A Journal for Linking Poets  TABLE OF CONTENTS

XXI:1 February, 2006




Amelia Fielden

Aya Yuhki



Amelia Fielden

For some years now, the educational arm of Japan’s national radio and television broadcaster, NHK, has produced a monthly half-hour TV program on tanka, as well as a parallel haiku program. This is recorded in the Tokyo studios, and shown twice in the following month on the NHK Educational channel.

The format is always that of a three-person panel discussion. Two of the participants are regulars, albeit they change from time to time: an NHK compère, and a "selector", a Japanese poet contracted to the program for periods between 6 and 24 months. The third is an invited guest. In October 2000 I appeared on the program as the guest, and was again invited by selector Kawano Yūko, to do so in November 2005.

Appropriately enough, the November program was recorded on the 23rd, which is "Culture Day", a public holiday throughout Japan.

Before summarizing the program we made on the 23rd November, I should explain its format. NHK Tanka (formerly called NHK Tanka Forum), is built around the involvement of Japan’s thousands of regular and enthusiastic tanka writers. Each month a topic is set by the NHK selector, and the population at large is encouraged to submit to her/him two tanka on that topic, or on a free topic, (without submission fees), for consideration in the following month. From the submissions received, the selector then chooses her "top ten" tanka to be read aloud and critiqued during the program.

This "top ten" appears again, together with the selector’s comments, plus a further body of 90 tanka submitted for the same month and deemed worthy of special mention, in the monthly Tanka Journal, (100 pages, with colour photographs), which NHK publishes in association with its TV program.

The TV program includes a "correction corner", where the selector takes 2 or 3 tanka also from those submitted for the month, and with a scarlet pen demonstrates how these poems could be improved.

I was told that 4,726 appropriate poems on the set topic of finger(s), or free choice, had been received for the November program! Two days before my appearance, I was given a sheet of the top ten tanka already chosen by Kawano Yūko, and asked to prepare my own responses to them for discussion during the program. I also needed to pick my favourite from among the ten, and be ready to explain (in Japanese of course), its attractions.

So to the program. This is how it ran on the day:

· Visual of the flower arrangement behind the panelists’ table.

· Brief explanation by the compère Hirano Keiko of the flowers, which included Australian natives for Amelia’s benefit.

· Greetings to the audience by Hirano, Kawano, and Amelia.

· Introduction of the "special guest" by Hirano and Kawano. Responses from Amelia.

· Reading aloud and comments by Amelia on one of her Kawano tanka translations. This tanka was shown on the screen in Japanese and English as it was being read and discussed.

· Reading aloud by Hirano of the top ten tanka.

· Critiquing by Kawano of each of the ten tanka, Hirano and Amelia contributing as discussants.

· "Correction corner". Kawano re-wrote sections of two tanka (not from the top ten) and held up both the originals, and improved versions, to the camera.

· "Tanka travelogue". A poem by a well-known tankaist Onishi Tamiko, appeared against a beautiful scenic background and was read allowed by a voice off-stage.

· Tanka of the season: winter solstice. A mini-talk given by Kawano Yūko, who then introduced a winter poem by a fellow poet from the Tower society, Manaka Tomohisa.

· Discussion amongst Kawano, Hirano, and Amelia about Amelia’s work as a translator of contemporary Japanese tanka: background, methodology, focus, and so on.

· Introduction, reading aloud in Japanese and English, and commentary on anther of Amelia’s translated tanka.

· Second reading aloud of all the "top ten" tanka.

· Amelia’s "number one". Reading, and explanation for her choice.

· Kawano’s "best three" from the top ten; her comments on them.

· A roll of drums and Kawano’s "number one" (chosen independently, and not the same as Amelia’s favourite). Discussion of this.

· Brief remarks on the seasons: with Japan’s days shortening into winter, Australia currently experiencing mid-summer temperatures.

· Information on how to submit tanka, on the topic of bean curd, or free-choice, for the next round, given by Hirano.

· Close

Followed by an off-camera lunch, and animated discussion amongst the participants, director, and producer.




Aya Yuhki

[The following was laid in  the book, White Flower in the Sky, a series of linked tanka between Anna Holley and Aya Yuhki and translated into Japanese by Aya Yuhki. The book is to be reviewed in the next issue of Lynx.]

Indeed, Anna Holley and I haven’t met yet, but seven or eight years have passed since the air-mail letters between us began to cross the Pacific Ocean. In 1992 The Tanka Journal was published by The Japan Tanka Poets' Society. Through this magazine, I realized Anna’s tanka had a great deal of similarity to Japanese tanka. This was the beginning of our correspondence.

From those days I was exploring the fixed-form English tanka. I wondered, if it were possible to translate English tanka into the fixed-form Japanese tanka, I could recognize it as one model of English tanka. With Anna's corporation, I translated her 91 English tanka into Japanese, which crystallized into her book Cold Waves: Life of Tanka. As I had expected, her tanka was beautifully translated into the fixed-form Japanese tanka.

