Tanka

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic

Tanka is a classic Japanese form, with a syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. Even if you don't enjoy poetry, I promise you'll enjoy these!

I plan to enter some of these in a Tanka competition, so please leave a comment voting for your favorite!


Tanka is an ancient Japanese form of poetry, older and less familiar than Haiku. The syllable patter is normally 5-7-5-7-7, though many tanka poets who write in English will take any combination of 5 lines and 31 syllables. In classic tanka, the upper verse (5-7-5) sets a comparison or natural scene: the lower verse (7-7) pertains to an important life passage. I try to stick to that pattern as much as possible.


1. Miracles

They don't amaze us
If they can't make us smile
But sometimes I think
the Devil works miracles
every bit as great as God's


2. Swansong

Graceful, moon-white swans
carry immortality
on wings of starlight
with the proper precautions
six months can be forever


3. Crab Apples

Wind blows crab apples
down from their white-blossomed throne
If change is so good
why do they moan as they are
carried away on the breeze?


4. Flowers in Autumn

Smiling in the grass
Summer flower in Autumn
Golden flare of hope
I wish our lives could be thus,
not fast fading candle flames


5. Ice

Winter chills the air
Clear ice encases branches
sparkles like crystal
I miss you with all my heart
The ice inside never melts


6. Over Dinner

In the Dining Room
We stare across the table
We are both silent
Then, you seem to want to speak...
You only say, "Pass the salt."
?

7. Faces

Faces on the train
Twisting around each other
all blur into you
Surrounded by so many
I feel so very alone


8. Remember

I can remember
his eyes, his voice, his smile
his hand clutching mine
as we run through the soft snow
I can't remember his name


9. Drink

Cold rain pounds the roof
Inside, the hot shower
will burn away your touch
I drink in the steam-filled air
and the water tastes like blood


10. Snowflakes

Catching white snow flakes
In our warm black-mittened hands
they will glisten there,
but only for a moment
before they melt into black


11. Dragonflies

Blue-winged dragonflies
hover over the water
glistening monsters
The slightest touch makes me burn
and those little wings are strong


12. White Curtains

Heavy white curtains
fight to keep the golden sun
out of her bedroom
They look like her wedding dress
yards of weighted, dusty lace


13. Empty Bed

I lay in bed, cold
sheets hold your shape beside me
my soul holds nothing
though newly gone from my bed
you are long gone from my heart


14. Monument

When I first met you
I wanted to carve your name
in the solid stone
Somewhere along the line
I must have confused stone with sand


15. Broken Vase

Like a child tries
to repair his mother's vase
with tender fingers
You are only gentle with
things you've already broken


16. Smile

Her dark eyes are blind
She's told they are beautiful
at those words, she laughs
and her smile is like sunlight:
it does not reach her eyes


17. The Moon

The full silver moon
sits on her throne in the sky
and I envy her
I know she is with you
every night, while I sleep alone


18. White Curtains II

On her wedding day
White-web curtains lock the sun
out of her bedroom
They look like her wedding dress
a white flag of surrender


19. Winter Lullabye

I hear our love song
as I curl up on the couch
by the fireplace
I hear the scratch of your pen
on sheets of cold white paper


20. December

White snow will soften
the edges of your tombstone
Did you know? This snow
is the first I've faced alone
Your grave looked colder in June


21. The Tree

Black against the sky
a single tree on the hill
moans in the night wind
When she thinks no one can hear
I know she is lonely, too


22. The River

The frozen river
is a solid sheet of ice
beneath the surface
the crystal water sleeps safe
where no one looks too closely

23. A Romance

He will always claim
that he loves me more than gold
I'm not so sure
He cried when I gave his ring back
without saving the receipt


24. Strangers

Beautiful strangers
pass me on the street, and smile
I don't smile back
Everyone is ugly
Once you get to know them


25. Moonlight

Surrounded by stars
the Moon is lonely tonight
waiting for the Sun
They were lovers once, but now
They are two worlds apart


26. A Conversation

"You are beautiful."
"You say it like you mean it."
"Why won't you believe me?
You've always been beautiful."
"You've always been a fool."


