Tanka intrigue: The short poem of deep mysteries

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This article introduces the term‚ Tanka intrigue, for examples of tanka that accentuate an element of mystery. Tanka intrigue accommodates the Japanese aesthetic of yūgen, described below, which is its nearest existing term. Not all tanka possess this quality – perhaps five per cent – but those that do so are notable for their suggestive powers. Tanka with intrigue build on the innate tendencies of what has been a stable form in ways that accord with contemporary poetry informed by postmodernism, and in doing so renew that form. I argue that tanka with intrigue feature at least three of five attributes, and sometimes all five in the same piece (as examples will demonstrate): incompleteness, otherness, indeterminacy, the fragmentary and the absent centre. The discussion of examples concludes with reflections on my own practice and how Tanka
intrigue has informed it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalTEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Programs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


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