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Down the Road to Asian Poetry

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Robin Smithers

on 9 December 2013

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Transcript of Down the Road to Asian Poetry

The Book of Songs
500s B.C.

Taoist Writers
Japanese Poetry
Down the Road to Asian Poetry
The Book of Songs 500s B.C.
The Book of Songs is a collection of 305 of the earliest poems in Chinese history. Although meant to be sung, their melodies have long been lost.
Regarded as the foundation of Chinese literature, the book includes court songs to entertain the aristocracy, story songs to recount legends of Chou, and hymns to be sung in the temples.
The book is a lyrical record of the people who lived in northern China and the feudal states surrounding the Yellow River during the Chou Dynasty.
By the seventh century, many of the songs had interpretations that were not originally intended.
By 500 B.C., Confucius reinterpreted many of the Songs to make them into models of his moral teachings.
The book became one of the "Five Classics" of Confucianism- texts that embodied ideals in the five areas of metaphysics, politics, history, society, and poetry.
The book became part of the basic educational curriculum in China when Confucianism was adopted as the official doctrine of the Han dynasty (206 B.C.- A.D. 220).
Chinese school children had to memorize all 305 songs.
Today, it is simply regarded as classic literature that expresses a peoples' humanity.
Literary Terms
Repetition- A literary device that consists of repeated sounds, words, phrases, or other elements in prose and literature, used to unify work, build rhythm, and emphasis.
Refrain- In folk songs and ballads, repetition appears in the form of a recurring word or group of words. Refrains are not always repeated word for word. Many will have slight variations from stanza to stanza.
from The Book of Songs ( 1 of 160 folk songs)
Early anti-war song
"What Plant is Not Faded?"
What plant is not faded?
What day do we not march?
What man is not taken
To defend the four bounds?

What plant is not wilting?
What man is not taken from his wife?
Alas for us soldiers,
Treated as though we were not fellow-men!

Are we buffaloes, are we tigers
That our homes should be these desolate wilds?
Alas for us soldiers,
Neither by day nor night can we rest!

The fox bumps and drags
Through the tall, thick grass.
Inch by inch move our barrows
As we push them along the track.
Literary Focus Questions
1. What effect does the repetition of questions have on the tone of the poem?
2. The first five sentences of Song 130 are all questions. What is the significance of the speaker's many questions? What feelings do they evoke?
3. The fourth stanza breaks the pattern of questions and exclamations in the preceding stanzas. What does the shift to declarative sentences suggest about the speaker's outlook on life?
4. Point out three lines in Song 130 that state the speaker's concerns. Paraphrase these concerns in your own words.
5. Choose an example of repetition in the poem. What emotion is expressed by the repeated phrase?
Due- December 10
"Blowin' in the Wind"
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.
Vietnam- anti-war song By Bob Dylan
The song was first performed on April 16, 1962, in the midst of the Vietnam War. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was a perfect song for the time. The song raises questions of morality in the world at the time of war, oppression, and human rights. The first line of the song “How many roads must a man walk down? / Before you can call him a man” raises the question, how much should one go through before he is given respect? Essentially a protest song, this refers to the protesters of the time and how much they went through to get heard. The next line of the song talks about a white dove soaring over the seas. The dove is a universal symbol for peace. Dylan asks the question how long must it be flying before it can rest and not worry about war. The following line of the song asks the question “How many times must the cannon balls fly? / Before they’re ever banned.” Dylan asks another question of how many people must die before the world can cease its need to war . Dylan suggests that he does not know the answers, but they are out there to be found.
Now It's Your Turn
Part I
Your second formal writing assessment asks you to create a poetry portfolio. With this portfolio, you are asked to consider the types of poetry that we are studying.
The first form of poetry that you should find for your portfolio is another example of an "anti-war" folk song from The Book of Songs.
After finding the poem, analyze the poem for its meaning. Explain your analysis in paragraph/sentence form.
Next, you should find is an anti-war song. The song's lyrics should be school appropriate, specifically not words beginning with "F."
After finding the song, analyze the poem for its meaning. Explain your analysis in paragraph/sentence form or electronic representation.
Finally, write an original poem that mimics the style in "What Plant Is Not Faded?" You should be sure to use the rhyme scheme were it occurred in the poem. Your poem must be a protest poem.
His family name was K'ung, and he is known in Chinese history by the title K'ung Fu-tzu, meaning "Master K'ung." In the West, he is known as Confucius.
He grew up in a poor family with possibly noble heritage.
He lived an ordinary life that was marked with a love for knowledge.
(551-479 B.C.)
He was married at the age of 19.
By the time he died at the age of 73, he was a self-educated man and the most learned man of China.
He was the first person in recorded Chinese history to believe in an education for all.
He regarded teaching as his life's work.
He longed for a government position that would allow him to reform society according to the ancient "Way of Goodness."
(The Way of Goodness was a code for personal ethics and honor, not for self gain.)
By the age of 67, he returned home to teach his followers the Way.
Confucius left no writings. His followers put together a book of his teachings, the Analects.
The Analects is divided into twenty books; only six or seven may have been his actual teachings.
In China, the Analects was essential reading for an educated person for more than 2000 years.
The Analects consists partly of sayings and dialogues between Confucius, "the Master," and his disciples. Nowhere is Confucius quoted directly; generally, he is paraphrased as he comments on a particular solution to a problem. The selected Analects give an overview of the tenets of Confucianism: selflessness, modesty, goodness, inner strength, and social responsibility.
The Analects
Literary Terms
Maxim- A brief, direct statement that expresses a basic rule of human conduct or a general truth about human nature. Maxims are stated in few words and often use simile to create a memorable visual impression.