We were exchanging letters in the process of our collaboration. One day, she sent a tanka saying that she was inspired by priest Jyakuren’s tanka. Touched, I composed a tanka in reply. I proposed that we exchange tanka in answer to each other. Thus, our wayward English tanka travel began.

The date on each page shows the date we corresponded. We made a series titled "Time" from our first ten tanka. After that, we chose the title in advance. As time passed, we realized that exchanging one tanka at a time was slow, so there was a period when we exchanged two tanka at a time. It was our rule to compose tanka in response to the other’s latter tanka. Then, both of us shared the last ninth and tenth tanka each. We also composed a long twenty tanka series or thirty tanka series, consisting of three ten tanka series in parallel. Our tanka correspondence seemed like echoes, harmonics, mirror Images etc. Anna or Aya placed at the end of each tanka shows its writer. All the Japanese translation was done by Aya Yuhki. At the last page of each series, I wrote a mini-essay substituting a foreword. The above is a brief summary of this book.

As I said before, I would like to note the relationship of Anna’s tanka with the fixed-form English tanka. Mr. Kyuma Ono who has a deep interest in the fixed-form English tanka, was exploring the English tanka form which took the same length of time as that of Japanese tanka when read in flat voices without any emotion. He asked Anna to read her own tanka out of her tanka collection Cold Waves and to record them on a tape. Analyzing that tape, the results showed that the length of time of her reading one tanka is as almost long as that of Japanese tanka when read under the same conditions. He admitted her tanka could be a model of the fixed-form English tanka. We were much encouraged.

I began to explore the fixed-form English tanka which would theoretically carry the Japanese tanka characteristics. It is well known that the metrical beauty of Japanese tanka, half meaning and half sound, comes from the repetition of 5 sounds and 7 sounds. Not only in tanka but also in the general fixed-form poetry of Japan, we unconsciously put suitable length pause or prolong vowels, when we read it out loud. There is a certain unwritten rule. Including those voiceless built-in spaces, we can admit that every tanka consists of 8 spaces 5 phrases, that is 40 spaces which are equivalent to 40 sounds. Every phrase is quadruple time with a beat of two sounds. In the 5- sound phrase there are 3 pauses and in the 7- sound phrase, there is one pause. (refer to Chart 1)Chart 1 Tanka’s absolute rhythm quadruple time with a beat of two sounds one beat | two beat |three beat | four beat

yononaka wa 
nagisa kogu
amino obune no
tsunade kanashimo

In short, tanka rhythm in every phrase proceeds like quadruple time with a beat of two sounds. This is the pattern for every five phases. Therefore, 5-phrase tanka always has twenty-beats in itself. There is no great difference between our organs producing sound. So, we can assume that Japanese tanka balances twenty-beat English tanka with its ten stresses. Let me confirm the above again.

Japanese tanka has a twofold aspect: tanka consists of 5 phrases of 5-7-5-7-7 sounds. At the same time Japanese tanka consists of 20 beats, which is equivalent to 10 stresses in English tanka. If Japanese tanka is translated into 10 stresses English tanka, both tanka are balanced not only in the meaning but also in the meter.

Having analyzed Anna’s tanka, I made a chart showing the number of stresses of her tanka. Coincidentally, I found that more than 80 % of Anna’s tanka were written from 9 feet to 11 feet tanka poems. I said that her tanka had a great deal of similarity to Japanese tanka. Now, I think I can say that it is not only from the spirit of her tanka but also from the technical aspect that her tanka was written in an equivalent beat to Japanese tanka.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the members of The Tanka Journal, Hatsue Kawamura, Hiroshi Shionozaki and Eisuke Shiiki who showed their generosity by printing our particular series which was always one work by two. I would like to extend my gratitude to the members of POETRY NIPPON, Gen Ohinata, Yorifumi Yaguchi, Mitsuru Ohike, P. Duppenthaler, and S. Tosker. I also would like to extend my gratitude to Emeritus professor who wrote the introduction for this book, N. Belsh and Naokata Oishi whose efforts contributed this beautiful book.

2005 July
Aya Yuhki




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  Poems Copyright © by Designated Authors 2006.
Page Copyright ©Jane Reichhold 2006.

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Check out the previous issues of:

LYNX XX:3 October, 2005
LYNX XX:2 June, 2005

XX:1 February, 2005

XIX:3 October, 2004

LYNX XIX:2 June, 2004

XIX:1 February, 2004

XVIII:3 October, 2003

 LYNX XVIII:2 June, 2003

XVIII:1 February, 2003

LYNX XVII:3 October, 2002

LYNX XVII:2 June, 2002

XVII:1 February, 2002
LYNX XVI:3 October, 2001
LYNX XVI:2 June, 2001
LYNX XVI:1 February, 2001
XV:3 October, 2000
LYNX XV:2 June, 2000