Janine Beichman. Embracing the Firebird: Yosano Akiko and the Birth of the Female Voice in Modern Japanese Poetry
Discussions on what form we should translate tanka into have focused until now on tanka in its printed forms. One argument for example, is that, because tanka are usually printed in one line, English translations should be one line too. But calligraphic versions show that a tanka poem (and the same goes for haiku) has traditionally been seen as convertible into myriad visual shapes. In fact, if we take the calligraphic versions as our models, then there are an infinity of ways to divide our lines and an infinity of ways to indent them. Why should we invent for ourselves a consistency that Japanese poets have never felt obliged to maintain? Why not take advantage of the expressive possibilities offered by modern English poetry’s variety of lineation, spacing, punctuation, and capitalization?
Brings to mind the work to bring the 19th century envelope writing to light — see Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings. It is an invitation to think the materiality of the writing process. Holland Cotter in the New York Times review of The Gorgeous Nothings speculates
It’s also plausible to think that, for Dickinson, writing on recycled envelopes had practical advantages, material and psychological. It probably appealed to her waste-not New England sensibility. It also meant that she didn’t have to face the equivalent of a blank canvas. Her chosen paper already carried words, familiar names and addresses. It was stained with life, with postmarked dates and the dust of distant places. From that resonant content, she could generate new content, just as she had always generated poetry from the immediate facts of the physical world.
I do like that expression “stained with life” almost belongs in a tanka preferably written on a fan.
And so for day 1526