Saturday, September 19, 2020

poetry form week 51 : tanka



What is Tanka?

Tanka Written In Japanese


Tanka is a poetry form which originated in Japan more than 13 centuries ago. In its purest form, tanka poems are most commonly written as expressions of gratitude, love, or self-reflection. Suitors would send a tanka to a woman the day after a date, and she would reply in kind. These were short messages (like secret letters) expressing love, desire, meaning, or gratitude. These poems often culminated in a transcendental message.


Tanka poems do not rhyme, and they are written in short lines, like haiku. In fact, tanka poems in English generally adhere to a syllabic count. There are five syllables (onji) in the first line, seven in the second, five in the third, and seven in lines four and five (5/7/5/7/7). Some poets hold that the syllable count is unimportant–what matters is that the form is suited to the subject. At Tanka Journal, we enjoy the syllable counts, but we are more concerned with poems having personal experience or a transcendental meaning (preferably both). See the Tanka Recipe and video below.



The 5/7/5/7/7 rule is rumored to have been made up for school children to understand and learn this type of poetry. For an in depth description of Tanka, please visit the Shadow Poetry Japanese Poetry Tanka section.

Example #1:
A cool wind blows in
With a blanket of silence.
Straining to listen
For those first few drops of rain,
The storm begins in earnest.



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