Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Mini-Challenge for Sunday ~ Koan

Chinese Poetry




Our last Sunday challenge opened the lid on ancient Celtic-Irish stanzas, and I had a feeling that it would be impossible to do the forms justice without a lifetime of study.  I have similar reservations about this week's look at the ancient Koan form of Chinese poetry, which dates back to the Spring and Autumn period of 770 BC.  It is with awe I note, that China is the essential birthplace of Literature, and the very earliest anthology of  poetry, Shi Jing, dates back between the 11th and 6th centuries BC. 

Master Un Mun

I have once before attempted to write a few poems in this ancient style, and found it rewarding. However, I will be the first to admit that I have little or no experience in Oriental poetry, so anything I produce is something of a shot in the dark.  My post, Of Zen and Koan, can be viewed HERE.


The following set of instructions comes directly from eHow, but I have reworded them in places, and used my own work as an example.  It states that Chinese Koan poetry is traditionally written in four lines:


Line 1: The first part makes a statement about one's subject:
Daughter Number One has passed into the season of womanhood.


Line 2: Continue to describe the subject of the poem with a new image:
She ties back her heavy gold hair in the butterfly style.


Line 3: Start a new subject. The third line of traditional Koan poetry leads the reader away from the subject of the first two lines into a completely unrelated topic.
In drifts of snow, a fawn leaves its hoof prints behind the doe,


Line 4: Relate the lines. The fourth line unites the themes of the first three lines. Think of it as a circle that comes back. 
But she must walk this forest path alone.

Hint: Traditional Chinese poetry focuses on everyday activities: farming, war, the market place, people. 

Chinese scroll painting


When I was researching this form of writing, I came across this enlightening post on the blogsite, The Reformed Buddhist.  It is well worth reading before you begin your own attempt at recreating some Chinese poetry of your own.  The author mentions several other approaches to Koan.


For the haters of form, I hastily add, that you are welcome to write in free verse on the theme of all things Zen.


The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the form challenge.  Management reserves the right to remove unrelated links, but invites you to share a poem of your choice on Open Link Monday.

22 comments:

Mary said...

Have a good weekend, everyone! An interesting form, Kerry.

Ella said...

This is fascinating! I am not familiar with this method! Thank you for enlightening my view ;D
Off to clean up my crafty mess and then will give this a try!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Very intriguing, Kerry. Love this challnge.

Abin Chakraborty said...

return of the prodigal?...hope you like it :)

Fireblossom said...

With my vast love of Eastern forms, I just have to be part of this. Meee, pick meeeeeeee! (waves frantically)

Kerry O'Connor said...

Uh oh! I shudder to think...

Kerry O'Connor said...

But you remind me that I forgot to leave the free form alternative.. Ooops.. sorry..*tail between legs she goes off to rectify the error*

Gemma Wiseman said...

This is an intriguing form! I've never tried it before! Here's hoping this one's OK!

Hannah said...

I really enjoyed this post, Kerry and the writing part was fun too, thank you!!

Smiles to all for a happy weekend...I'll be reading tomorrow with fresh eyes and a coffee! ;)

Kerry O'Connor said...

I promised Margaret that I would make use of her iPhone pics at a later date, and today is the day. Thank you once again.

Marian said...

seeing the sunday challenge on sunday at noon! intrigued, kerry... and your example is beautiful. i'll be back. xo

Kay L. Davies said...

Hi Kerry — I couldn't seem to sign in to the Chatroll as a guest, so just wanted to say I'm away for a while minus my laptop computer. Will try to drop in when I can. Back July 9.
K

Karishma Shetty said...

What an interesting probe! I've never read Koan poetry before and was fascinated by the links you posted. Made me smile!! :)

Susie Clevenger said...

Fascinating form Kerry. I just can't seem to come up with anything...feeling a bit overwhelmed in some personal life issues.

Mary Ann Potter said...

I love the simplicity of this form. Kind of reminds me of this Mark Twain quote:
"If you see an adjective, kill it."

Mary Mansfield said...

Very interesting form to work with, thanks so much for sharing this with us!

manicddaily said...

Kerry- I'm afraid I've gone the silly route. It's a beautiful form in your hands. k.

EJ said...

Thank you for introducing me to the Koan form. I took a poetry break after NaPoWriMo (too long of a break!) and was so happy to come back to this prompt. Thank you, Kerry!

Kerry O'Connor said...

After reading these wonderful poems, I can see that the strength of koan lies in the third line: yours were extraordinarily good.

Margaret said...

This was LATE, so I posted it to Open Monday Link night as well. I have every intention to read your takes on Koan poetry... but probably won't get to it tonight. This was fun... but not sure if I spent as much time pondering it as I should. I will revisit this form in the future, though, as I find it intriguing. Thanks, Kerry.

Amrita Dhar said...

thats what I call learning with style

Sara McNulty said...

This prompt was a real learning experience. Thanks.