2013 Poetry Form Challenge

#22 Katuata and Choka




Japanese poetry seems to be gaining greater and greater popularity with Western poets. The much abused Haiku of course has worn the brunt of this assault by everyone from first year poetry teachers and students, to Microsoft and office jokes, but serious poets recognise that this little poem is a truly remarkable art form. The Tanka is also gaining in popularity and rightly so and both of these forms will be dealt with later. Before dealing with these two forms however, there are two other Japanese forms which in my opinion should be discussed, and may interest poets looking for something different. The first form is called the Katuata, and the second the Choka.

The Katuata originally consisted of a poem consisting of 19 sound units or onji, (in the west we would describe this as having a syllable count of 19).
There was a break after the fifth and twelfth onji and this would give us a form structure of. 5 - 7 - 7.
Later poets also wrote using only 17 onji and this gave a form structure of 5 - 7 - 5.
There were two Japanese poetry forms that use this form, the Mondo and the Sedoka.
The Mondo and the Sedoka are similar in that they both use one pair of Katuata, with the difference being that the Mondo was written by two poets and consisted of a question and answer, and the Sedoka was written by a single author. See the two examples below.


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!

Juan and Chu


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
he did not create?



The most intricate Japanese Poetry form is the Choka, or Long Poem.
The early form consisted of a series of Katuata joined together. This gives a choice of form structures of ..... 5 - 7 - 7 - 5 - 7 - 7.. etc, or .. 5 - 7 - 5 - 5 - 7 - 5.. etc. In the poem below Teagan uses three 19 onji Katuata for his Choka.

The Moth

there is no freedom
escaping from my cocoon
I must seek you once again
I am drawn to you
like a moth to a candle
circling nearer and nearer
the deadly flame calls
now my wings are scorched
why must my nature be so?


Later the form introduced the Japanese equivalent of a couplet consisting of 12 onji or sound units, pausing after the fifth unit, giving it a structured sequence of multiples of, 5 - 7 onji and still with a finishing sequence using the Katuata of, 5 - 7 - 7 (19) onji, or 5 - 7 - 5 (17) onji.

storm passes overhead
thunder rolls, lightning flashes
Buddyboy feels fear
comforting his loved ones.
Kanga, Owly and Wanbi,
creating nearness within them.
strange creatures bonded closer.


In Toybox above the Katuata is 5 - 7 - 7, and below in Thunderstorm a Katuata of 5 - 7 - 5, has been chosen instead.


thunderstorm inside
lightning crashes and flashes
no peaceful moments
silent sobbing tears flowing
there is no peace here
loud noises of breaking heart
waiting for phone call.

The Choka could be any total line length and indeed many exceeded 100 lines.

Looking at this, it is easy to see why Poetic Historians believe the Katuata is the original basic unit of Japanese poetry using either the 17 or 19 unit onji.

Japanese Poetry Challenge Replies

Angel of Shadow
Bend with the Willow

Terry Clitheroe


Spring Storm


Becoming One
Closed Minds
De Bortali
Walls of Predudice
You Cried All Night
Zen Storm

Divena Collins


Crystal Clear
Japanese Mist
Un Momento


Lost Souls
Never Lonely
Of Pain
Time Past
Time Warp
Wind Storm
Wind Song

Etain Druantia
Nocturne - Choka

Bruce Henderson
On Reading Ancient Forms - Choka

Leny Roovers


In The Forest
Solitary Tree


At Last



Lorraine Stark
Never Ending
Shadow of the rose
Stained Glass

Di, Leny and Terry

Serial Katuata


Angel of Shadow

Bend with the Willow

Dance with me, my love,
let the rain bathe our senses
as it quenches thirsty ground.
Bend with the Willow
in love's shades of midnight sway,
beneath deep amethyst seas.
As moon bids goodnight,
her stars will fall to the song
of the gentle leaf-dancer.
North-winds invite her
southern-night-wings, to open
for their dance of evermore.

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Terry Clitheroe



Coloured fall leaves drop
making red and brown blankets
in preparing for winters sleep

Once shiny green leaves
flaming reds set trees on fire
become scorched dull brown leaves.

