Tanka Treasury 02-12-18: Poetic License in Tanka and Haiku

Updated on March 27, 2018
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Jose got Sonnet Grandmaster title during MySpace days. A joint book recently dubbed him Shogun of Haiku. Now he gives attention to tanka.

No, Yoda, there is no do.  Your speech wouldn't cause a stir in Japan.  The Japanese language is so flexible that it can accommodate all your linguistic acrobatics with no try at all.
No, Yoda, there is no do. Your speech wouldn't cause a stir in Japan. The Japanese language is so flexible that it can accommodate all your linguistic acrobatics with no try at all.

Once in Ten Verses
rule in Japanese genres
on syllabic count
a bard is allowed one less
or one extra syllable

Once in Ten Verses
is a necessary rule
for the sake of Art
it's not for Beauty this time
but for protecting Content

in sonneteering
iambic beat gets bungled
even by masters
but the piece should be finished
though a line be imperfect

a master's bungling
doesn't mean that an Art's rule
should be abolished
it does mean even masters
couldn't always perfect things

I provide a way
to rescue bards from dismay
and from wagging tongues
poetic license covers
the Once-in-Ten-Verses rule

poetic license
has a ring of elegance
and special knowledge
it's actually measures meant
to make bards' lives easier

poetic license
can make an anomaly
appear regular
rare contraction can even
help make a poem look good

a rare contraction
seldom and deftly employed
beautifies a piece
it's like a lone lovely mole
but many moles uglify

poetic license
can't justify everything
it has its limits
it can't absolve for instance
wrong grammar and wrong spelling

the three articles
that's to say "a", "an" and "the"
may be used loosely
you may include it or not
to suit your syllabic count

a broken sentence
is not an anomaly
in Japanese lore
the Japanese language is
is in fact very flexible

so don't you worry
if there's sense of brokenness
in your tanka verse
preferably not always
we are speaking English here

Yoda can't flourish
under Japanese culture
he won't cause a stir
Niponggo is elastic
Yoda's speech would fit right in

this makes me wonder
Japan's tongue molded poem
or vice versa?
its two rhythms are deeply
embedded in its culture

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