Japanese Poetry: Waka (和歌)

Most of the Western world is familiar with the Japanese haiku. What many Americans and Europeans don’t know, however, is that the haiku’s 5/7/5 structure is derived from an older form of Japanese poetry: waka, or “Japanese poem.” Waka is written in single stanzas with syllable count 5/7/5/7/7, although the format is not always maintained after translation.

Below are some examples of waka poetry, which I discovered yesterday through Ono No Komachi.

Romaji:

mirume naki

wa ga mi o ura to

shiraneba ya

karenade ama no

ashi tayuku kuru

English:

There is no seaweed

to be gathered in this bay.

Does he not know it—

the fisher who comes and comes

until his legs grow weary?

by Ono No Komachi

Romaji:

aki no no ni

sasa wakeshi asa no

sode yori mo

awade koshi yo zo

hijimasarikeru

English:

My sleeves are wetter

that night when we failed to meet

than when of a moon

I have parted bamboo grass

traversing autumnal fields.

by Narihira no Ason

Romaji:

akikaze ni

au tanomi koso

kanashikere

wa ga mi munashiku

narinu to omoeba

English:

Because I trusted

someone who grew tired of me,

my life, alas, must be

 as empty as a rice ear

blasted by harsh autumn winds.

by Ono no Komaji

Sources:

* Note: by Monday I hope to post some waka poetry of my own. *

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