NaPoWriMo – Choka – April 13, 2016

Dawn

a silent minstrel
sat at dawn his fingers limp
(the blue sky streaked red)
reminding him of lost friends
a song dangled there
(just out of reach but so near)
he touched the taut strings
and struck a sweet cord
then, heard a sistrum jangle
the music began
flowing like a spring river

he sang of karma
he sang of resurrection
of life – birth and death
and of red dawns and sunsets
o’er the mountains and the sea.

© G.s.k. ‘16

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“The choka (長歌 long poem) was the epic, story telling form of Japanese poetry from the 1st to the 13th century, known as the  Waka period. Most often the Japanese poet would write epics in classical Chinese. Still, the occasional poet with a story to tell would tackle the choka, the earliest of which can be traced back to the 1st century. It describes a battle and is 149 lines long.

Originally choka were sung, but not in the Western sense of being sung. The oral tradition of the choka was to recite the words in a high pitch.

The choka is:

  • a narrative.
  • syllabic. Composed of any number of couplets made up of alternating 5-7 onji (sound syllables) per line. In English we can only treat the onji as a syllable.
  • unrhymed.
  • concluded by a hanka, an envoy in the form of the waka, 31 onji or sound syllables in 5 lines with 5-7-5-7-7. “han” meaning repetition, the hanka is to summarize the choka. The word tanka is often substituted for hanka or waka (they are all rooted in the same 31 syllable, 5 line form, their root seems to make them interchangeable with only subtle differences to separate them.)
  • Another way to write a choka  is to write several katauta (5-7-7 syllable stanzas).
  • The poem can be as long as you like and in classical times there have been choka with hundreds of lines.

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Written for NaPoWriMo inspired by the mandala and words found on 1sojounal NaPoWriMo: Day 13:

minstrel, dawn, strings, blue, flow, fingers, jangle, dangle

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3 thoughts on “NaPoWriMo – Choka – April 13, 2016

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed both the post and explanation of the form .. your post were really an inspiration Elizabeth. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

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