Thursday, January 6, 2011

Naga-Uta Poems

Naga-Uta poems or songs (also known as Choka) are Japanese style long poems with a 5-7-5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern. Although the minimum length of a Naga-Uta poem is 7 lines, they have no line limit and longer versions of the Japanese long poem or song are common. The only restriction is to follow the syllable pattern of 5-7 and finish with another 7 syllable line. Much like the Tanka (see previous blog entry), Naga-Uta poems or songs could be sent or sung between lovers; the man or woman would start the Naga-Uta and then let their love interest add to it. They would alternate until the poem or song was finished. In the past each line represented individual images which melted together into one whole like the marriage or desired union of the couple writing or singing the Naga-Uta. These poems or songs could, also, be used to immortalize a warrior hero or tell of the individual’s emotional state. Unlike with Haiku (see previous blog entry) or Tanka, images of nature are not required to play a central role. In general, each 5-7 set of lines consists of an emotion and an image in no particular order. The final 7-7 coupling to finish work together to make a final statement about the person being immortalized, the individual’s emotional realization or in the case of lovers to attempt humorous, bawdy innuendo. In the example below, I do not adhere to the image, emotion balance, but I use the final 5-7-7 to make a statement about my father’s military service. My attempt is to immortalize my father an American warrior and personal hero. He served one combat tour in Korea and three combat tours in Vietnam much like todays soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq with multiple tours in combat. They have served more time in combat then anyone should ever be asked to do. They are true heroes.

Example: by Frank G. Poe, Jr.

Nag-Uta for Dad
Before I was born
You serving in Korea
Combat tour before
You were old enough, fifteen
Grandfather sent you
To find your older brother
Success, brother found
After a year of combat
Later Vietnam
Called, again, to serve and fight
Jolly green giants,
Young American warriors,
Daily I watched news
Wondering if you’d be on
Three combat tours done
Shave and a shower you’re home
Then teaching recruits
At Fort Polk how to survive
Then to Fort Belvoir
Army Corps of Engineers
Fishing on the banks of
Potomac River
Raccoon strolls across my lap
Eating our cut bait
Family living on base
Military retirement
Always remembered
Combat stories you told me
Always respected
Your military service
In Korea, Vietnam

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