tanka – a study in brevity

childhood innocence
blushing cheeks and pudgy knees
jump-rope and hopscotch ~
photos keep her company
brittle memories thick with dust

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Frank is our Thursday host at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. He asks us to consider brevity in our writing…and talks about the Japanese poetic forms of haiku and tanka as examples of brevity. Tanka is 5 lines with the syllabic content 5-7-5-7-7 and should contain a “pivot” at or after the third line. Here, there is a change of perspective: lines 1 – 3 describe childhood for the reader. There’s a sense of liveliness and action. Lines 4 and 5 shift the reader’s view to an elderly person looking at the photos of childhood and hopscotch. The liveliness is gone, replaced by that last line. The person seems alone….left to finger and think about these images, these brittle memories. Perhaps the photos and her memory are “thick with dust?”

51 thoughts on “tanka – a study in brevity

  1. Adda February 15, 2018 / 2:13 pm

    Pure joy! You are revealing your age Lill. πŸ™‚ I don’t think I have seen a child jump rope or play hopscotch in years.. All replaced by technology. I very much enjoyed this Tanka.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:09 am

      Glad you enjoyed! Well….I would have mentioned playing jacks (little ball with 8 metal jacks) too but the syllabic count wouldn’t allow it! πŸ™‚

      Like

  2. whippetwisdom February 15, 2018 / 2:59 pm

    A beautiful tanka Lillian, I love how you hop-scotch from childhood to the present with ‘ brittle memories thick with dust’ xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:11 am

      Thank you. I’ve always loved this form! When 3 lines just won’t do….(as in haiku) πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Waltermarks February 15, 2018 / 5:55 pm

    It is great, the two prespective are drawn together, wonderfully. I know lots of us who have brittle memories, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kanzensakura February 15, 2018 / 6:13 pm

    Perfect thanks Lillian. This brings to mind my motherbendlessly sifting through old photos which became more real than reality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:12 am

      Yes….my mother kept her family’s old photo albums and they were well dog-eared with many of the photos creased and getting brittle.

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    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:13 am

      Glad you enjoyed, Frank. I do love brevity in poetry….used to teach business writing…which is all about editing down to the only necessary words.

      Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:13 am

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed.

      Like

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:14 am

      Thank you so much! πŸ™‚

      Like

  5. rothpoetry February 15, 2018 / 11:15 pm

    Nice Lillian… I see residuals of the prompt earlier in the week. Sweet Childhood!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. kim881 February 16, 2018 / 4:01 am

    I love your tanka, Lill, and those ‘brittle memories thick with dust’ remind me of my grandmother’s drawer full of photos, some of which I now treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:18 am

      Yes….I have so many of the old black and whites from my mom….some photos of her with my dad in their dating days….the kind of photos with the scalloped edges…I treasure them also.

      Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:19 am

      I do love the challenge of the tanka form. It’s the pivot that enagles the lifetime rather than just one period in life. πŸ™‚

      Like

  7. Gospel Isosceles February 16, 2018 / 5:01 am

    A lot can happen to a person in life that can even taint the innocence of once upon a time. I really like the imagery of brittle memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:20 am

      Thank you…I do so appreciate your comment here.

      Like

  8. hlhivy February 16, 2018 / 7:45 am

    Loved teaching tanks to my 8th graders a few years ago. My grandmother passed recently and I was the recipient of scads of old black and white photos- some of people I’d never imagined as children. You hit a grand slam on this one for me and my own memories- thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:22 am

      I do love the tanka form….isn’t it amazing to look at those old black-and-whites? πŸ™‚

      Like

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:23 am

      Thank you so very much for this comment, Laura. Much appreciated!

      Like

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:24 am

      It’s funny….I was thinking about the brittle dog-eared black and white photos in old albums I inherited from my mother….and then the word shifted over to the memories…

      Like

  9. Namratha Varadharajan February 16, 2018 / 11:04 am

    The last line shows the prespective of the elder person.. brittle.. thick with dust.. powerful images..and good quick lesson on the tanka

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:25 am

      Thank you! Truly appreciate your comment here!

      Like

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:25 am

      …and in between we live….love this comment! πŸ™‚ Thank you!

      Like

      • memadtwo February 17, 2018 / 12:33 pm

        I’m still figuring it out…

        Like

  10. mhmp77 February 16, 2018 / 8:33 pm

    kaykuala

    photos keep her company
    brittle memories thick with dust

    Even though gathering dust, they are precious for great memories.

    Hank

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:26 am

      …and sometimes….those black-and-whites are the memories.

      Like

  11. Sarah Russell February 17, 2018 / 1:28 am

    Yes. I just wrote a poem with the line Elders settle into yesterday. Love the brittleness and the dust, Lillian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:27 am

      Thank you for the comment Sarah. We’ve been out of town at a dear friend’s funeral…tough weekend. I will be getting to my reading at our airport layover this afternoon….looking forward to reading yours!

      Like

  12. Singledust February 17, 2018 / 3:59 am

    photographs trigger memories and feelings that go with it, your tanka was very touching, it evoked a longing for the brittleness and the dust, long gone but never forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian February 17, 2018 / 10:30 am

      It’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes our memory is jogged as we turn the pages of old photograph albums. One “exercise” I did a number of years ago was to sit quietly with an empty notebook and think back to my earliest memories that were memories without photos…and started to write. I actually drew out the “map” of my earlies childhood home…and included descriptions of it that I could remember, without photos. It’s an interesting exercise to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Singledust February 17, 2018 / 6:51 pm

        that is very interesting, I am now keen to do that too, as I have such a bad memory but sometimes scents and songs will bring back thoughts I might have suppressed. thank you for sharing this Lilian, i am at a stage in life, where memories are becoming so precious to me. the few people I have shared good memories are gone and it pains me if those memories would be lost with them too as I don’t have them here to reminisce. this exercise will certainly help me.

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  13. Rosemary Nissen-Wade February 17, 2018 / 9:08 am

    Oh, the last line makes it quite poignant.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Mish February 17, 2018 / 12:17 pm

    Makes me wonder what will become of the old photographs passed down to new generations of technology. Hopefully someone will treasure them as much as we did.

    Like

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