The Trouble with Tanka-1

The trouble with Tanka is that it is extremely hard to write it right. Even if you discount the syllable structure (5/7/5/7/7), the challenge of keeping the sensory experience of nature, the heart of haiku, in the first three “upper” lines and expanding the subject to include reaction/ emotion in the two “lower” lines, is formidable. Am experimenting with Tanka writing techniques this month through prompts at CDHK, mainly on twitter (tp_poetry), but will consolidate here periodically.

the leaves have fallen
the cold October light
has no place to hide
clouds weep
in the shade where we once sat


how easily
the sun lies
that the night is gone
inside the unwilling heart
there are still dark secrets


slowly in shades of green
the sun lifts the mist
from the valley floor
across cloud spilt mountains
the arc of a lost parrot


a fine shower
cooling the air
touching nothing
one rose brushes her satin gown
her eyes red with tears

Fujiwara no Teika’s Tanka Technique 1: Mystery and Depth – yūgentei – an image evoking ineffable loneliness.

13 thoughts on “The Trouble with Tanka-1

  1. I had to read these tanka several times to “make contact” with them … They are beautiful and as already said writing tanka isn’t easy, and starting to create them can bring joy, but the tanka are writing themselves (?). Just let them do that. Tanka will lead your hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great page. I find tsnka has more and more to offer the composer everyday! You and Ese master the haiku so carefully and beautifully, and I enjoy the state of never being able yo master the tanka, yet attempting to do so.
    In your first tanka “the october night” kept the tanka literary and distant. I would have said “this october night” would have give more immediacy and emotion.
    In the last tanks you used the tears…. I am not sure if that is valid…I mean…touch sentimental


    1. Always appreciate your feedback. The first technique was to represent ineffable loneliness, hence sentiment and melancholy. The difficulty with tanka makes one appreciate the old Japanese masters more and more!

      Liked by 1 person

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