The Japanese workshop, part 1

Last week, as I mentioned earlier, our Dunbar group tackled a workshop on Japanese verse forms. I devised a narrative, based unashamedly on the life of Thomas Blake Glover, but transposing him from Fraserburgh/Aberdeen to Dunbar. We didn’t complete the workshop, but we’ll go back and do a ‘Part 2’ later. However, the work produced rocked me back on my heels. It’s terrific, and I’m going to gather everyone’s pieces together with the aim of putting the story on as a performance piece later in the year. Here are a few of my own poems:

First a Dunbar haiku:

a black flotilla
of young eiders –
the winter sun

Then the closing haiku from a haibun based on the sea voyage to Japan:

in the warm air
seabirds sound the same
scent of new flowers

Impressions of 19th century Japan – a sedoka – paired three-liners:

a man in a box
carried through the streets
by four mud-splashed men

to each side
people prostrate themselves
in unreflecting puddles

A tanka, on first meeting his future Butterfly:

height of her white forehead
black hair swept back
small cherry mouth –
no expression, but a sense
of where a smile might hide

A somonka, a lovers’ duet of tanka:

Jack rough, red face
hairy man who shout
drink too much sake, laugh
fall into bed, where I remove
Scottish tweed

You have what I crave
a sweet softness
a delicate aroma of flowers
a touch light as eyelashes
your pale, tender skin

And finally a death poem – his – in tanka form:

griping pain every night
pissing blood the servants see
emptying pots, saying nothing –
I was always too strong
to admit to being weak

Next time we’ll do a renga, haiku, somonka and more tanka.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
This entry was posted in Japanese poetic forms. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Japanese workshop, part 1

  1. Crafty Green Poet says:

    i particularly like the flotilla of eiders…. It sounds like an interesting workshopbtw I’ve tagged you with a meme about influential writers, you can find out more on my blog, if you want to play along!

  2. Colin Will says:

    Thanks J. I’ll check that out. Off to the Great Grog now.

  3. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, However
    I am experiencing problems with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anyone else getting identical RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanks!!

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