Oct 7, 2010


The Waka is the verse from which many Japanese forms developed, including the tanka, choka, and sedoka. Like most Oriental forms, the Waka is a short poem written to express feelings. These short poems were important to the early Japanese, used to celebrate special occasions. In the Heian period Waka were an important form of communication between lovers. A person's skill in poetry was a major criterion in determining his or her standing in society, even influencing political positions.

Over the centuries, however, Waka began to be written more to capture emotions than to explain or define them. Because the Waka is brief, the glimpse into the emotion represented by the verse is also brief.

It is written in 31 syllables, or onji, arranged in five lines. It is often said to have an upper verse, which refers to the first three lines, and a lower verse, which is the last two. The Haiku form is based on the upper verse.

In brief, the Waka is:
the basis for other Japanese forms
written in five lines
has 31 syllables
is broken into: 5-7-5-7-7
usually captures emotion rather than explaining it

I am in mourning
For the change of the seasons.
Soon will be Winter -
Summer is past, Fall almost gone –
And Spring a distant promise.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

I see them out there
Gathered around the fallen
Like angels of death -
Dispassionate eyes staring
Waiting to make the first move.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Careless words spoken
Cutting deeper than they should;
My blood runs unseen.
You wield your weapon with skill -
Unknowing and uncaring.

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