Tanka Getting More Prominent Will Cause Hsa's Downfall (a Tanka Renga)

Updated on March 28, 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.

Duel between wood and steel:  Miyamoto Musashi versus Sasaki Kojiro.
Duel between wood and steel: Miyamoto Musashi versus Sasaki Kojiro.

promoting tanka
has a way of outflanking
the haiku honchos
when tanka gets prominent
HSA rule is kaput

haiku without form
would be an anomaly
beside formed tanka
either both would go formless
or both would observe their forms

modernitis bug
afflicting the HSA
imperils the art
those agents of ugliness
should be barred from leadership

is formless haiku
a legitimate poem?
it can be, why not
but it's not real haiku
it's simply a short free verse

Japan's two rhythms
are chiefly about numbers
not thoughts nor contents
so let's count 5-7-5
and also 7-7

it doesn't matter
that "ohn" isn't "syllable"
it's about counting
if not syllable, is there
a better equivalent?

now, what would happen
if tanka goes formless too?
everything would blur!
it's like Cosmos returning
to its primeval chaos

we transformalists
uphold forms in poetry
in their purest states
but we also recognize
the tradition of free verse

the formless morons
shouldn't join formal genre
and then deform it
they better stick to free verse
or maybe to prose writing

the modernist tag
is now an embarrassment
in poetry world
so the modernitis gangs
hide now behind other names

Notes and Definitions

SUMMARY: Formless haiku side by side with formal tanka would be an anomalous contrast. As for haiku and tanka both going formless, it would cause so much confusion. As it is, haiku honchos already find it hard to distinguish senryu from hokku-type haiku. What more if tanka would join the fray?

HSA -- Haiku Society of America, apparently the most powerful and influential haiku organization in the world except in Japan itself.

haiku -- see What is a Haiku? 4 Definitions and 4 Theories

is formless haiku a legitimate poem?
In the fourth verse, we stated that "it can be, why not / but it's not real haiku / it's simply a short free verse". Nevertheless, in later verses that I wrote which are not included in this tanka renga, I took a more conciliatory stance whereby I recognized formless haiku as genuine haiku. However, I classified haiku verses into formal and formless -- calling the former as "regular haiku" and the latter as "auxiliary haiku".

it doesn't matter that "ohn" isn't "syllable"
"Ohn" is my preferred alternative spelling to "on", the sound unit of Japanese poetry and language. Ohn/on is also called "onji". Ohn or onji is much closer in meaning to "mora" (see dictionary) than to "syllable". I thought of spelling "on" as "ohn" so as not to confuse it with so many other meanings of the ubiquitous "on" in the English language. I later felt quite comfortable with what I did when I noticed that the Japanese word "no" (a kind of stage play) is also spelled alternatively as "noh" -- I suppose for the same very same reason that motivated me to give "on" an alternative spelling.

everything would blur!
Among advocates of formless haiku, they don't just abandon the 5-7-5 count. Many of them abandon also the 3-line structure. Now, if tanka would also abandon both the 5-7-5 7-7 count and the 5-line structure, that would create chaos all around, making it hard to distinguish which piece is haiku and which piece is tanka. As it is, even magazine editors and contest managements often find it difficult to differentiate haiku pieces from senryu pieces. How much more if formless tanka would join the confusion!

transformalists -- a school of poetry upholding the various formal traditions of both East and West as well as the free-verse tradition in general.

the formless morons
In my rough draft, I actually used the term "idiots" but that is too strong. I wish to be more compassionate and more conciliatory. So I instead use the term "morons" which ranks higher in intelligence and sanity to "idiots" and "imbeciles". Not only that. In a much later verse that I wrote, I graciously accorded to them the term "supermoron" which I found out is a rung higher than ordinary moron.


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