Don't count your chickens before they hatch.
It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Necessity is the mother of invention.

Read from the Analects on pages 409-410 in the literature book. and answer the following questions:

1. Explain the simile in the first maxim- He who rules by moral...
2. The second maxim begins "At fifteen...right." How are the sentences organized in this maxim? What makes this method of organization effective?
3. The maxim on page 410 that begins "He who seeks...above" says what about the relationship between happiness and worldly success?
4. Consider the maxim about government, do you agree that having trust in leaders is more important than having sufficient food? Explain.
5. Confucius speaks of filial piety (honoring one's parents) as more than just a form of good behavior. Why do you think he emphasizes such conduct in his teachings?
6. Which of the Master's sayings is most like the Golden Rule- "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"? What is the main difference between Confucius's saying and the Golden Rule?
7. Paraphrase the following maxim- "A gentleman is distressed by his own lack of capacity; he is never distressed at the failure of others to recognize his merits." Do you agree? Explain.
Due- December 10
One of the most popular American writers of maxims is Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). Franklin wrote humorous and wise sayings, many of which were taken from other languages, folk sayings, and the words of other writers.

Glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked and never well mended.
Ben Franklin
Nothing brings more pain than too much pleasure; nothing more bondage than too much liberty.
He that composes himself is wiser than he that composes books.

Now It's Your Turn
Part II
This will be the third entry into your Poetry Portfolio.

Find and type two more of Ben Franklin's maxims and explain them.
On the next page, create and type your own original maxim and artfully illustrate its meaning.
(c. 571 B.C. -?)
According to Chinese legend, Laotzu was born as an old, bearded, white-haired man, who was called "The Old Philosopher" or "The Old Boy" and who lived to the age of 160.
He is more of a legend than a historical reality.
He is the founder of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism.
Taoism is the joyful acceptance of life and a willingness to yield to the natural world, becoming one with it.

Laotzu defines the essence of his philosophy- "He who knows does not speak, He who speaks does not know."

