Hungry but not starved she hurried toward the village chest heaving breathing in the familiar scent she knew she was home at last.
—by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
This form is called a tanka. “The tanka is a thirty-one-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single unbroken line. A form of waka, Japanese song or verse, tanka translates as “short song,” and is better known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count form.”
After talking with my poetry buddy today, I was challenged to write a tanka. The tanka is described as the form of poetry that comprised the majority of Japanese poetry from the ninth to the nineteenth century. In fact, several sources list it as possibly the central genre in Japanese literature. According to one website, the tanka has “prototypes in communal song, in oral literature dating back to the seventh century, or earlier.”
A tanka is structured much like a haiku with each line containing a certain number of syllables. There is no rhyming and no end punctuation used in this form, however, it does make use of a “pivot” or “turning point” line. The third line is the pivot that divides the tanka into two different sections that are joined in the middle in order to tell the whole story.
The syllable breakdown for the five lines looks like this: 5 – 7 – 5 – 7 – 7
Lately I’ve really been pining for my red maple. It’s my favorite tree, and Monday it must come down. In full disclosure, this may not be my last Red-Maple-Inspired Poem. I will be pining the loss of it for years to come.
vast red towering
gnarled trunk with knotty whorls
to holy righteous living
today we fell it