Waka (poetry)

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Waka (和歌 literally "Japanese poem") or Yamato uta is a genre of classical Japanese verse and one of the major genres of Japanese literature.[1] The term was coined during the Heian period, and was used to distinguish Japanese-language poetry from kanshi[2][3] (poetry written in Chinese by Japanese poets), and later from renga.

The term waka originally encompassed a number of differing forms, principally tanka (短歌, "short poem") and chōka (長歌, "long poem"), but also including bussokusekika, sedōka (旋頭歌, "whirling head poem") and katauta (片歌, "poem fragment"). These last three forms, however, fell into disuse at the beginning of the Heian period, and chōka vanished soon afterwards. Thus, the term waka came in time to refer only to tanka[2][4].

Japanese poet and critic Masaoka Shiki created the term tanka in the early twentieth century for his statement that waka should be renewed and modernized. Until then, poems of this nature had been referred to as waka or simply uta ("song, poem"). Haiku is also a term of his invention, used for his revision of standalone hokku, with the same idea.

Traditionally waka in general has had no concept of rhyme (indeed, certain arrangements of rhymes, even accidental, were considered dire faults in a poem), or even of line. Instead of lines, waka has the unit (連) and the phrase (句). (Units or phrases are often turned into lines when poetry is translated or transliterated into Western languages, however.)


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