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:

railroad arms
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—
forebears
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.

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