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Today, a brief introduction to the tanka, which I have in the past referred to as a haiku pulling a trailer.

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.





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Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
jamarattigan
Apr. 8th, 2016 07:20 pm (UTC)
There's really a poet called Okra? Love your definition of tanka. :)
kellyrfineman
Apr. 9th, 2016 07:42 pm (UTC)
There really isn't - it's Okura, and autocorrect changed it without me realizing. DRAT!
lpsalas
Apr. 8th, 2016 10:22 pm (UTC)
from Laura Purdie Salas
Jama, thank you for noticing that, too. I wondered if the poet was slimy. OK, seriously, thanks for the background on tanka--like Jama (see, great minds do think alike), I really enjoyed your definition!
kellyrfineman
Apr. 9th, 2016 07:43 pm (UTC)
Re: from Laura Purdie Salas
I hate when autocorrect messes without me noticing - it's Okura.
Joy Frelinger
Apr. 8th, 2016 11:35 pm (UTC)
Tanka
Thank you for spending time this week with tanka.
For me the fascinating thing about tanka isn't the syllable counts but the history of the form. Concubines used to write tanka to leave on the pillow of their benefactor. These are some of the earliest love poems written by women. These poems were collected into booklets--pillow books and the benefactor paid for the publication of books of this art. These pillow books were some of the earliest poetry books published of women's poetry.
kellyrfineman
Apr. 9th, 2016 07:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Tanka
So glad you stopped by to share that!
Mary Lee Hahn
Apr. 9th, 2016 01:27 pm (UTC)
First of all -- "haiku pulling a trailer." HAHAHA!!!

And secondly, adding your URL to my daily Poetry Month wanderings -- I'll be going back to read last week's posts!!
kellyrfineman
Apr. 9th, 2016 07:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Mary Lee!!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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