Lifeless brown limbs
grasping upwards in prayer
accept natures reality



Barber Adagio
sweeping violins perfect tone
tears flowing freely

Pen has only ink
Katuata changes sight
visions seen inside mind



Soft gentle breezes
stirring white cumulus clouds
tinting light blue skies

Sunlit blue day sky
harsh red desert sand dunes
khaki green cactus

Yellow desert weed
spreading trails brown green runners
moonlit blue night sky.



Eternal darkness
solar prominence erupts
spending itself in space

Two heavenly bodies
hurtling in inevitable union
crashing cataclysmic force

Universe begins
Mars joins Venus, two planets
creating solar systems



Lioness of the moon
our roars have been heard tonight
hear as jungle echoes sound.

Others are envious
jealous of greater passion
lesser beasts share in our joy.



Bright moon on river
reflecting lost rays of sun
dance on lovers eyes.

Silver lunar beam
bouncing on fishtail ripples
disappears with time.

Evening moon pales
falling over on her back
it will rain soon.



Water spirits rise
mists from cool morning pools
dew causing dark tinted leaves

Birds sing as sunrises
transform to daytime colours
morning opens her green eyes

Birds song goes away
flapping is heard instead
they go about daily chores.



Cloud misted mountain
lightning flashes thunder crashes
Earth talking with God.



Nebulous stravage
in the maze of grey shades
wherein dwell shadow beings

in the inbetween
beyond the silver sabers
before the golden sceptre

Whispers the woman
who wears the daystar's opal,
saying "Search for me"


Spring Storm

White blue flashing sky
celestial energy streaks
becomes useless spent matter.

Mortal mans wishes
like vivid flashes in sky
very short time noise.

Sudden downpour
flash flooding clears highways
nature housekeeping again.



Words spoken in jest
more often cover wisdom
never seen by fools



Becoming One

galahs in the eucalypts
currawongs in the river gums
kookaburra laughs at world
a cacophony
declaring one with nature
our spirits should follow them
we should learn from them
spending time singing, flying
becoming one with the Earth.


Closed Minds

Minds become closed
behind walls of prejudice
slimy and putrid by hate
blinded by the lies
God became a jungle of
creative doctrines and promises
so dirty, weeds won't grow
raptured demented lost minds
feeds culpable ignorance
with reveal'd half truths
bending ideology for gain
until the truth is too deep
sanity is madness
madness also sanity
happy is the fool.



We see ourselves new
each time that we meditate
sometimes truly as we are.
are disappointed
not meeting expectations
ignoring our potential.
sitting feeling warm
relaxed discovering ourselves
all burdens are cast aside
with meditation
your mind is open to God
regardless of religion
completely relaxed
there is nothing happening
therefore everything happens.

Inspired by Ocean of Dharma


De Bortali

No ink in my pen
how can I write down my thoughts
suddenly the're gone again.
Loading pen once more
whilst drinking a glass of port
I think, the drought is over.
Curious, about that
what would happen with blue ink
would I have a different mood?
I'll try red next time
does that mean it will be hot
or is it just the port?



half light of evening
turning everything grey
gone are the yellows
shades of blue and green and red
have disappeared
dust and pollution asleep
nocturnal hibernation
waiting mornings glare
hides amongst length’ning shadows
trees feel change of shift
the birds replacing fruit bats
create their own cacophony.



Gentle colour thoughts
the truth spoken through your eyes
the blueness that is yourself
Golden smiles within
brighter than any sunlight
truer than anything owned.
Redness of your lips
warming my heart when we kiss
there's no winter within you.
Greenness you have lost
gaining awareness of life
retaining your innocence.
Rainbows envy you
they cannot compete with you
in radiance or colour.



Karma is the law
cause and effect the result
governed by our actions.
Concepts that we use
developing more knowledge
to understand confusion.
Current situation
caused by our past actions
resulting our state of being.
Learn to know yourself
teach yourself inner peace
it will help you grow inside.



