Dopers: Teach me of Waka poetry?

OK so any Dopers know of Waka poetry that would care to lay the basics down, the obligatory google brought me nothing with the exception of a lot of references to the Meiji emperor so if any dopers could put it simply for me i would be grateful.


Here’s the Wikipedia entry. Waka and tanka are characterized by a 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 syllables per line style. Images from nature as well as Buddhist thought feature heavily.

If you are interested in classical Japanese, you may want to check out the Manyoshu (Collection of 10,000 Leaves), which is an anthology of poems written in the waka or tanka style. The poems within are written by all kinds of people (not just monks or nobles or something), and are surprisingly emotional and sensuous.

Another anthology you may want to check out is the Kokinshu (Collection of Ancient and Modern Poems), which dates about two centuries later. These poems were commissioned by the emperor and were written by the nobility. When I read these poems years ago, I liked the Manyoshu poems better - I found the Kokinshu poems to be rather stiff and dry.

If you are more interested in modern poetry, check out Tawara Machi’s book Salad Anniversary, or Sarada Kinenbi in Japanese. These poems are very whimsical and reflect the POV of a modern young Japanese woman. My favorite poem goes something like this:

My new lover has gone home; in the tube of toothpaste, there is a new dent; my heart skips a beat.

I don’t remember the poem exactly, but the above lines capture its meaning.

I"m sure you’ll find more enlightenment here in Cafe Society. So I moved the thread from GQ.

Thanks RindaRinda, and sorry samclem thanks for moving it.