Inspiration for this piece: I'm not sure what possessed me last night, but I decided to refresh my memory (by reading) of a ballad that I wrote quite some time ago. What had started out as a simple prompt from One Stop Poetry's Form Monday, turned into quite an ordeal. I wrote my first ever ballad on February 7, 2011 called A Tale of Love and Woe: The Knight. Crazy me, who doesn't much care for rhyme or strict meter, wrote a piece that was - in effect - unfinished. During February, I added an additional two acts; March saw Act IV; May unearthed Act V; June and July both sprouted two more acts a piece; with everything coming to a head in the September with the last two acts...and I might add a very pathetic ending...by that time, I was quite exhausted of writing in ballad form (seriously don't read the end...you'll only be disappointed).
Anyway...the two pieces above are a branch off of my ballad, A Tale of Love and Woe. In this (potential series) collection, the two main characters, dubbed knight and princess, correspond with one another in short notes back and forth. This particular pairing speaks to the twos first meeting during Act III, where the knight lost in a state of defeat (which unknown to him was caused by the princess - Act II) meets the princess by the side of pond where he is skipping stones.
A note on form: I chose to explore a form that really has little (or sporadic) history. Part of a long line of ancient Japanese forms from which come the sedōka, choka, and tanka is the katauta. From what I have read this poem (also known as a half-poem or half-song), is either 17 (5 / 7 / 5)or 19 (5 / 7 / 7) syllables long. The feeling I get is that this form is meant to be one half of a conversation...perhaps two lovers conversing back and forth. There is also note of this form consisting of a question-and-answer feel; the first poem posing the question, while the second poem answers it. As there is little really out there about this form, I start to get into muddy waters where it links up with the sedōka, which is basically two 5 / 7 / 7 katauta together. (I have explored this form in the past.)
For this first installment (assuming there will be others), I chose 5 / 7 / 5 - which is similar to the haiku but does not have the same elemental restraints. My thoughts were that a pair initiated by the princess would follow the 17 syllable pattern (to which the knight would reply in kind) and when initiated by the knight would follow the 19 syllable pattern (to which the princess wold reply in kind). I suppose only time will tell if this turns out to be something more than what it is.
Resources on katauta and other ancient Japanese forms:
- Shadow Poetry
- Waka (poetry) on Wikipedia
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
- Poet's Corner blog - Matt Wollacott - Katauta: Getting Witty with Half-Songs