oietry form

Writing of Fumiko Miura

Me as I Flee by Sohichi Furikwara


A half-naked woman
her throat and mouth blasted by
the heat rays, holding
a baby that keeps seeking
for milk from her mother's breast.

On the red surface
of a sphere with rough red soil
 like the planet Mars
Never shall I forget the smell
of human bodies burning.

As they listen to
the emperor on radio
in surrender speech
the hibakusha (bomb victims) wailing,
hair falling, skin stigmata

I was told once more:
'Metastasis suspected.'
This morning, I stopped
preparing concoctions of
Chinese herbal medicine

Waking from my dreams
to reality, my new/ birthday,
twenty-third of June, when my body
reborn as night was dawning

Since I was informed
of my fatal illness I
have endured eight times
the surgeon's knife, I turn now
to tanka, as proof of life.

Tanka is the name of an ancient form of Japanese poetry.

Tanka are 31-syllable poems that have been the most popular form of poetry in Japan for at least 1300 years. As a form of poetry, tanka is older than haiku, and tanka poems evoke a moment or mark an occasion with concision and musicality.

During Japan's Heian period (794-1185 A.D.) it was considered essential for a woman or man of culture to be able to both compose beautiful poetry and to choose the most aesthetically pleasing and appropriate paper, ink, and symbolic attachment---such as a branch, a flower---to go with it.

Tanka were often composed as a kind of finale to every sort of occasion; no experience was quite complete until a tanka had been written about it.

Tanka have changed and evolved over the centuries, but the form of five syllabic units containing 31 syllables has remained the same.Topics have expanded from the traditional expressions of passion and heartache, and styles have changed to include modern language and even colloquialisms.

In Japanese, tanka is often written in one straight line, but in English and other languages, we usually divide the lines into the five syllabic units: 5-7-5-7-7.

Usually, each line consists of one image or idea; unlike English poetry, one does not seek to "wrap" lines in tanka, though in the best tanka the five lines often flow seamlessly into one thought.

Source: http://www.americantanka.com/about.html.