(fourth century B.C.)
Chuang-tzu was the most important early interpreter of Taoism. What is known about him comes from the Chuang-tzu, a book of fictional stories written by others that contain his teachings.
He appears as a quirky character who care little for public approval or material possessions.
(fourth century B.C.)
Though some scholars doubt his existence, many believe there was a real Lieh-tzu.
He was a Taoist teacher who had philosophical differences with the previous two philosophers.
He argued that a sequence of causes predetermines everything that happens, including one's choice of action. Since no one can change the unchangeable Way, or Tao, one should pursue their own self-interests.
Liu An
(172-122 B.C.)
Liu An was not only a Taoist scholar but was also the grandson of the founder of the Han dynasty.
He was the Prince of Huai-nan
He surrounded himself with philosophers, and under his patronage, they produced essays on metaphysics, cosmology, politics, and conduct.
translated by Stephen Mitchell
1. What is the main point Laotzu is making with the paradoxes in stanza 2?
2. In what way are the Master's teaching methods described in lines 1-3 in stanza 3 contradictory to question 1?
Due- December 10
Assignment- Read #2 on page 414 and answer the following questions:
from the Tao Te Ching
The Tao Te Ching
The Tao Te Ching, or "Classic of the Way of Power" is a brief collection of sayings and poetry that teach the nature of Taoism.
In the Tao Te Ching, Laotzu intended to provide guidance to rulers who wished to govern wisely.
The central figure, "the master," is a man or woman "whose life is in perfect harmony with the way things are" and who has become one with "the Tao, the Truth, the Life."
According to Laotzu, water symbolizes, or stands for, a model of Tao, for the fluid nature of water best expresses the nature of Tao.
There are eighty-one passages in the Tao Te Ching, which is divided into two parts: Tao (the Way) and Te (Virtue)
Literary Terms
Paradox- A paradox is a seemingly contradictory statement that is actually true. Taoist writers use paradox to focus attention on important Taoist insights. Reconciling paradoxes is key to understanding the Taoist philosophy.
Passage 2 describes the natural order of things in life and the wise teacher's response.
translated by Stephen Mitchell
Passage 29 comments on the natural order and balance in the world and the best way to exist in it.
Assignment- Read #29 and answer the following questions:

What literary device is most evident in the third stanza of passage 29?

What effect does the use of this literary device create?
Due- December 10
Turn, Turn, Turn
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

By: The Byrds

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!
Assignment- Lines 7-14 in passage 29 from the Tao Te Ching are similar in theme and form to the Biblical poem and the Byrd's song "Turn, Turn, Turn." Compare and contrast the two selections ; consider similarities and differences in style and message.
Due- December 10
It's Your Turn Again

Part III
The fourth form of poetry that you should find is a song that explains how life is to be lived. The song's lyrics should be school appropriate, specifically not words beginning with "F."
After finding the song, analyze the song for its meaning. Explain your analysis in paragraph/sentence form or in an self-made video.
Finally, write an original poem that mimics the style in passages 2 or 29. You should be sure to use paradoxes or repetition were they occurred in the poem. Your poem must be a poem about life.

from the Tao Te Ching
Tanka was invented more than a 1000 years ago.
Tanka or "Short Songs" are brief lyrical poems.
The earliest known tanka appeared in a collection of poems called the Manyoshu, or the Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves.
History of Tanka
Most of the topics in the Manysoshu describes nature, the impermanence of life, and the joys and sorrows of solitude and love.
This anthology of poems occurred when the Japanese poets were just breaking away from the Chinese poets.
The first tankas were written using Chinese characters because the Japanese language was an oral language.
Between the 5th and 8th centuries A.D., the Japanese language was developed through adapting Chinese characters.
The phonic characters became known as kana, or "borrowed names."
The Japanese view this anthology as the beginning of a written literature that they call their own.
The Manysoshu
Tanka continued to thrive throughout the Medieval period.
Tanka paid a key role in courtship.
In 905, the Kokinshu, a second anthology appeared.
Structure of the Tanka
A tanka is a five line poem that contains exactly thirty-one syllables.
Three of the lines have seven syllables each, and the other two have five syllables each.
The uneven number of lines and syllables illustrate the Japanese appreciation for irregularity.
When translated into English, the traditional tanka syllable structure is abandoned to capture the essence of the Japanese original.
All tanka evoke strong images and emotions, and the best are subtle and indirect.
In the tanka, what the author does not say is as important as what he does say.
Tanka Poets
lady Ise
(late ninth to mid-tenth century
Lady Ise was born into a highly educated family of scholars and poets. Lady Ise was a lady-in-waiting to the emperor's consort and later an intimate of the emperor.
Oshikochi Mitsune
(late ninth century)
He was among the greatest poets of the ninth century. He was an editor of the Kokinshu, the second greatest anthology of tanka.
Ki no Tsurayuki
He as also an editor of the Kokinshu. In addition to tanka, he also wrote a travel diary, The Tasa Diary, which was interwoven with poetry and prose. Since he enjoyed writing in Japanese and only uneducated men and women wrote in Japanese, he wrote his diary under a woman's name.
Ono no Komachi
(mid-ninth century)
She is the most revered of the poets who appear in the Kokinshu. She was a celebrated figure in mid-ninth century Japan. After her death, she was the subject of many popular legends due to the popularity of her poems.
Saigyo also known as Priest Saigyo was the most accomplished of the twelfth century poets and has remained one of the most loved Japanese poets. He wrote more than 2000 tankas.
Literary Terms
Alliteration- The repetition of consonant sounds in words that are close to one another. Alliteration most often occurs at the beginning of words as in "broken bottle."

