Anticipation ~ chōka & haiku

My initial reaction to Colleen’s Weekly #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge No. 229 #SynonymsOnly, where the words offered are dawn and twilight (to be replaced with synonyms), was to write a haiku.

morning light
with sunset

Instead, I decided to write a chōka.


morning lightsailboats at anchor
in the waning evening light
long day on the lake
lapping of waves against hulls
sound of buoys rings
air of anticipation
to feel wind in morning’s light

light of setting sun
brings a night of quiet rest
morning light arrives
waves ripple in reflection
as the cycle continues

Chōka, a Japanese long poem written primarily from the 6th to the 14th century. Chōka have alternating lines of 5 and 7 syllables and an indefinite length (from 7 to 149 lines), ending with an added 7 syllable line. So, 5-7-5-7-5-7-…7, and a length allowing greater themes.

Chōka often were followed by one or more short poems called hanka, or “envoys,” summarizing, supplementing, or elaborating on, the contents of the main poem. Sometimes, a tanka would serve as an envoy, and that is what I have written here.

Man’yōshū (“Collection of a Myriad Leaves”) is the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry (from some time after AD 759) and contains 4,536 waka (classical Japanese poetry). 265 of those are chōka (long poems). The 1940/1965 edition of The Man’yōshū: One Thousand Poems (a translation) is available for download as a PDF from Internet Archive and is some pretty interesting reading.

Image: sunset on the Niagara River at Lake Ontario, Youngstown, New York
                              (click image for larger view in new tab)

Winding River ~ Lüshi style interpretation of Tu Fu

Winding River

Winding RiverEach falling petal leaves spring farther behind.
Each brings a tear to my eyes.
When the last disappears from my view,
no measure of wine brings clear skies.
Kingfishers frequent the hall on the river.
Unicorns lie, resting before the royal sarcophagi.
Joy is the truth when studying nature,
with no reason to bring sorrow’s sigh.

This poem is my response to Poetics: China – Kingdom of the Poem, the prompt from Laura Bloomsbury at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, which asks us to re-interpret one of five given ancient Chinese poems. She gives the option to do so in our own style or the Lüshi style. I have chosen the latter, which differs from the style I have used in the many Chinese Interpretations I have done in the past, where I’ve rephrased the raw literal translation given at Chinese Poems in a way that varies only slightly from the “finished” version offered there. Here, I have used the Lüshi style style for Winding River, by Tu Fu. In fact, I re-interpreted this poemWinding River No 1 in that other manner for National Poetry Writing Month in 2017.  I look forward to reading the other responses to this prompt.

The Chinese Lüshi style:

       • eight lines long of couplets – The first couplet should set-up the poem;
the middle two couplets develop the theme, the final couplet is conclusion
• each line must have the same number of words, either 5, 6, or 7.
• a mono-rhyme is on every even numbered line
• Caesura (a pause) should separate clauses.

Winding River (Tu Fu)

Each piece of flying blossom leaves spring the less,
I grieve as myriad points float in the wind.
I watch the last ones move before my eyes,
And cannot have enough wine pass my lips.
Kingfishers nest by the little hall on the river,
Unicorns lie at the high tomb’s enclosure.
Having studied the world, one must seek joy,
For what use is the trap of passing honour?

Image source: Cedar Gallery
Kingfisher, by Tsukioka Kōgyo

Poets Around the World ~ sijo

Poets Around the WorldI have covered many miles
       as a means to find friendship.
There have been many trips by air,
       over land, and under the sea.
Yet here I sit at home, conversing
       with poets around the world.

This poem is my response to Day 20 at,
where we are challenged to write a sijo.
I wrote my first sijo in 2017 as a tribute to a lost cousin.

Sijo (a Korean verse form related to haiku and tanka)
~ three lines of 14-16 syllables each
~ a total of 44-46 syllables
~ a pause near the middle of each line
~ first half of the line contains six to nine syllables
~ the second half should contain no fewer than five
Originally intended as songs, sijo can treat romantic, metaphysical, or spiritual themes. Whatever the subject, the first line introduces an idea or story, the second supplies a “turn,” and the third provides closure.
Modern Sijo are sometimes printed in six lines.

