Tanka – Writing Assignment #12

April is National Poetry Month

The Tanka Poem – Writing Assignment #12

Photo: Zen Meditation Garden – designed and created by Bob and Lynda Lambert, Wurtemburg, PA

Did you set a goal or intend to do a  special project for April?

It’s National Poetry Month!

I chose to write a TANKA-a- Day  during  April. This is a challenge to me because I never wrote a TANKA poem before this month.  I wanted to try something new when I decided to choose the TANKA form. It dates back about 1200 years in Japan.   I had to dig into some research on the Japanese Poetry Form.  This is what I will share with you today.


What is a TANKA poem? 

The TANKA poem originated in Japan.

Typically, the topics of the TANKA are nature, seasons, romance, sadness, love, strong human emotions.

Tanka poems do not have titles and they are not numbered!

In the Tanka, the writer uses personification, metaphor, and other allusions. The lyrical intensity of the Tanka gives a sense of a personal and intimate world

There is no need for capitalization or punctuation in the Tanka.

I like this so much since I like to allow the reader to use her imagination  by filling in thoughts as she reads through the poem.  Fragmentation in this form of poem is highly desirable. It leaves the poem “open” and allows the reader to develop the poem in a creative way while reading it.  Punctuation cuases a poem to have stops and stalls in it and is directional and didactic. The Tanka flows smoothly without this kind of direction by the writer.

What does the TANKA look like?

It is a poem form that has 5 lines.

Each of the 5  lines has a specific syllable count. It will be 5,7,5,7, 7

What else do I need to know to write a TANKA poem?

The lines will be like this:

_Line 1:  5  syllables – Line 1 would be one or two  concrete personal images. Keep it simple and write from personal experiences.

_Line 2:  7 syllables – Line 2  write reflections on how you felt or what you were doing or thinking about in the first line’s experiences.

_Line 3:  5  syllables – Line 3 describes thoughts or feelings   This is the PIVOT LINE of the poem! It refers back to lines 1 and 2; and ahead to lines 4 and 5.  You may have to switch and move lines around to get this working in the poem’s  format.

_ Line 4: 7 syllables that combine all five lines of the poem’s images and ideas

_Line 5:  7 syllables that continue to carry out your themes and imagery.  This final line is probably the most important line in the poem, and here is where you surprise your reader.


Here is a Tanka poem I wrote today. I had been outside in the early morning walking my dog. Rain had dampened the earth significantly before we departed on our walk. As we walked through the soft gray mists, rain once again started falling down on us. I put up my red umbrella, and my dog and I continued walking together.


wet red umbrella

cool morning rain and grey mists

tiny lilac buds

we step into soggy grass

rain water soaks our bodies


Walking by Inner Vision Journal –  Writing Assignment #12

Using the directions above, create your own Tanka poem!

I would love to read your poem – send it to me or post it in the comments below.

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Thanks for visiting today!


NOTICE:  Read my post, The Tanka Poem, Part 2 – for additional information on the poem form.  You can find it here: The Tanka Poem, Part 2

Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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