The night's harvesting
full yellow moon escorting
stars in journey wink
For countless ages
privy to all of nights secrets
The night is darkness
Just serving evil
embracing cover of clouds
help keep it's secrets
Mantle of shadow
realise night is a beast
devouring victims
then hides all it's sins
where demons and witches prey
Night is not for love.



Poetry will abound
words speeding through cyberspace
like a streaming comets tail.
Some good and some bad
the volume there is a mix
some very good and some trash.
Many teachers teach
without knowing what is what
students reflect what they're taught.
"Thank God," I must state
I might not be any good
but I can teach what is right.



Life is lived in light
in the shadow a clock ticks
consider your life and shadow
childhood's shadow tugs
wishful thoughts a companion
impatient to remove it's leash
at noon all is gone
for a brief while left alone
mistakes and lessons learned
and then it retreats
becoming less much too soon
and twilight precedes the night.
night is left alone
shadows manage to survive
unless the moon rests also.



River in flood
fed by drought filled creeks
Old Man kookaburra laughing
brown foaming water
carrying thrashing branches
skies overhead still threatening
heavy black grey clouds
loaded with threats of more rain
dragged across a lightning sky
soon flashes lessen
clouds possess white wispy trails
wind chimes sing.



Like a fresh palette
twilight brings its own colours
unlike bright contrasts of day
its own uniqueness
temporary, but such is life
showing more gentle pastels
daytime cannot show
afternoon of life begins
heralding the setting sun
and nights new canvas
brings black and shadowed grey
hiding the colours making day.



Our souls have joined
even though we're worlds apart
space does not separate us.
Our lives ever join'd
til now it is only time
that dared separate us.
Fate ordained it so
you are my mate, my soul love
we share our lives and our tasks.
Sometimes we meet late
having spent our life searching
I know it's the same with you.
This must be our chosen less'n
but rest assured as we learn
closer comes the final time.
Each life and each love
brings us closer together
to our final unison.


Walls of Prejudice

Minds become closed
behind walls of prejudice
slimy and putrid by hate
blinded by the lies
God became a jungle of
creative doctrines and promises
so dirty, weeds won’t grow
raptured demented lost minds
feeds culpable ignorance
with reveal'd half truths
bending ideology for gain
until the truth is too deep
sanity is madness
madness also sanity
happy is the fool.


You Cried All Night

You cried all night
she heard you in the darkness
in the morning you arose
eyes red with weeping
but what make-up cannot hide
tinted glasses and lies will.
Lies won't hide the loss
the glasses wont help you see
you must face the future alone.
You must find another
make up won't cover sadness
darkness approaches again.
You will cry all night
she will listen in the dark
and silently weep with you.


Zen Storm

Sonorous grey clouds
passing under white cotton
exchange angry crashes.
Huge raindrops threaten
earth below waits in welcome
clouds pass on their flashy way.
Dark mountains echoing
counting delay of flashes
wondering if here to stay.
Sirens contrast now
Nature defeats man again
no victory without water.

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Divena Collins



As boughs of trees
hands show many corridors
when veins intertwine

Tangled maze of life
show strength to what exists
as clinging roots grow.

Burnished leaf falls
earth sighs a final breath
for future seasons


Crystal Clear

Crystal rainbow hues
arch across a summer sky
through sun and rain.

Crystal ice and snow
glisten upon a frozen earth
upon a wintery scene.

Crystal waters flow
gently through rippled waves
in an autumn dream.



Soft music that flows
for a dreamy tempo of love
entices togetherness.

hazy eyes that speak all
of feelings they have within
rhythmic sensations.

floating within trance
blind to thoughts of others
close within harmony.


Japanese Mist

Bird perched on bough
upon a sweet cherry blossom
as figment of art.

dew gathering mists
floating down on mountain side
dense and shrouded.

a willow bows low
towards a mystic stream
of enchantment.



When every tiny seed
may shed as dust to the wind
to be casts forthwith.

furrows of patchwork
heralds an autumn season
upon ripened grain.

harvests of sheathes
shall be fashioned to thrive
of Pagan corn dollies.



I felt his warmth
Of hot breath upon my neck
Desires of passion.

