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.
A Tanka is a type of poem that originated from Japan in the eighth century. Tanka poems, in their purest form, are most generally written to express self-reflection, love, or gratitude. A suitor would compile a Tanka and send it to a woman the following day after a date. The woman would then reply back in kind. The poems were like short, secret messages expressing gratitude, love, meaning, or desire, and often climaxed in a persuading message.
These days, much of the original purpose of Tanka poems has been lost. Poets often include any topic that blends itself well with Tanka poems, but some topics simply don’t blend themselves. For example, other forms of poetry ought to be employed when writing about a topic such as the frustration of cooking eggs and bacon.
Nonetheless, when writing a poem that includes personal experience that results in a profound feeling, Tanka would be perfect. Tanka poems ought to include some deep purpose or meaning, and leave the readers with a very strong feeling.