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Tanka Definition

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 short poem, similar to a Haiku, of 8th century Japanese origin which are often 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. 

Tanka Poem Example

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.
 

 

Other Tanka Definition

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


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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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