I had felt his touch
his soft stroking of my skin
teasing my senses.

I dare not give in
to his endearing charms
may it be only once.


Un Momento

I felt his presence
there was nothing between us
until I felt his kiss.

forever I treasure.
those beautiful moments
of his love divine.

that moment in time
lingered within my heart
and touched my soul.



Cast not evil charms
the devils eye be upon thee
on a wicked spree

eternal flames arise
his evil spirit cast within
to ignite and taunt.

do not cross his path
see not speak or hear a curse
for ashes be of dust.




shadows disappear
when strings of a harp play
within fantasies dreams.
when past to future
is scattered to the wind
shall it return as before ?
the circle of life
forever spins within gravity
from distant past to future


Lost Souls

Of an ancient City
here lies the foundations
lost fragments of time past
buried within stone
until dark returned to light
of lost treasures untold.
newly recovered
of the silenced lost souls
many more cities may be lost
if only time can tell
they say that we shall be next
within earths ancient tombs.


Never Lonely

I watch the shore line
that seperates land from sea
foam of surf may ebb and flow
yet hazily I dream
and the world may pass me by
dreams shall not be put aside
within this silence
I gather thoughts together
as I pop the sea weed seeds
like I when a child.
days gone past unforgotten
for memories never pass by.


Of Pain

I feel not of pain
Yet I hold a lit candle
Shall it be mind over matter
That may dwell within
To me it seems as strange
For my hand remains intact
Still they feel as cool
What mysteries may unfold
This calm hypnotic trance.



Dark the night shadow
hazy mists of hidden visions
no moonlight to show the way
yet I hear no sound
but a memory shall not fade
what my eyes may not deceive.
time alone shall tell
remains of yesterday lost
but shall never be forgotten


Time Past

So long may it be
I heard a cuckoo call
must of been last spring
yet I hear her still
but only within a memory
times past feels like yesterday
when the seasons fade
may there be then a future
tomorrow this day is past.


Time Warp

This is what I see
a fallen star lost from space
from a different universe
vanished unto earth
upon an atmospheric sky
on a cosmic shower mist
that rained below
'neath the depth of a sea bed
here shines this star by night
a bright beacon
of a deep oceanic lighthouse
protecting ships from sinking
'neath a deep sea bed
what may seem nigh impossible
Yep! but could be worth the try.


Wind Storm

Freely the winds blow
upon a frenzied autumn dance
fragments of natures debris
within leafless trees.
dawn awakes a serene breeze
that filters thro`parting clouds
unto a sunlit morn`
spent of storms violent mood
when all shall remain as calm.


Wind Song

As soft as winds blow
a violet haze of sunrise
within a dawning whisper
drifting gently by
shall be of a soothing kind
to prey on one who dreams
with songs softly sung
as a sweet scent of mimosa
drifting upon a soft wind song
all shall be of calm
the start of a new dawning
awakens upon a violet hue.

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Etain Druantia


drowsy sun yawns
twilight stretches into night
mist gathers in the valleys
owls seek their prey
talons pierce warm trembling flesh
screams echo through dark stillness
final sleep hushes
gentle breeze hums lullaby
until sun rolls into day

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Bruce Henderson

On Reading Ancient Forms

Peel away the years
Shut out the electric night
Screen fades through jade mist
Ink born on a bamboo scroll
The Earth melts away
Words carry the weight of gods
I ride the quiet volcano

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Leny Roovers


In the Forest

Carpets of brown leaves
drink in rain from muddy pools.
I put my feet on firm ground.

Drops on my glasses
change the world I see through them;
many faceted, yet real.

I hear each footstep,
leaves and twigs breaking below
as mud underneath absorbs.


Solitary tree

Solitary tree
naked branches reaching out
for heaven's far touch.

A pair of beeches
crowns interwoven as one
roots' fingers entwined.



Nature is waiting Preparing for coming spring Deep within each tree This year’s leaves Drift down on autumn’s cool breath New buds take their place Still tiny, they’ll grow Until spring’s sun sets them free in soft green halo.



