Tanka: Bigger and More Relaxed Than a Haiku

If a haiku is usually (mistakenly) thought of as a 3-line, 5-7-5 syllable poem, then the tanka would be a 5-line, 5-7-5-7-7 syllable poem. However, as with haiku, it’s better to think of a tanka as a 5-line poem with 3 short lines (lines 2, 4, 5) and 2 very short lines (lines 1 and 3).

While imagery is still important in tanka, the form is a little more conversational than haiku at times. It also allows for the use of poetic devices such as metaphor and personification (2 big haiku no-no’s).

Like haiku, tanka is a Japanese poetic form.

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While I’m sure there are problems with my attempt, here is my tanka attempt, which you can use as an example of the form:

Chopin’s waltzes
turn circles in my head
for hours
as I think of her hand
turning the world inside out

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Here are some other online tanka resources:

* http://www.americantanka.com/about.html

* http://www.ahapoetry.com/richtank.htm

* http://www.modernenglishtankapress.com/tankacentral/

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Check out other Poetic Forms.

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2 thoughts on “Tanka: Bigger and More Relaxed Than a Haiku

  1. Mike Bayles

    Dog and Squirrel (Revised)

    you entice in yard
    while in leash I walk your way
    I answer your call
    up a tree trunk you scold me
    desire fills my upward gaze

    again you want play
    while in leash you walk my way
    I deny your call
    up a tree trunk while you watch
    deception my play again

  2. Jeannine Hall Gailey

    Robert, thanks for this post on Tanka. It’s not as widely known a form in America as haiku, which is a shame, because I think it lends itself better to the style in which many Americans tend to write.
    My very favorite Japanese form of the moment is Haibun, though. Fun!

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