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Posts Tagged ‘choka’

Ode to My Hair

Every kinky curl,
every twist and bantu knot,
every minute of
co-washing or detangling,
every hour tucked
in heat cap or satin wrap,
every braid-out and up-do,
every afro-puff,
every pack of Marley hair,
every wide-tooth comb,
every faux tortoise shell pin,
every bad hair day
that looked good on the outside,
every long, long night
with a head of curlformers,
every month’s length check,
discovering cleansing clay,
that first successful
twist and curl — HALLELUJAH! —
first henna treatment,
and YouTube tutorial.

My excellent mane,
most glorious crown of curls,
gives me daily strength,
earns smiles, nods, compliments —
wraps tight coils ’round my heart.

(Obviously, I pronounce “every” like “ev’ry” … I don’t know if that’s actually standard or just “Stacie standard,” but there it is. Hmm … and “coil” is a 2-syllable word in my head. Funny the things you notice about how you say things when you have to pay attention to syllable counts!)

Not an “ode” exactly, but maybe “ode-adjacent.” And silly.

Last night’s bad news has already been turned upside down, so I’m glad I didn’t spend over-long fussing and fuming about it. On to the next!

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.



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April 1st was the 24 Hour Project. I had the pleasure of participating with my IRL and blog friend, Raivenne. We met up in a cold, rainy, windy Times Square and set off. Our first stop was to buy a hat for ridiculous me who’d left hers home and forgotten to zip the hood onto her coat. Can you say “foolish”? Once I was properly hatted, we were ready.

My Saturday had other plans crammed into it: a Girls Write Now genre workshop with my mentee, a friend date for lunch with some VONA loves I hadn’t seen in forever, and a coworker’s improv show. All of it found its way into the Project, my picture of my city for one day in this year.

As I did both of the last years, I wrote mini stories for nearly every photo I posted. It’s what did when I first started on Instagram, use my photos like Duane Michals, like prompts, illustrations. I’ve gotten a little rusty, though. I had a hard time calling stories out of the ether this time. I’ll need to stay in practice so next year’s Project is easier.

Yes, I’m already thinking about next year. I hope Raivenne’s ready!

And now, without further ado, here are the pictures and stories.

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Spinning Yarns

I tell stories, lies,
made up worlds, dramas, joys.
Characters light up,
dance their tales across the page,
show me where to turn,
how to tell, what’s next to show.
Living in moments,
flashes of bright narrative
gleaming, line by line …
on to the next and again.
A new story. Keep spinning.

_____

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line. The shortest form of chōka  is: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7. The 5- and 7-syllable lines can repeat as many times as needed. The poem’s end is signaled by the extra 7-syllable line. The final five lines can be used to summarize the body of the poem.

(Also, Raivenne wrote an arun! It’s not her first one, but I’m always surprised to happen upon one, out there in the wild, off the tip of someone else’s pen. I made a form!)



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My lazy effort of last night made clear how much I don’t yet know about the chōka … and I need to find out if I have any chance of making it through this month. Back to The Google I went today for a little research

My first surprise was finding that the length of this form isn’t set. The poems I’ve been writing are, in fact, the shortest form of chōka. The stacking of five- and seven-syllable lines atop one another can just go on and on until they are cut off by that final extra seven. If I wrote the syllable counts from the point of view of my rusty math knowledge, I might write it this way:

In other words, the five- and seven-syllable couplets could go on and on to create super-long poems. The final seven-syllable line is like the full-stop that ends the poem. (I know it’s entirely ridiculous that I just tried to use math to explain the pattern of this poem … and I know that there are other ways to illustrate a repeating decimal, but the little line is what I was taught — was that Miss Leuchten who taught me that? — and I’m sticking to it!)

In a long chōka, the final 5-7-5-7-7 began to be used as an envoi, a final stanza to comment on or encapsulate the whole poem. Good envois began to stand alone as poems … creating the tanka! WAIT. Let me say that again. Good envois began to stand alone as poems … creating. the. TANKA!! How excellent to find that this form I’ve chosen is the parent form of the tanka. Isn’t research cool?

This last bit explains so much about the tanka. It’s supposed to express a full moment or emotion, and that started because it was drawing an end to a poem that could have been as long as a hundred lines.

I’ve also done some chōka reading — ha! maybe should have started with that before writing, eh? — and that’s been illuminating, too. Seeing the ways the chōka almost tell a story and seem like a kind of prose poem in that way gives me ideas, gives me something to think about as I try moving forward with this form.

Today’s Poetic Asides prompt is to write a “discovery” poem, which is funny to see in light of everything I learned on my fact-finding mission.

Discovery

Flexing my muscles
trying to forge a place, here —
across new landscape,
wide, unknown territory.

I’m stretching, stretching.

It’s nervous-making and strange
but I’m determined.
Unsure what to hope to find
to keep my eye on
what patch of ground to reach for

I stutter and stop
and again, stutter and stop.

Searching, I’m kept whole
to wander, wonder, look
to try, keep pushing
the pen always in my hand
my willingness held open.

I don’t know if the skipped lines or spaces are allowed, but I went with them anyway. I certainly like this better than the last couple of attempts. Reading more about the chōka has made me more curious to keep at it this month, see what I can come up with.



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After I wrote yesterday’s poem, I clicked over to Facebook and was greeted with the “your memories” post, FB’s lovely, daily reminder that on this day in the past you were often doing way more interesting and fun things.

Well, I discovered that, three years ago yesterday, I was in very much the same place as far as poetic emotion. Yesterday I wrote “Broken Silence.” On April 3rd, 2014, I wrote “Silence Broken“! How wild is that?

Dangerous for me to go read that arun, however. I really like it. Really like it. Makes me want to send the chōka packing and pick up with the aruns again, but no. I’m going to stay here a while. I’m curious about the chōka, so I’ll stick with it.

This morning I stepped onto the subway an into some drama. A woman was angrily exclaiming. She was graphic and vulgar and made everyone uncomfortable, but she wasn’t active, wasn’t doing anything other than randomly shouting her outrage. Not an ideal trip to work, but thinking about her later called up today’s poem:

Your anger frightens
everyone on this train car —
except … one woman
tall, Black, sitting unconcerned
at your hostile side.
Her serenity contrasts
your agitation,
living tragi-comic masks
this slow ride to Manhattan.

__________

A chōka is a Japanese form poem with a specific syllable count per line: 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 5 / 7 / 7.



 

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