ladynyo.wordpress.com/


  1. This is very good, Padmavani.

    From what I can discern, you have fallen naturally into this classical example of the division of tanka....two poems, the top one: kami no ku and the bottom one: shimo no ku. The pivot is "like an old tree".

    It is hard to get the pivot line to answer to both the kami no ku and hte shimo no ku. You did it very well.

    Next week I will go into this further and perhaps it will clarify some things about the structure of (classical) tanka.

    my love's head bowed low
    shoulders bloody, he takes it
    like an old old tree.

    Like an old old tree
    whipped by a raging rain storm
    his fight, my war, we will win.

    I would look again at that "like an old, old tree". Perhaps something else can be used instead of the repeat of old, old.

    You gave mention to nature with the tree issue, but can you come to terms with kago? This is the season inferred but not stated. This would give strength to the poem perhaps.

    Lady Nyo

  2. Dear Lady Nyo
    Thank you for your generosity in critiquing this Tanka. I have made some changes. I hope this sounds much better. I am happier with this version. I look forward to reading your article next week. :)

  3. Well, actually I like both versions. But what makes the poet happiest is what counts!

    Lady Nyo...just keep writing, Padmavani. Tanka is a very forgiving poetry form, and we...after we learn the rules...can break them!

    In fact, next to freeverse, I don't know of a more 'freeing' and contemplative poetry form...but then I'm not an experienced poet.

  4. Nice, Padmavani! I think you did a great job. It looks you strengthened this piece significantly from your earlier effort. I like the substitution of a desert palm for an old, old tree.

    While I like that the last line turns the piece and reveals, it throws me a bit,as it isn't as lucid at the other lines. Not to be dense, but I assume you're addressing an intimate fight between the speaker and husband. I think the word "war" really conjures a weight of meanings that the poem can't bear. Not sure if that makes sense. Just some thoughts.

  5. The scene is that the woman watches her man being beaten by yet another difficult situation, therefore it is just another fight for him. But for her who has watched him being confronted time and again for years on end, this is a war they have to keep fighting and she stands by him and ensures 'we will win'

    But then if you weren't able to get that when you read it, it means I may have to look at how else I would express the above. I will give another try soon.

    Thank you. Appreciate it.

  6. I'm a fiction writer and a memoirist so I can only say what I like without knowing the technical language. Sorry. Nevertheless, I know this is a powerful poem. It is visceral, esp. these lines - "Like a desert palm/whipped by a raging sand storm". I concur about he last line, whose war, who is the we etc.

  7. Thank you Cathy, I have to crack that disturbing ambiguity in the last line...

  8. Rich, fertile material here! Evocative.

    It's lovely having you on the Rilke train.


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