Katuata Notes

Japanese poetry forms are gaining popularity with Western Poets. The Haiku has been much abused and carried the brunt of this assault by everyone from first year poetry students and teachers to Microsoft and office humour. Serious poets recognise the little Haiku is in fact a remarkable art form all its own. However,’ for poets looking for something a little different there is the Katuata.

Originally the Katuata was a poem consisting of 19 sound units or onji. In the western world the onji would be seen as a syllable count. There is a break after the fifth and twelfth onji giving a form structure of 5-7-7. Later poets also wrote using 17 onji giving the modern haiku form 5-7-5, unlike the haiku the katuata is not restricted to poems on nature.

Two Japanese poem forms are based on the katuata the Mondo and the Sedoka. These two forms are similar in that they both use a pair of katuata, the difference is the Modo was written by two poets and consisted of a question and answer, and the Sedoka was written by a single author.


Mondo by Juan and Chu

Why is there no rain
the land cries out for water
but cannot shed tears?
There will be no rain
because you wept times before
when there was some rain!

Sedoka by Teagan de Danaan

A small boy sees hills
then he will make them mountains
he will have to climb.
If he can climb them
what will he have overcome
that he did not make?

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