The tanka (a word which means "short poem") is five lines long - it's essentially a haiku followed by two more longer lines. In Japanese syllable count, which is a bit different from what we do in English, it's 5-7-5-7-7. It's most often written in English using those syllable counts as well.
The opening three lines are similar to a haiku or senryu, using concrete imagery to set the scene or establish the subject of the tanka. The final two lines elaborate on the subject by delving deeper into the emotional heart of the poem. The use of metaphor or simile is encouraged in the tanka, particularly in the closing two lines.
Here's one in translation from a poet called Okura, from the late 7th or early 8th century:
What are they to me,
silver, or gold, or jewels?
How could they ever
equal the greater treasure
that is a child? They can not.
I'll be spending the better part of the next week on this form, so if you're interested in it, I hope you'll come back and/or hang around!
If you've been around my blog this week, you will know that (surprise!) I've been posting every day about haiku, and haiku's sibling, the senryū. Here's a list to this week's content, with links:
4/2 There's always time for haiku, an introduction
4/3 What a haiku is, an overview
4/4 Can I get a kigo?, a post about the use of seasonal words in haiku
4/5 How a haiku is like a sonnet, a post about the "cut" or "turn" in haiku
4/6 How big of an insight or realization do I need in my haiku?, with examples from old masters
4/7 Senryū, haiku's sibling, about those short "haiku" that are really about people's behavior or emotions
You can find other (unrelated) Poetry Friday posts at my poetry sister Laura Purdie Salas's blog by clicking the box below.