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2021: Celebrating The Writers' Greenhouse
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Friday, 28 December 2018

Meddle with a katauta poem

For the launch of the Meddling with Poetry course, I’m sharing 16 delicious forms of poetry I've discovered, each of them a delight to play with.

This is basically a haiku but it’s in love (or written to a lover) and you can have 2 extra syllables if you want them. Line 1: 5 syllables. Line 2: 7 syllables. Line 3: 5 or 7 syllables.

A katauta is very much like a haiku, but it's written to a lover, and you can have two extra syllables if you want them:

Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 or 7 syllables

On its own it’s considered ‘incomplete’: it wants a katauta in reply. Two or more katautas talking back and forth, in lovers' conversation, make a sedoka and if your lover doesn't obligingly respond to your katuatas with katautas of their own, you get to write both halves! You can also let a katuata stand on its own and then that ‘incompleteness’ becomes part of it.

Haikus also have a bunch of other conventions, which katautas don't particularly need to follow: a seasonal reference (a kigo); a 'cutting' or juxtaposition of images (a kiru); a degree of ambiguity, provoking thought rather than explaining; lines being self-contained fragments; and focusing on a single moment. Using some of these can be useful though – the ones that I think suit katauta is keeping each line self-contained to a degree, focusing on a single moment, and sometimes something seasonal or from the natural world.

Here's an incomplete katauta that I wrote for my students, after teaching, for my poem-a-day. (Yes, I sometimes write love poems for my classes. I really love teaching!)

Tiny lights sparkle
in a waft of sandalwood
under my skin, when I teach

Feel free to reply, to turn it into a sedoka! Or try out a katauta of your own, for someone – or something – you love.

Note: To respect copyright, these blog posts only use my own poems as examples. On the course, I'm licensed to give my students copyright poems, so you'll see lots of others.

The next Meddling with Poetry course starts in May 2020. It explores a host of different poetry forms, as well as the musicality of language, poetic imagery, and other aspects of the poetic. Absolute beginners and experienced writers are equally welcome. You can read more details and book a place here. You can also find lots of other fun forms to play with on my poetry advent calendar.

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