Tanka, as you may know, is a Japanese form slightly longer than haiku. The traditional pattern calls for five lines, a total of 31 syllables, in the pattern 5, 7, 5, 7, 7.
If you’d like to learn about tanka, I recommend Janet Davis’s blog, twigs&stones, which I’ve just added to my blogroll: http://www.twigsandstones-poems.blogspot.com/
Here are a few of my favorites among the tanka she has recently published on her blog.
One she offered for July 4: though I usually make my own potato salad, I can feel the embarrassment in the word “shriveling”.
the brimming bowl
of potato salad
she made at home
…..my tub of store-bought
…..shriveling beside it
—red lights, Vol. 9, No. 2, June 2013
A more serious moment is described in this one:
rise up as I approach …
on the long drive
to the hospital
I hope for an “all clear”
—American Tanka, June 2013, Issue 22
The next one struck me because I have been working on a poem on a similar subject. What she says in five lines is something I struggled to say in eighteen:
I trace them
clear back to Jamestown—
of the grandfather
I knew little about
—Simply Haiku, Winter 2009, Vol. 7, No. 4
You have no doubt noticed that none of these examples reach the number of 31 syllables. As with haiku, tanka writers in English strive for greater conciseness. As a beginner in this form, however, I am finding that the 31 syllable form is a good place to start.
Enjoy many more tanka at twigs&stones.