Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Paired Rictameter

A rictameter is a form of a nine-line syllabic poetry.

 The syllable count in a rictameter adheres strictly to the following count: 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2. Ideally, the first and the final two-syllable lines mirror each other. But their meaning and their feeling can (should?) be altered by what lies between them. Rictameter poems are more spacious than Tankas, but they're still pretty brief.

I have enjoyed experimenting with this form of poetry.

Today, I offer you a pair:

Just before dying, playing war

"You die!"
Boomer kids' games
Enacting untold tales,
Our fathers’ Pacific war hells.
So fun to be the evil Japanese.
When I played a doomed Jap soldier,
I yelled the only words
a Jap could say,
“You die!”

Just Before Dying, studying Zen

"You die."
Kobun Chino
with infinite patience
tried to awaken my numbed soul,
my mind, poisoned by capitalism
and deluded democracy.
Kobun woke me, sweetly.
He said, so kind,
“You die.”


steven said...

dan when i saw the title of this posting i thought it was going to have a medical angle to it. my mind raced - what's up? but then seeing this i'm excited because this is a new poetry form to me. i'm not very familiar with the forms of poetry to be honest. i have always enjoyed reading it but not so much writing it. the juxtaposition of these two moments is so powerful! who can't get inside both through your words?!!!! thankyou. steven

Dan Gurney said...

steven, I am glad if these poems spoke to you.

It's remarkable how the same two words can be said with gleeful hatred and infinite compassion.

Kobun, the Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Carlos Casteneda, Suzuki Roshi, Rumi, Hafiz, and many others point out that it can be helpful to remember that our only moment is NOW. Remembering that we shall die brings us one step closer to enlightenment...

Stream Source said...

What a fascinating pairing. You wrote these? Nice...

The rigid structure of the Rictameter, Tanka, and others like them seems to make writing a poem a bit like solving a puzzle or a mathematics equation using words. Interesting ~

Delwyn said...

HI Dan

after reading your juxtaposed rictameters I took the link to read about one of your teachers(?)

How sad he drowned rescuing his daughter...what a sacrifice...I wonder if he knew of his demise...

Happy days

Dan Gurney said...

Stream Source, that's quite insightful of you. Yes, it is somewhat like puzzle solving. On occasion I've been known to get lost in crossword and Sudoku puzzles, usually prompted by a desire to stimulate the neurons.

While writing this sort of poetry provides a similar sort of challenge to working puzzles, the work I do as I write poetry of this sort offers opportunities to get glimpses of what's going on below the surface level of consciousness as well as the satisfaction of having more clearly seen thoughts that seem to ask for expression.

Dan Gurney said...

Delwyn, oh, yes, Kobun was my first Buddhist teacher. A very fine, teacher. So subtle so gentle. Mr. Rogers in robes, from Japan.

Yes, his death shocked me. Who knows? Maybe more than him. If anyone I've ever known knew how to die with equanimity, it was Kobun. Still, I wonder. There's sadness.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

A beautiful juxtaposition of before and after - enlightened and not - afraid of death while pretending to kill/open to death while living mindfully with compassion ...

You've demonstrated that this is a great way to create a snapshot of where we were and where we would prefer to be ...

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you, Bonnie. I really appreciate all the comments I've received on this poem. When I wrote it I was concerned it wouldn't communicate what I sought to convey, but these comments disabused me of that notion.

Poor Kobun! In 1976 I was a deluded Zen student trying to use Buddhist techniques to avoid the exploration of my shadow side that I was afraid of. Kobun was able to provide me some of the essential tools I would need for the journey. Other teachers to follow helped, too.