Assonance- The repetition of similar vowel sounds followed by different consonant sounds in words that are close together.
Example- It's a great day for baseball. The long "A" sound in "great," "day," and "baseball" illustrates assonance.

The Japanese language lends itself to assonance because it has fewer vowel sounds than English. In classical tanka, assonance was used to create moods or ideas. The vowel sound for "A" was used to show brilliance, and the vowel sound for "O" was used to show gloominess or obscurity.
Lady Ise
A flower of waves
blossoms in the distance
and ripples shoreward
as though a breeze had quickened
the sea and set it blooming.
1. What season does this poem take place in? How do you know?
2. What is the metaphor at the heart of this tanka? Although her emotions are not directly stated, what do you think she feels about the scene she is describing?
Due- November 22
Ono no Komachi
Though I go to you
ceaselessly along dream paths
the sum of those trysts
is less than a single glimpse
granted in the waking world.
1. Many tankas that are translated into English do not adhere to the traditional pattern. Does this poem fit the pattern of tanka? Explain.
2. Who do you think the "you" is in this tanka? How would you paraphrase the speaker's message to that person? What emotion is this tanka expressing?
Due November 22
Ki no Tsurayuki
1. Brokade is a heavy fbric that has a raised design on it. How might a blanket of leaves be like brocade worn at night?
2. What imagery and details of setting does the author use in this tanka to evoke a season? What emotions do his images and word choices convey?
Due- November 22
Unseen by men's eyes,
the colored leaves have scattered
deep in the mountains:
truly we may say brocade
worn in the darkness of the night!
Unseen by men's eyes
Now its your turn
Part IV
Part A
Find a tanka written by one of the two remaining authors presented. Type the poem and explain the meaning of the poem. In your explanation, consider the poetic literary devices that you already know.

Part B
Brainstorm the areas of nature that you find fascinating or the intensity of the emotions that you feel.
Create or find an illustration of that area of nature or emotions that you feel.
Create a tanka that adheres to the structure requirements of a traditional tanka.
The tanka can appear on the illustration.
Though I go to you
Poetic Expression

"Imagine all the people living life in peace."

Tiananmen Square-1989

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for"

Kent State Campus Protests- 1970
"A brotherhood of Man"

John Lennon
LA Riots-1992
Where can it take you?
Japanese Poetry
Haiku is a brief, unrhymed poem that is three lines long. It has seventeen syllables. The first and last lines have 5 syllables each, and the middle line has seven syllables.
Literary Terms
1.Imagery- Language that appeals to the senses, usually in the form of sight, but it can also appeal to hearing, taste, touch, or smell.
2. Personification- A kind of metaphor in which a nonhuman thing or quality is talked about as if it were human.
3. Synesthesia- A term used for descriptions of one kind of sensation in terms of another.
For example- Color may be described as a sound (a "loud" yellow), sound as a taste (how "sweet" a sound), or odor as tangible (a "sharp" smell).
4. Alliteration- The repetition of consonant sounds in words that are close to one another.

