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.