The ‘Turas’

A poetry form by Heath Houston

From the Irish “Turas” (meaning “Journey”).

It is inspired by a blend of Syllabic metered verse (eg. cinquain, haiku, lune) and early Heian Period Japanese poetry forms. The impact of Haiku, Tanka, and Renga (in addition to the more obscure and ancient Sedōka and Mondōka I have played around with from time to time) should be evident here, in particular, the haiku’s vivid but economical scene description in the first and last stanzas. The middle portion (the Journey or Blossom) takes inspiration from one of the Cinquain forms I’m fond of.

Figuring in, equally, is the oral poetic history tradition among the ancient Irish regarding the story aspect of the poem, the journey. The turas is rather short, easy to commit to memory, easily adapted to music, and is intended to cover a style very much in common with heroic tales, in that there is a beginning (the hero always has a beginning), and there is the present hero (or the present tale/memory of the hero) and the story tells us how he/she got from one point to the other. I could imagine it as a story “seed” which an ancient story-teller would memorize and then elaborate with their own style.

I had toyed with the idea of calling it Sakuka, Sakitua, or just Saku (ie. Sakuka is a combination of Saku (to blossom/or bloom) and Ka/Uta (poem (song?)), as in Tanka and Waka, but I am unsure if it actually forms together as Sakuka or Sakiuta, though I could have just gone with Saku). However, I’m not Japanese, nor am I a Japanophile, so I felt making up a name in Japanese for my poetry form would be odd and maybe a bit pretentious. Being of old Irish stock, myself, I felt Turas would be a bit less likely to cause a fuss or confusion.

The Form:

A beginning and an end written in reverse syllable lines:
Beginning stanza: 4/5/3 
Ending stanza: 3/5/4

These stanzas describe two related scenes, a beginning and an end (though I suppose an inventive individual could Tarantino that into an end and a beginning).

The beginning and end stanzas should resemble a sort of snapshot of a scene as opposed to actions taking place, very much like a proper haiku (I write a bunch of improper haiku :p hence my mentioning proper so as not to come off as a hypocrite). Movement/Action should be very limited .

The middle is written after and bridges the beginning and end from one scene to the other. It’s syllable count is 4/5/7/5/4. There is no style restriction, though the middle should flow from one scene to the other, connected to both. This is where any sort of action, movement, development, etc should take place.



Dressed up for me,
you are quite the sight
in black suede.
And so we danced,
passions held in check
until we reached the front door
where we came undone
from just a kiss.
asleep in my shirt,
your hair a mess.
— Heath Houston

(Beginning Scene)

Dressed up for me,
you are quite the sight
in black suede.


And so we danced,
passions held in check
until we reached the front door
where we came undone
from just a kiss.

(Ending Scene)

asleep in my shirt,
your hair a mess.

A tentatively planned “Epic Turas” would consist of typical Beginning and Ending stanzas and at least 3 Journey stanzas separated by Intermediate stanzas which are written in the same style as the Beginning and Ending stanzas.:

4/5/3 — Beginning stanza
4/5/7/5/4 — Journey #1
3/5/4 — Intermediate stanza, link #1
4/5/7/5/4 — Journey #2
4/5/3 — Intermediate stanza, link #2
4/5/7/5/4 — Journey #3
3/5/4 — Ending stanza

It would be written as:
Intermediate #1
Intermediate #2
Intermediate #x

— and then the Journey portions would be written after. I haven’t tried this out yet. I do have some potential ideas, though.

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