BJ Shadorma & Beyond – The Choka – December 13, 2014

Hello Everyone!

First of all thanks to all of you who participated writing a Naani … you did a fantastic job!

This week I’m taking you back to Japanese history.  The form I’ve chosen to introduce is called the choka.  Choka were long, elegiac poems (in fact choka means the long poem) and the longest ran sometimes over 100 lines!  They were usually sung.

The classical choka is formed by writing 5-7 syllables couplets for as many lines  as you like ending however with an extra 7 syllable line. There have been variations over the years as to how to write a choka including modern attempts to revive the genre.

Now days when the form is used and interestingly it is often used by English haiku poets, it is used to tell a story, not necessarily an epic or commemorative tale – just a story.

Here’s one of my choka as an example of how it can be done:

The Last Harvest Moon

as the breeze picks up,
canes rattle in harmony –
red leaves scattered
fall in the river and drown.
the monk bent with age,
walks along the road thinking
his secular thoughts
the splendor of youth now gone,
he gathers courage
to face another winter.
his arthritis plain,
his skin yellow and brittle …
then, a finch warbles
a cat rubs against his legs
he smiles down sweetly.

the last harvest moon
outlines the withered bent stalks
he walks and gazes
gathering the cold omens
whispered in the winter wind.

(c) G.s.k. ’14

For those of you who do not like to count syllables:  syllable count is open to discussion if you follow the modern school of haiku and do “the short line – long line – short line” version of haiku which should be less than 17 syllables, which compensates for the problem of not being able to superimpose the onj (Japanese sounds) to our language, using syllables we create haiku that are a third longer than the Japanese haiku and tanka.


So now we have the form … we need a prompt with which to tell our story … and of course we’re in the winter here in the north but in the summer in the south of our planet so here’s a photo for you to work with that can be interpreted for any season:

For this week you have the option to write a shadorma – a non-rhyming six-line poem of 3/5/3/3/7/5 syllables – or a choka.


Once you’ve written your post please tag:  BJ’s Shadorma & Beyond andMindLoveMisery’s Menagerie, then put your info onto the Mr. Linky app.  If you ping us back, we’ll be able to read your post ASAP because we will be notified that you’ve written the post (not so with Mr. Linky).

Have a great week!



For more reading:
Origins of Japanese Poetry – Kujaku Poetry & Ships

Japanese Poetry Forms – The Poet’s Garret



    • I actually remember an old Franciscan monk who lived here … it was always a pleasure to see him on his morning walk in his sandals (yes even in the winter, but with socks) and brown robe. He had an absolutely fantastic smile … it was sad when he passed away.


  1. I reread your choka, cara, and it is lovely, reads so nicely with each couplet alowing the reader to catch his/her breath. Now that photo is exquisite but if I imagine it here…brrrrrrr on the St Lawrence River…double brrrrr but I shall try:)


    • lol … I was thinking of your reaction to the photo and you’re really quite right .. a fishing boat on the St. Lawrence at this time of year is a real brrrrrr! Thank you for the lovely comment about my poem!


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