Paul Hartal


A Tanka for Artist Gu Kaizhi


The brushwork delights:
Firm outline of each figure,
graceful gestures, robes
flowing, scarves floating, charming
faces, character in the eyes.

Submitted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Edited: Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Gu Kaizhi was a celebrated painter in ancient China during the reign of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (265-420) . He was born in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, and in 364 he began his career as a young artist in Nanjing. Also a talented poet and calligrapher, as well as the author of 3 books about painting theory, he was promoted to serve as a royal officer. He died probably in 406.

This verse follows the matrix of the Tanka, a genre of Japanese poetry. The word tanka means “short song”. Tanka has a pattern of five lines constructed from 31 phonetic sound units, called ‘on-s’. An on can correspond, but does not necessarily equate to a syllable. The sound units are structured in the five lines this way: 5-7-5-7-7. The modern tanka developed from the classical Japanese romantic song of the waka. Its roots date back to the Heian period,794-1185. The Japanese poet and essayist Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) developed the tanka and the haiku as modern forms of classical Japanese literature.

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