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Tanka Definition

Poetry Definition of Tanka

A Japanese poem of five lines, the first and third composed of five syllables and the others seven. In Japanese, tanka is often written in one straight line, but in English and other languages, we usually divide the lines into the five syllabic units: 5-7-5-7-7.

Each tanka is divided into two segments. The first three lines are the upper phrase, and the last two lines are the lower phrase. The upper phrase typically contains an image, and the lower phrase exposes the poet's ideas about that image. 

Tanka poems are similar to a haiku but have two additional lines and usually feature as its subject very strong emotion or love. Conversely, Haikus are typically about nature. 


Since the nightingale
kept soundless, its song’s echo 
renders mestone deaf.
If it would know my sorrow
would it  maybe sing again?



Vasile Moldovan



Saying Goodbye


Carefully I walk
Trying so hard to be brave
They all see my fear
Dark glasses cover their eyes
As mine flow over with tears


Author Unknown

Mother's silent pain
carved with her dead son in arms
Cold and timeless pain
like the Carrara marble
like our always current sins
Ruben O.


Top 5 Tanka Poem Examples

PMPoem TitlePoetFormCategories
Premium Member Poem In Strangler's Wood - tanka version Dietrich, Andrea Tankamystery, rain, autumn, rain,
Premium Member Poem JEALOUSY A , Poet Destroyer Tankaabuse, anger, conflict, dark,
Premium Member Poem In Twilight O., Ruben Tankabangla,
December Magic Sanchez, Pandita Tankabeauty, december, magic, snow,
Premium Member Poem Regret Callus, Paul Tankababy, sad,

Standard Definition

[n] a form of Japanese poetry; the 1st and 3rd lines have five syllables and the 2nd, 4th, and 5th have seven syllables

See Also...

poem, verse form

Misc. Definitions

\Tan"ka\, n. (Naut.) A kind of boat used in Canton. It is about 25 feet long and is often rowed by women. Called also {tankia}. --S. W. Williams.

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