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.


How many emotions exist,
did I inherit them all?
how do I know which ones I got,
how do I know if they work or not,
and how do I find the one I missed,
the one I never felt at all?

For now this emptiness
like a flower that will not
bloom or wilt;

Why did it spring
after love and tears;
how did it come
after lonesome fear?
perhaps in place
of that one I missed,
the one I never got at all.

12/4/15: Linked to Poets United