Tanka trolling….

I have a few friends who  write marvelous lyric poetry, and know their way around the Japanese form of Tanka.  I will ask them to weigh in on this issue, but it might take some time.  They reside in different parts of the world and sometimes messages are delayed by monsoons, tidal waves and earthquakes.  Really.

But I went on a search for other writer’s impressions on tanka and these two below were ‘interesting’.  I can’t say that I can get my head around their definitions, but I am trying.  Perhaps it will make sense to others reading.

I’ll post some classical pieces at the end that I hope will illustrate this subject of tanka.

Lady Nyo

By Pat Shelley, from Footsteps in the Fog, Foster City, California: Press Here, 1994:

“Tanka in English is a small lyrical poem that belongs to everyone. Still written in thirty-one or fewer syllables in five rhythmic lines, as it was over 1,200 years ago, it can embrace all of human experience in its brief space with emotions of love, pity, suffering, loneliness, or death, expressed in the simplest language. It may sometimes seem fragmentary or lacking in unity because it is more intuitive than analytical, using imagery rather than abstractions . . . . One of the more challenging (and charming) of its elements is the subtle turn at the center of the poem, something unexpected perhaps, usually occurring after the second or third line as two seemingly unrelated events, images, or ideas are brought together, something less than narrative, an elliptical space that adds pleasure to our listening. Tanka is about our everyday lives in the smallest happenings, a little song of celebration.”

By Gerald St. Maur, from his 1999 Haiku Canada Newsletter article entitled “From Haiku to Tanka: Reversing Poetical History” (also published in the TSA Newsletter, II:1, Spring 2001)

In going beyond the experience of the moment, the tanka takes us from delight to fulfillment, from insight to comprehension, and psycho-organism to love; in general, from the spontaneous to the measured. To achieve this requires a fundamental shift in emphasis: from glimpse to gaze, from first sight to exploration, and from juxtaposition to interplay, in short, from awareness to perspective . . . .It is thus evident that to compose a tanka is to articulate reflectively . . . . It is a shift which, in general, takes us from the simple to the complex. More pointedly, it moves us from the poetry of the noun to the poetry of the verb; in weaving terms, from the thread to the tapestry; in botanical terms, from seed to plant; in chemical terms, from element to compound; in painting terms, from sketch to picture; and in musical terms, from chord to melody.”

Ok…..articulate reflectively….will try to get my mind around this.  Perhaps it’s not so hard to do, and perhaps we do it more naturally than we think.

A man whose mind is

At one with the sky-void steps

Inside a spring mist

And thinks to himself he might

In fact step right out of the world.


In my heart’s sore depth

I keep our secret smothered

although this morning

I suffer like a snipe scratching

it’s lice covered feathers.

–Akazome Emon (10th century)

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2 Responses to “Tanka trolling….”

  1. M. Kei Says:

    The resources at TankaOnline.com and TankaCentral.com will point you to reliable and reputable sources for tanka online.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Sir, for the direction. Will look at those sites asap.

    Lady Nyo


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