Tag Archives: tanka

Limited Edition: Untouched By Rain

Untouched By Rain

A Tanka Sequence

by Pat Nolan 

ubrfcvrUntouched By Rain was published in 2005 by Empty Head Press in a limited edition, lettered A through Z, signed by the author and bearing his seal, “old goat.” Each hand-made book has a unique cover, many as reproductions of  uchiwa-e, Japanese fan prints, features silk screened Japanese end papers, and is hand sewn in the Japanese four-hole side stitch binding.  The black & white illustrations accompanying the tanka represent traditional Japanese motifs such as the cherry blossom, crane, bamboo, and pine. Untouched By Rain, and a companion selection of tanka, Thin Wings, were originally made to be sold through the gift shop at the Sonoma County Museum.  Up until the gallery’s recent closing, both tanka selections were also offered through The Quicksilver Mine Company.  Less than a handful of copies of Untouched By Rain are still available.  Inquiries welcome.

presentation envelope
presentation envelope

Click to view a pdf facsimile of Untouched By Rain 2005

Tanka, meaning ‘short song,’ is an unrhymed poem with a fixed thirty-one syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.  In Westernized stanza form, it is a five line poem.   Tanka, one of the oldest of Japanese verse forms, dates back to before the 11th Century.  Tanka gained renewed popularity in the late 19th Century among radically modern young poets who brought its diction and subject matter up to date.  Historically, tanka is a precursor to renga, haikai, and haiku.  The poems in Untouched By Rain do not follow precisely the fixed syllabic count nor do they conform to many of the accepted tanka conventions but seek a synthesis and accommodation brought about by translation into a radically different language and culture. 

Limited Edition: Thin Wings

THIN WINGS  − A Tanka Sequence

By Pat Nolan

Thin Wings was published in the Fall of 2005 by Empty Head Press in a limited edition lettered A through Z, signed by the author and bearing his seal, “wandering like a cloud,” each with a unique cover, some as reproductions of Japanese prints in the author’s collection, silk screened Japanese end papers, and hand sewn in the Japanese four-hole side stitch style.  It is made available here as a pdf file.

Tanka ,meaning ‘short song,’ is an unrhymed poem with a fixed thirty-one syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.  In Westernized stanza form, it is a five line poem.   Tanka, one of the oldest of Japanese verse forms, dates back to before the 11th Century.  Tanka gained renewed popularity in the late 19th Century among radically modern young poets who brought its diction and subject matter up to date.  Historically, tanka is a precursor to renga, haikai, and haiku.  The poems in Thin Wings do not follow precisely the fixed syllabic count nor do they conform to many of the accepted tanka conventions but seek a synthesis and accommodation brought about by translation into a radically different language and culture.

From the introduction to Pat Nolan’s Cloud Scatter (Tangram Press, Berkeley, 1994)

Cloud Notes
Tanka originated as court poetry early in Japanese history. I would hesitate to call these poems tanka because that presumes a mastery of a complicated set of rules and conditions.  The poems. . .actually owe more to the intricate prosody of haikai no renga (known as renku or linked verse), than to this ancient form, especially in the relationship between [the split] stanzas.  There is, as a matter of fact, a renku term for a poem composed of only two links and that’s ‘tanrenga.’  As accurate as that may be, I am uneasy with that label.  ‘Tanku,’ a word of my own invention, would seem to accommodate the Japanese nomenclature (haiku, renku) but it too doesn’t suit my sense of these poems.  Ultimately, I find myself preferring tanka as the logical as well as sentimental favorite for what this kind of poem might be called.  I do so well aware that the designation is a borrowed one.