At Last

At last silence reigns,
most chickens have gone to roost-
no more chattering.
Just the heating snores
until I switch off its song
in peaceful comfort.



To know you are both
male and female deep inside,
helps to accept life.
Do not criticise,
instead embrace both faces
of your inner self.
Opening your heart,
flowers of understanding
will burst into bloom.



Weightlessly floating
warm water lifting body
from bottom of bath.
I know you are there
opposite me in our tub,
silently dreaming.
Joyful rituals
on lazy weekend mornings
revitalise, cleanse.
I open my eyes
see your smile as you watch me,
asking: coffee next?



In meditation I find you,
my deepest self;
waves of thought break on your shore.
Thought circles ripple
water mirrors of your lake,
disturbing inner clearness.
Movement fades away,
replaced by transparency-
tranquillity as result.



I'm building a shrine,
an inner sanctuary
to lay down my heart.
Silence will reign there,
its floor is meditation,
listening forms walls.
Made to retreat in
from thoughts clouds obstructing peace,
I'll gladly obey.
I'll follow your name,
reunited with myself
I am part of you.



Silence can be heard
in the vastness of one’s heart-
it calls from within.
Drawn inside I find
clarity and peace of mind;
time to contemplate.
Less pressure and thoughts
leave freedom for inner ears
to better attune.

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Lorraine Stark


Celebrate each day
with me, with a kiss, a smile
hold my hand and walk with me
on this path of life
we chose to spend together
look into my eyes and know
that I love you so
for your gentle ways
brings me happiness always


Never Ending

It still feels like the
first time each time we make love
the joy of you inside me
penetrates my soul
all inner sanctums open
with ecstasy from each move
you passionately
coax my desires
each time like the first time did



Outside the sun shines
like the calm before the storm
everything is in its place
or is it really?
facades can only cover
just so long what is beneath
when a picture falls
protective glass cracks
hearts will weep when broken


Shadow of the rose

Shadow of the rose
left by the morning sunlight
engraved in time left for me
to remember when
cold winds and snowflakes cover
green fields of summer's gardens
will keep its beauty
come spring when last snow
melts one rose will beckon me


Stained Glass

I can't remember
what made me suddenly look
perhaps it was an owl's hoot
it doesn't matter
for it took my breath away
the parting of the tree tops
blue skies, scent of pine
stained glass pictures floating by

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Di, Leny, Terry

Serial Katuata


Silence makes no sound
yet sound may bear no silence
how strange this is.

bright stars shine above
they say is only illusions
how ever can this be.

questions need answers
that takes a lot of thought
Within this crazy world.

Yet silence can howl
when you feel lost, are at wits’ end;
silence other face.

Starlight above us
what we see has long since passed;
far away riddles.

Answers bring questions
perpetuum mobile
in a spinning world.

Overbearing quiet
when background is most needed
deafening silence.

Stars, past memories
as our Sun will be to them
somewhere they must cross.

Answers when given
may not be what is wanted
culpable deafness

I cast my thoughts
upon earths destruction
how then shall it be.

shall fate then depend
upon the hand of humanity
or of natures force.

what of our future
may we be a new planet
or particled dust.

After Earth is gone,
maybe drifting souls will meet
to form a new world.

The end of fate's rule,
or just a new beginning
of a new decline?

Once it all started,
from grains of dust life came forth
till time has run out.

Where has the Earth gone
a black hole now fills the void
starting all over.

Fate will rule again
Karma's been created again
Nirvana awaits.

The circle begins
will man make same mistakes
or will there be peace

Trees within this earth
a gift that we all shall share
for our environment.

cut down in their prime
replacing all with concrete
they who knoweth not.

why must this be so
there is room enough for all
but for wilful greed.

Without trees we'll die
and Creation will implode,
its gift taken back.

When people forget
our dependence on nature,
we are at danger.

Man can be greedy,
thinking of money and gain,
his downfall is near.

Where is all the air
why has all of mans food gone
farms have become mines

carbon increases
there is no ozone layer
skin cancer prevails

world is heating up
the Earth is now a furnace
man cannot survive.

Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then can we realise that money cannot be eaten

Cree Indian Prophesy

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