Asia (Japan)

Katuata


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.

Katuata.
The Katuata originally consisted of a poem consisting of 19 sound units or onji, (in the west we would describe this as having a syllable count of 19).
There was a break after the fifth and twelfth onji and this would give us a form structure of. 5 - 7 - 7.
Later poets also wrote using only 17 onji and this gave a form structure of 5 - 7 - 5.
There were two Japanese poetry forms that use this form, the Mondo and the Sedoka.
The Mondo and the Sedoka are similar in that they both use one pair of Katuata, with the difference being that the Mondo was written by two poets and consisted of a question and answer, and the Sedoka was written by a single author. See the two examples below.

Mondo

Why is there no rain
the land cries out for water
but cannot shed tears?

There will be no rain
because you wept times before
when there was some rain!

Juan and Chu

Sedoka

A small boy sees hills
then he will make them mountains
he will have to climb.

If he can climb them
what will he have overcome
that he did not make?

Ryter Roethicle




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