Consider Basho's haiku
Furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu,
mizu no oto.
translated by Harold G. Henderson
Old pond:
frog jump-in
Timelessness/permanence = old pond
Change = the frogs movement
Cutting Word = water sound
translation by Harry Behns retains 17 syllable structure
An old ancient pond...
A frog jumps into the pond
splash! Silence again.
Historically, there were only a few poets who became respected for their haiku poetry. The most famous was Basho. Basho is credited with making haiku a revered form of poetry.
He refined the structure of haiku through his use of its seventeen syllables and his simplicity and depth of meaning.
According to Basho, the first line of poetry "must be written firmly and clearly." In a haiku, the poet reveals a moment of truth, but the reader must still bring his or her own meaning to that moment to complete the poem. In that way, with every reader and every reading, the meaning of a haiku evolves.
In traditional haiku, there are two images: one suggesting timelessness and the other suggesting change. The two are usually divided by a kireji or "cutting word."
Haiku Poets
Matsuo Basho
Basho was the greatest of the classical haiku poets. He was the son of a samurai and spent his youth in service to a local lord. He started writing verse at the age of nine. By the age of thirty, he had started his poetry school. His poetry was influenced by Zen Buddhism and his travels. At the age of 40, he set out to travel Japan alone. During this time. he created some of his best poetry.
Uejima Onitsura
Onitsura was one of Basho's greatest admirers. He also came from a samurai background and started writing poetry at an early age. He did not imitate Basho's writing style. Onitsura poems are more exuberant and less philosophical. About 700 of his thousands of haikus have survived.
Taniguchi Buson
Buson was a contemporary of Onitsura
who developed his poetic style. His poems are considered second only to Basho's. Buson is also an accomplished painter, and his poems reflect a fascination with light and color.
Kobayashi Issa
Issa is one of the most beloved poets of Japan's haiku masters. His life was filled with sorrow. He lost his mother in infancy, was sent away to school at 14, lost five children in infancy, and lost his wife to illness. Possibly because of these many sorrows, Issa's haikus were focused on personal experiences and on the lives of vulnerable animals and people.
Matsuo Basho
translated by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn
After bells had rung
and were silent...
flowers chimed
a peal of fragrance
Question- To what senses do the images in this poem appeal?
Due- November 22
How still it is!

How still it is!
buzzing in the sun
drilling into rock...
Question- To what sense are the images in this poem mostly appealing?
Due- November 22
After bells had rung
A drift of ashes
What two words are used in this poem to personify the wind?
Due- November 22
We cover fragile bones
We cover fragile bones
in our festive best
to view
immortal flowers
What sound device has the translator of this poem used?
Due- November 22
A snowy mountain
A snowy mountain
echoes in the
jeweled eyes
of a dragonfly
Kobayashi Issa
translated by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn
In what way is the image of a mountain echoing within a set of eyes an example of synesthesia?
Due- November 22
Avoiding fishnet
Tanigucho Buson
translated by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn
Avoiding fishnet
and fishing lines,
moon on the water
What is the metaphor for the moon?
Due- November 22
Now Its Your Turn
Part V
Steps for writing a haiku
1. Go outside and look at one small object or event in nature. For example, watch how a cricket moves, describe a leaf, or observe the clouds.
2. Illustrate the object or event that you are observing.
3. Begin to write your haiku. Remember it must be 17 syllables and three lines. The first and last line should be five syllables, and the second has seven syllables.
4. Be sure to use imagery that appeals to the senses.
5. Do not use the names of seasons. Your description should show the season.
Not a haiku

I watched the rain
Drops as they splattered
Into the puddle.
Same idea- Haiku

Soft warm splatterings
Echoing in circles
Settle in the puddle
(17 syllables)
A drift of ashes
from a burned field,
a wailing
wind sighing away ...
Uejima Onitsura
translated by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn

Source: Tachuk, Ralph et., Elements of Literature, World Literature. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. 2006.
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