Choka, NaPoWriMo2017, Poetry, Real Toads

hope gets in your eyes

It’s another day for poetry at Real Toads and Sherry has this for us all.

For your challenge, write a poem about the landscape you love, the places that heal you, the ones you call you home. Where do you go to replenish your stores of hope? What does the land sing to you while you are there?

Use specifics to make the place come alive for us. Through your words, let us see what you see, feel what you feel while you are there. Show us how you care for this place, and how this caring expands to concern for all places, all beings.

Tell us what you take away with you when you leave, and how your special place on the planet allows you to keep hope alive, for the world and its many creatures.

No rules: use any form you wish. Just sing a love song about the place that means the most.

Then link up. And please do visit the offerings of your fellow poets. I look forward to reading some poems of love for this beautiful planet, and the place on it that you call home.

As inspiration she shares with us this wonderful poem by Wendell Berry entitled

‘A Poem on Hope’

It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old,
For hope must not depend on feeling good
And there is the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.
You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality
Of the future, which surely will surprise us,
……And hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction
Any more than by wishing. But stop dithering.
The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?
Tell them at least what you say to yourself.

Because we have not made our lives to fit
Our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
The streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope
Then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
Of what it is that no other place is, and by
Your caring for it as you care for no other place, this
Place that you belong to though it is not yours,
For it was from the beginning and will be to the end

Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are
Your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,
Who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,
And the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike
Fishes for the fish in the creek, and the birds who sing

In the trees in the silence of the fisherman
And the heron, and the trees that keep the land
They stand upon as we too must keep it or die.

……Be still and listen to the voices that belong
To the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.
There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,
By which it speaks for itself and no other.

Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
Underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls
Freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
And the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
Which is the light of imagination. By it you see
The likeness of people in other places to yourself
In your place. It lights invariably the need for care

Toward other people, other creatures, in other places
As you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

No place is at last better than the world. The world
Is no better than its places. Its places at last
Are no better than their people while their people

Continue in them. When the people make
Dark the light within them, the world darkens.

Today I took myself to a place I love and on the way, during my walk and in returning, I composed this poem. I have decided to present it as a choka.

The choka (長歌 long poem) was the epic, story telling form of Japanese poetry from the 1st to the 13th century, known as the Waka period. I have used the 5-7-5 form with a 7-7 closing.

Alongside my notes I took photographs today which have been added to my other site. They tell a tale of their own, which is a sister work of art to this poem.

I would love for you to view them also.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

woken by the call

of the birds and warm sunlight

sleep had been deep and

disturbing this night just past

so with a shadow

cast by the window light and

by my self’s inner

i begin my day’s journey

coffee fuels me and

in my unwashed vehicle

i drive past folk who

wash cars now it is sunny

i head for my place

though I claim no ownership

just a deep kinship

there i own nothing at all

not even a self

composing this poem i

stop in lay by’s and

make notes from which I now type

Tinto Hill languid

long and green lies to my left

the fells of Coulter

hazy and grey to my right

indicator tock

adds rhythm to my write

just so beautiful

I wonder where is terror

now in this moment

my dark consciousness says ‘here’

the spring sun is wearing

a petticoat of winter

and warms then bites

the daffodils for tourists

cheer me on my way

trumpeting the way ahead

in the fields today

every fleece is golden

i park up the van

a single leaf greets me there


browned and treeless it dances

movements of freedom

or loss – i am not sure

up on the fell tops

the farmer is sending clouds

up to the deep blue

as he burns moorland heather

trees cut recently

weep themselves sap filled tears

i hear the birdsong

wonder is it alarming

the trill of the call

and the baa’ing of the sheep

offer a soundtrack

syncing breath with my footsteps

fly visits notebook

and seen – lives to tell tales

this day i will walk

to get to nowhere at all

flash of memory

guides me on and crow cawn-firms

sweet burning heather

fills nostril and labors breath

smoke made sunglasses

filter warm vanilla tones

a biblical sky

brings my mind to darker things

is our destruction

a conscious act of rebirth

as with the burning

of the heather above me

decisions. choices.

i see a new way

no footprint of mine is there

i know not its end

but follow it I must now

the path leads nowhere

or seems so until it does

i follow it on

ridge offering light

away from the smoke and fire

delivering me

to another place in time

open swathes of green

i feel my edges expand

slate blue layered fells

fading to infinity

what can I allow

where do i begin and end

shadow clouds cross fells

change is dancing before me


birdsong without me in it

at least i think so

crow again calls long and low

here we all are now

bird and man and fell and cloud

is this it i think

and of course it is not so

shadows from the world

are thrown at me from fells fire

i empty myself

into you my earth mother

and i am burdened

by the pain you have to bear

it is a long way

to get to nowhere at all

patterns man has made

sidle up to nature’s art

in both of these things

i see a deep and present

beauty that tells me

we have a chance of changing

why do we not see

decisions are our choices

scattered fur on grass

tells a tale of life and death

fire’s breath births seed

heather’s Hiroshima ghosts

curl grotesque and black

dust of ash puffs off my boots

all seems bleak but then

shadows fly with twist and shout

crow flies oozing fun

here i can see with both eyes

not media eye

nature herself is singing

my heart to itself

i am witnessing dead bone

brought to life by flame

death is not the end

planted seeds of bright new hope

all things must pass on

save for the song of this land

water’s dappled light

pathways wrapped in shady trees

earth forms hide in view

answers nature will provide

to those who will see

patterns that are underneath

the soil and the soul

whispering to your deep mind

this voice is ancient

resonating within you

howling in a brave new world

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


napowrimo 8/30


Choka, dVerse, Poetry

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