Friday, December 10, 2010

Tanka Poems

The Tanka is a 5 Line, Japanese style short poem or song with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern.  Other variations exist like 3-5-3-5-5, but in general the Tanka is adhered to more strictly than Haiku. Originally sent between lovers, the man or woman would start the Tanka and then let their love interest finish the poem or song. In the past each line represented individual images which melted together into one whole like the marriage or desired union of the couple writing the Tanka. As with Haiku, images of nature play a role. The old form would use lines 1, 2 and 3 like a Haiku about nature, but lines 4 and 5 would be about the writer’s emotions linking them to nature. The contrast between lines 3 and 4 is usually called the transformation because of the change in time, person, place, thing or voice to define the relationship. Modern Tanka can be an expression of any memory, emotion, desire or even loss. The new Tanka still use images, but they are not strictly of nature, nor do they adhere strictly to the placing of the transformation. In the example below, the change arrives early in lines 1 and 2 setting the poem up as a memory and placing it at a time in the writer’s life. Lines 3, 4, and 5 are the building of the image.

Example: by Frank G. Poe, Jr.

Tanka for Dad
When Going To Church
At Age Five You Helped Me Steer
Our Family Car
Old Betsy Blue, Down Dusty
Louisiana Dirt Road

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