to capture a journey

img courtesy

Our dVerse prompt today comes from Bodhirose.

The Choka or Long Poem is believed to be the most intricate of Japanese poetry and was used to tell a story; many were epic with over 100 lines.  This form was popular between the 1st and 13th centuries, the earliest example was discovered in the 1st century and described a battle.  It was 149 lines long.  The Choka had a tradition of being recited in a high-pitched voice.

This form is based on a series of Katauta joined together. The Katauta is considered the basic unit of Japanese poetry using either the 17 (5-7-5) unit onji or the 19 (5-7-7) unit onji.  In Western terms an onji is what we call a syllable.  Many of us are familiar with these particular onji as we have used them in writing haiku, tanka and sedoka.

The Choka is an unrhymed poem alternating five and seven syllables that ends with an extra seven syllable line. You can use the 17 or 19 onji (syllable) style.  It can be any number of lines that you choose.

So today our prompt is to tell a story in the Choka poetic tradition.

My Choka is below and is a remembering of a journey which I undertook in 2015 and which I blogged about at the time  but never ‘wrote’ about.

I have for some time thought about where I might go with that, in writing terms, and the Choka seemed the perfect form to begin something. I have also contemplated writing the story of Drum Trek in the Basho style made famous in the Narrow Road to the Interior and perhaps producing my first book.

This prompt has given me plenty to ponder.


To capture a journey

How does one begin

a journey of great distance?

do not think on it

but move forward step by step

realising that

the present moment is all

and so i did this

making a choice in the now

to undertake a

rhythmical odyssey ride

to places calling

to people who had answered

no thought to time’s glance

ignore the tick and the tock

leaving from the North

John of the Groats they call it

a windswept world’s edge

i traveled many miles South

to the end of land

dipping like a giant’s toe

into the ocean

i drummed with many a folk

old friends and more new

deepening community

finding my story

in the rhythm of this place

hidden in plain sight

woven in the landscape’s dream

meeting myself here

in memories of a life

lived on this green land

since before i knew of it

whose ancient voice was

calling to a deeper part

elder’s being heard it

wise and serene seeing  all

holding space for me

to see it too and to heal

deeply from old wounds

that threatened to blind my eyes

to ancestral truths

to ancestral chains that bound

to freedom waiting

whispering a long lost song

calling my spirit to soar

a beauty of tears

gifted this heart note i sang

my song with heart bare

soul aflame wordless wisdom

to my soul of now

knowing that this moment was

eternal and true

gratitude poured through my veins

it was all so clear

i had traveled many miles

to discover that

which i sought had always been

in my own story

in the bones of who i am

here where i stood deep within

20 thoughts on “to capture a journey

  1. Kathy Reed says:

    That experience in marking our own time and space, realized when we leave home and return. It was always there in us..I get the feeling, I think….certainly a journey we all must take.

  2. Gayle Walters Rose says:

    I feel you describe a journey to the self which of course is always within us but sometimes a physical journey can help to dislodge obstacles that can then show us ourselves in a clearer light. I love this and I love your idea for a book using Basho’s template. Really enjoyed this, Paul, and thank you for adding your voice to the choka prompt.

  3. Laura Bloomsbury says:

    To misquote Eliot – You landed at the end and knew yourself for the first time. Ah blow the winds southerly …what a journey of words, a travelogue of emotions. The choka has freed you – look forward to the book!

  4. lillian says:

    Oh Paul….this is truly wondrous. I travel with you in your words. So many wondrous points that I stopped and felt….and then the ending you’ve provided.
    “to discover that
    which i sought had always been
    in my own story
    in the bones of who i am
    here where i stood deep within”
    What a wonderful realization….what a wonderful journey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s