Breathe: A Waka* with Kennings**


Breathe: A Waka* with Kennings**

Come breaker of trees
Crawl ‘tween shining sky-candle
and vast blue whale’s way,
blow the burning bane of wood
breathe life back to me, for good.

©2016 Rosemawrites@A Reading Writer. All Rights Reserved.

Photo credit: Unsplash

In response to Napowrimo Day 20. (yes, catching up! :D)


And finally, our prompt (optional, as always)! Today’s prompt comes to us from Vince Gotera, who suggests a prompt very much in keeping with our poet in translation, a “kenning” poem.

**Kennings were riddle-like metaphors used in the Norse sagas. Basically, they are ways of calling something not by its actual name, but by a sort of clever, off-kilter description — for example, the sea would be called the “whale road.” Today, I challenge you to think of a single thing or person (a house, your grandmother, etc), and then write a poem that consists of kenning-like descriptions of that thing or person. 

Kennings I used are:

Wind – breaker of trees
Sun – sky-candle
Sea – whale’s way
Fire – bane of wood


The waka is:

  • a pentastich, a poem written in 5 lines.
  • syllabic, 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. 31 onji, in English, 31 syllables.
  • true to the heart of the poet. The inspiration is to be drawn from the experience.
  • an early model for the tanka and many other Japanese forms.
  • gathered into collections. In most Japanese anthologies poems are arranged in seasonal sequence followed by considered, poetic-worthy topics such as love or grief.

Read more of my Napowrimo 2016 poems here!

35 thoughts on “Breathe: A Waka* with Kennings**”

  1. I first read the poem without annotations. Seemed to me like a depiction of the vices and virtues of the wind: potent, always moving, rescues from fire, inspires. There was an ancient sound applied to modern person. Now I’ve read the notes and appreciate the work more closely. Grand treatment of the forms, Rosema!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very very much! I think even without my note I would love how you interpreted this poem. Your mind is wise and creative, that’s why you are one of my favorite readers. ❤


  2. *takes a deep beath* Haaayy! Clever take Rosema, Kennings sounds a tricky one. I especially love the last line, “breathe life back to me, for good.” Bravo! ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice use of Jennings. They are very fun. Found in Chaucer and Beuwolf. Very old writing. I liked your end line “breathe life back to me, for good.” I’m a sucker for good endlines as you’ve probably figured out. 💐

    Liked by 1 person

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