genie nakano

Moderator of Third Thursday Tanoshi Tanka

in the morning
when time is ticking out
I fit around you
like a jigsaw puzzle
falling into place

In five lines, tanka, an unrhymed poem, expresses a chapter of experience. Tanka is my “every day.” I always carry a notebook and pen, scratching down observations, inner feelings, thoughts, and conversations. Anything can inspire a tanka. Romance, family, even 2am—everything is tanka.

I’d like to
go back into the past
mend some broken relationships
help my parents out
and return to the living

2 am
time for life to begin
I’m the only one awake
streetlights twinkle
I talk to myself politely

Over 1,300 years old, it is the oldest form of poetry in Japan. Traditionally, tanka consists of a line pattern that is 5-7-5-7-7 sound units. Modern tanka does not always follow these restrictions. Within its long history, tanka is full of radical changes. Also, known as waka or short song, tanka poems are rhythmic.

Long ago when only the upper classes were able to read, tanka was sung and passed down through songs. In the mountains, deep in the countryside, and even in the imperial courts, tanka played an important part of everyday life. In the United States, tanka is just emerging as a popular form of expression.

Haiku, a better known three-line form of poetry, developed out of tanka. In contrast to haiku, which focuses on objectivity, tanka is more emotional.

Writing, sharing and enjoying tanka renews the spirit, and brings awareness to the here and now. In five lines the essence of a poem is captured. For me, tanka has offered new perspectives and a growing appreciation of life.

Please join us with Tanoshi Tanka, every third Thursday of the month from 7-9 pm at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute, located at 1964 West 162nd St. in Gardena. We meet upstairs in the main building.

For more information, call Genie Nakano at 310-644-1186, 0r JCI at 310-324-6611.

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