I usually write haiku, and not very often only when I sit on twitter . I have friends there who twit haiku very often. There are some peoples who make online tanka. I know about tanka few years already and for me is very interesting that some people including me promote those old styles of writing poetry on twitter.  O.K.

What is #tanka?

Something that is not haiku, sedoka, choka, onji, renga, senryu, … 🙂 [this was the hard part]

  • Tanka is a classic form of Japanese poetry related to the haiku with five unrhymed lines of five, seven, five, seven and seven syllables. (5, 7, 5, 7, 7)
  • (the other one) Tanka, the oldest Japanese poetry form, was often written to explore religious or courtly themes and had a structure of five lines with a  5-7-5-7-7 syllable structure. One person would contribute the first three lines (5-7-5) of the tanka, and a different author would complete the poem by composing a 7-7 section and adding a pivot point such as in this tanka from George Knox at Aha! Poetry:

In the check-out line

a worn face ahead of me

turns tentatively…

Realities of desire

fade in final reckoning.

-tanka by George Knox

  • From tanka’s long history – over 1300 years recorded in Japan – the most famous use of the poetry form of #tanka was a secret message between lovers. Arriving home in the morning, after having dallied with a lover all night, it became the custom of well-mannered persons to write an immediate thank-you note for the pleasure of the hospitality. Stylized into a convenient five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 onji, the little expressing one’s feelings were sent in special paper containers, written on a fan, or knotted on a branch or stem of a single blossom. These were delivered to the lover by personal messenger who then was given something to drink along with his chance to flirt with the household staff. During this interval a responding #tanka was to be written in reply to the first note which the messenger would return to his master. Jane Reichhold

One of the trademarks of a tanka (besides the traditional five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 onji — syllables) is a short poetic statement depicting nature (here it may seem much like something you could call a haiku) which is linked to a designated feeling or emotional attitude of the author. This latter aspect is a basic one dividing the two forms today.

By expressing emotional feelings tanka affirms a connectedness between something unseen but real — our feelings — with the observable world around us. Tanka gives the mind a picture which can, if it is successful, joins for and evokes a felt emotional state.

Tanka have changed and evolved over the centuries, but the form of five syllabic units containing 31 syllables has remained the same.Topics have expanded from the traditional expressions of passion and heartache, and styles have changed to include modern language and even colloquialisms.

Characteristics of #tanka

  • 31 syllables, 5 lines;
  • Write the first section of a tanka (5-7-5), similar to a haiku;
  • Another person picks up the first 3 lines and writes a response (or continuation) by composing two lines of 7-7 syllables;
  • Can reflect nature or lean toward senryu;
  • Emotional, contemplative, imaginative, reflective, written to be chanted.


Many clouds unfurled

rise at cloud-decked Izumo;

Round you spouse to hold

raise many folder barriers

like those barriers manifold.

(old tanka)

For me one of the most important thing for writing East forms of poetry is to follow your heart, to open the doors for the words that show emotions, to catch moments from your happiness between the lines, to make pictures from the nature…while the ants prepare for the next winter.