‘To dream away a’


Our first question, as ever, was whether we should try to emulate the form of this tanka with the closest English equivalent, a syllabic pattern of 5/7/5/7/7. Given the brevity of the literals, it felt a bit like we would have to pad the lines out to fill to form, something UK poets are inevitably reluctant to do (‘make every word count’ is one of the Commandments of workshop culture). Our bridge translator Alan Cummings was very persuasive though – he feels English versions of Japanese poetry often make too much of a fetish of brevity, when actually tankas are looser than haiku, more conversational and more linguistically ‘expensive’ as he beautifully put it.

Karan Kurose is Buddhist, and this fed into our many interpretations of the first question. Is he talking about spending your life daydreaming or sleeping (or even writing)? Or are we all actually in a dream, reality itself being an illusion? Does the speaker think dreaming away a life is a sin or not? We wanted the charge to be ambiguous. The seagull melting into the white cliff is like a dream dissipating on wakening, but is perhaps also a reminder that we are all part of the same thing, and our individuality is the dream.

Clare Pollard, Poet-facilitator

Please note: this tanka does not have a title so we have used the first line as a title.