Image source: Gyroscope Review

Stone to Flesh

Stone to Flesh

Gather the darkness in these chambers,
flowing from one to the next.
Banish it. Winter has lived here too long.

Be my salvation. Know these walls were
not always stone. They have moved
with each beat, known the fire of love.

Ear to my chest, you will hear
the surge you bring, stampeding horses
rushing to meet you, greet you.

As moon goes from crescent to full,
so will these chambers, your touch
bringing them from stone to loving flesh.

The Sunday Writing Prompt at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, from Pat (wildchild47), is to find inspiration in “The Blind Leading the Blind,” by Lisel Meuller.

Image source: (edited here)

11 – 20

My haiku is featured today at Pure Haiku, where Freya’s current theme is PORTAL.


light shifting to red

on pathway to the unknown

event horizon

© Ken Gierke 2018

Lately, Ken finds himself focusing on Japanese poetry. He likes the way haiku and tanka offer an opportunity for subtlety in such few words. You can read more of his work at Rivvlogr.

This haiku made me think of red shift and space and time paradoxes – the words speak for themselves.

This haiku is part of our PORTAL theme!

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On Parting (visiting Tu Mu)

On Parting

I am almost alone in my loneliness
Drink in hand, it’s hard to smile
Like the candle’s flame, I long to stay
Like the candle, my tears fall at dawn

On Parting.jpg

Literal translations of classic Chinese poetry can be found at This is my interpretation of a poem by Tu Mu. The literal translation, as provided at, is as follows:

On Parting

Much feeling but seem all without feeling
Think feel glass before smile not develop
Candle have heart too reluctant to part
Instead person shed tear at dawn

Image source:
(Plum blossom and red candle, by Qi Baishi)
More Chinese interpretations can be found here.

Falling for Winter

Falling for Winter
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The inch of snow we had last night never accumulated on our “warm” pavement and was mostly gone by this morning, with an overnight low of 30ºF. The weather forecast for the next week is for daytime highs bouncing between mid-30s and high-40s and nighttime lows back and forth between high teens and mid-30s. If nothing else, the weather fluctuations here can be entertaining. Here are a couple of views from my house.

From my back deck…

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From my front porch…

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And the same view three days ago…

Falling for Winter_5

Ken G

Fall Color, Finally

Fall Color, Finally
(clicking any photo will open a larger image in a new tab)

In late October or early November, I make a point of going to Ha Ha Tonka State Park, sixty miles south of my home in mid-Missouri. I’m seldom disappointed by the fall colors the landscape has to offer. I made the trip on Monday, with temperatures in the sixties and partially cloudy (wispy) skies.

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The patches of red that are visible are dogwood.

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There may be few maples in our area, but they draw my camera like a magnet.

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This view is one that I never fail to photograph. It’s the outflow from a natural spring found at the base of one of the bluffs. The water (56,000,000 gallons, daily) can have an amazing blue hue on a cloudless day.

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I spent several hours walking 4.5 miles of trails within the park, with an elevation change of a couple hundred feet, from the Castle down to the water, and then up again along the bluffs.

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This tree, now bare, sits on the ledge visible in the photo above it.

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The area has numerous karst formations, including this natural bridge.

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Designed to be a home, later a hotel, The Castle at Ha Ha Tonka is bare stone walls, the result of a devastating fire in 1942.

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A great photo of The Castle in its prime can be seen here.
Meanwhile, within five miles of my home, this bluff always offers a spectacular autumn view.

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And in my back yard, this hickory.

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Sadly, the colors don’t stay forever. This is the same tree, three days later, after rain and a couple of cool nights. I’m sure the other trees are soon to follow. Oh well, there’s always next year.

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Ha Ha Tonka fall photos from the last two years can be found here and here.

Ken G