#TankaTuesday #Poetry Stars No. 297 | #SpecificForm: kouta

Welcome to our weekly poetry stars’ celebration. This week’s challenge was to write a kouta syllabic poem.

Lisa Fox asked me if the optional fifth line syllable count should be five or seven syllables? I searched everywhere and couldn’t find any other instructions. Something didn’t seem right with this form, so I did a thorough analysis. Here is what I found:

Katsutaro Kouta (小唄 勝太郎, Kouta Katsutarō, November 6, 1904 – June 21, 1974) was a Japanese female geisha and ryūkōka singer, who performed in the “New-Min’yō” style of singing.” (wikipedia.org)

There is a Japanese song called the Ko-Uta, which means little songs of the geisha. The book, “Little Songs of the Geisha: Traditional Japanese KoUta,” is a fascinating look into the world of the Geisha through the 400-year-old art of Ko-Uta, the traditional song form sung to three-stringed shamisen music. I found the book on GoodReads HERE.

I could not find an actual link to a reputable source to confirm the kouta follows these specific rules even though Poetscollective.org gives us a human source.

The Kouta 小唄 (little or short song) is a popular Japanese verse form of the Muromachi Period, 14th thru 16th century. The lyrical song was resurrected as a geisha song in the late 1800s and is still popular today.

The form has several variations, though always short in only 4 lines, a 5th line is sometimes added. 

The theme reflects ordinary life and often uses colloquialisms and onomatopoeia. The most popular are love songs. 

  1. a poem in 4 lines. (an occasional 5th line may appear)
  2. a standalone poem, but its often is accompanied by other Koutas with the same theme.
  3. Syllabic, variable, odd numbered syllable lengths. The most common patterns are written in lines of alternating 7-5-7-5 syllables or 7-7-7-5 syllables. 
  4. Secular, personal, themes of ordinary life.
  5. often include onomatopoeia (defined above).

My biggest issue is whoever created the kouta form tried to play it off as an ancient Japanese syllabic poetry form. The Ko-Uta is the centuries old song sung by geishas, not the kouta. In fact, it appears someone named the form for the geisha, instead of the actual songs of the geisha.

Sometimes, people create syllabic forms on their own, which could be the case with this form. I found the kouta to be like the katauta. I believe the kouta is based on the katauta.

“The katauta is a Japanese poetic form that is actually considered an incomplete or half-poem. It’s a 3-liner that follows either 5-7-5 or more commonly 5-7-7 syllables per line. Sounds like a haiku or senryu, right? But this poem is specifically addressed to a lover.” (Writers Digest)

It makes sense that someone got creative with the kouta, not to be confused with Ko-Uta, traditional songs of the geisha.

To keep the names straight, here is a traditional Ko-Uta song:

Now that we have all that out of the way, I enjoyed writing the kouta form. The theme of kouta reflects ordinary life and often uses colloquialisms and onomatopoeia. It was fun to see all the poetry! Great job everybody. 💜

Many thanks to everyone who joined in below:

1.Reena Saxena7.Jules13.Pat
2.ben Alexander8.Aishwarya Kannan14.Colleen Chesebro
3.AJ9.Jude15.Ruth Klein
4.Willowdot2110.The Versesmith16.You’re next!
5.Paula Light11.M J Mallon  
6.Gwen Plano12.Kerfe  

Remember… we only have three #Tanka Tuesday challenges left in 2022. I will take the month of December off to promote my book ❄️ Fairies, Myths, & Magic II – A Winter Celebration. ❄️ Mark your calendars. I’ll be back January 3, 2023, for a new year of poetry challenges.

💚 November Photo Prompt: David

💛 November Theme Prompt: Franci (Eugi)

💜 November 29, 2022: Share Your Day

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See you tomorrow for the new challenge!

23 thoughts on “#TankaTuesday #Poetry Stars No. 297 | #SpecificForm: kouta

        1. I can’t help but wonder at a certain point whether people are just making up forms for the sake of making up forms and not because they need an appropriate form to convey what they have to say because existing forms won’t do it.

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          1. My opinion is they do not know the Japanese forms or what they offer. You know there is skill involved in these forms. Instead, they create a form without prior research. I’m all for creativity… just don’t say it’s an ancient form when it’s something you created last year. The Japanese wouldn’t have asked for colloquialisms and onomatopoeia… that was my first indication.

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          2. I agree. When I created the double ennead (99 syllable poetry) I spent countless hours checking to see if anyone else had already created a similar form. I couldn’t find anything, so finally went with it… but I acknowledged it was a new form. 😀

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