Asia (Japan)


Japanese poetry seems to be gaining greater and greater popularity with Western poets. The much abused Haiku of course has worn the brunt of this assault by everyone from first year poetry teachers and students, to Microsoft and office jokes, but serious poets recognise that this little poem is a truly remarkable art form. The Tanka is also gaining in popularity and rightly so and both of these forms will be dealt with later. Before dealing with these two forms however, there are two other Japanese forms which in my opinion should be discussed, and may interest poets looking for something different. The first form is called the Katuata, and the second the Choka.

The most intricate Japanese Poetry form is the Choka, or Long Poem.
The early form consisted of a series of Katuata joined together. This gives a choice of form structures of ..... 5 - 7 - 7 - 5 - 7 - 7.. etc, or .. 5 - 7 - 5 - 5 - 7 - 5.. etc. In the poem below Ryter uses three 19 onji (Katuata) for his Choka.

The Moth

there is no freedom
escaping from my cocoon
I must seek you once again
I am drawn to you
like a moth to a candle
circling nearer and nearer
the deadly flame calls
now my wings are scorched
why must my nature be so?

Ryter Roethicle

Later the form introduced the Japanese equivalent of a couplet consisting of 12 onji or sound units, pausing after the fifth unit, giving it a structured sequence of multiples of, 5 - 7 onji and still with a finishing sequence using the Katuata of, 5 - 7 - 7 (19) onji, or 5 - 7 - 5 (17) onji.

storm passes overhead
thunder rolls, lightning flashes
Christopher feels fear
comforting his loved ones.
Tigger, Owl and Pooh,
creating nearness within them.
strange creatures bonded closer.

In Toybox above the Katuata is 5 - 7 - 7, and below in Thunderstorm a Katuata of 5 - 7 - 5, has been chosen instead.


thunderstorm inside
lightning crashes and flashes
no peaceful moments
silent sobbing tears flowing
there is no peace here
loud noises of breaking heart
waiting for phone call.

The Choka can be any total line length and indeed many exceeded 100 lines.

Looking at this, it is easy to see why Poetic Historians believe the Katuata is the original basic unit of Japanese poetry using either the 17 or 19 unit onji.

Any Comments or Suggestions, please email me

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