Wrote the Monk Zenko somewhere between 1330 and 1333 in his work, Essays in Idleness,
excerpted from Donald Keene¶s book, Japanese Aesthetics):
n everything, no matter that it may be, uniformity is undesirable. Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting,and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth. Someone once told me, 'Evenwhen building the imperial palace, they always leave one place unfinished.' . . . People often say that a set of books looks ugly if all volumes are not in the same format, but
was impressed to hear the Abbot Koyu say, '
t is typical of theunintelligent man to insist on assembling complete sets of everything.
mperfect setsare better.¶
Donald Keene gives this example in his book, Japanese Aesthetics:³
The Sistine Chapel is magnificent, but it asks our admiration rather than our participation; the15 stones of the Ryoan-ji [a stone garden], irregular in shape and position, allow us to participate in the creation of the garden."
This principle also can be applied to the composition of tanka. Tanka that doesn¶t tell all invitesreaders to participate in the poem. A poet starts the poem and the reader finishes it with hisinterpretation. It is important to include the reader in one¶s poem. ³
entices readers to look deeper, and through this exploration, sense what theemotional content and meaning of the poem is.
is a valuable tool for tanka poets who
use less than 31 syllables and only five lines in the composition of their poetry. States HasegawaKei, the author of over 20 books on haiku criticism, in an interview I conducted with him in July2008:
estern culture does not recognize this thing called ma.
n the literary arts, everything must be expressed by words. But Japanese literature, especially haiku, is different. As with the
blank spaces in a painting or the silent parts of a musical composition, it is what is not put intowords that is important.´
This applies to tanka as well, the concept of Ma permeating every
aspect of Japanese life. Still hard to understand? Let¶s dig deeper.Adding another facet to the definition of the unsaid, poet/translator, Sanford Goldstein says,
The unsaid is what
would call effective ambiguity(aimai).´
Ambiguity?Remember what I said about the differences between languages regarding thedefinitions of various words? Webster Dictionary defines ambiguity as:
uncertainty or inexactness of meaning in language : we can detect no ambiguity in this section of the Act | ambiguities in such questions are potentially very dangerous.
a lack of decisiveness or commitment resulting from a failure to make a choice betweenalternatives : the film is fraught with moral ambiguity.
A Japanese poet sees the word in a different light. They don¶t define ambiguity as only
uncertainty, inexactness, or a lack of decisiveness.
Ambiguity is also a tool in which one doesn¶t