27. Last Words

Our parting words
endlessly repeat in my head
without meaning
As though I'm overhearing
the conversation of strangers


28. Brutal

In so many words
This is the short history
of a long night
You came, you saw, you conquered
and left me wondering, et tu?


29. Willows

Wind in the willows
fragile green branches breaking
writhing in the night
Oh God, I'm weary of wind
The silence won't let me rest


30. Blossoms

Cherry blossoms
I meant to pick a handful
before the frost
I only find the right words
when you're too far away to hear


31. Footprints

It snowed last night
everything covered in snow
except our footprints
Beauty can only hide
what wasn't deep to begin with


32. Boreas

Icy morning wind
Cold fingers tangle my hair--
a winter embrace
I keep remembering you
and it just makes me colder


33. Tears

Some wounds are so deep
no one can ever see them
but you still feel them
Look up, smile through the pain
let us think they're happy tears


34. Lilies

Floating white lilies
petaled stars in a deep sky
untroubled by waves
They think they'll live forever
and we know nothing of frost


35. Less Traveled

Two roads diverged
and I chose the one less traveled:
the path was unworn
and I soon lost my way
in that silent yellow wood


36. For a Season

You were like the snow
Soft, comforting, yeilding, white
Now, you are like ice
Trecherous, cold, beautiful
I am so sick of winter

37. Unconvinced

No point pretending
we can't remember the past
But why dwell on it?
We can never move foreward
If we can't stop looking back


38. Victory

I never chose this
but then again, who would?
This just isn't fair
I might have won the battle
if there hadn't been a war

39. Price

Life's just money
you don't know how to spend
and you're just the girl
with a thousand dollar watch
and a fifty cent soul




Submitted: January 30, 2007

© Copyright 2021 Bitter Irony. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

Tesseth

Yes...very enjoyable. Alot for one post!...but then that's probably just my short, poor attention span! Thanks for sharing...some are lovely, some funny, all well done!

Tue, January 30th, 2007 9:07pm

Author
Reply

Thank you! I didn't think of the length when posting, thank you for mentioning that. Maybe I'll cut it down to two posts.

~Bitter Irony

Tue, January 30th, 2007 6:41pm

EdwardJBradleySr

Bitter Irony:

Fantastic effort.

Truly raw talent. Gloriously displayed.

My response is structured as follows:

- Tanka poems in my response where the number of syllables within a line is discrepant are denoted with the number of syllables which actually comprise the line appearing at the end of the line. Most of these are not among my favorites.

- Tanka poems without annotation are the ones I liked. They are: #21 The Tree; #22 The River; #34 Lilies; #36 For A Season(sp- yielding & treacherous);
#37 Unconvinced. If I have to choose just one then it must be #21 The Tree.

- Tanka poems #-23 A Romance; #-24 Strangers; while having lines with discrepant numbers of syllables, I found to be the most entertaining but were not among the best on the list for the competition.

1. Miracles

They don't amaze us
If they can't make us smile (6)
But sometimes I think
the Devil works miracles
every bit as great as God's


8. Remember

I can remember
his eyes, his voice, his smile (6)
his hand clutching mine
as we run through the soft snow
I can't remember his name


9. Drink

Cold rain pounds the roof
Inside, the hot shower (6)
will burn away your touch (6)
I drink in the steam-filled air
and the water tastes like blood


14. Monument

When I first met you
I wanted to carve your name
in the solid stone
Somewhere along the line (6)
I must have confused stone with sand (8)


15. Broken Vase

Like a child tries (4)
to repair his mother's vase
with tender fingers
You are only gentle with
things you've already broken


16. Smile

Her dark eyes are blind
She's told they are beautiful
at those words, she laughs
and her smile is like sunlight:
it does not reach her eyes (6)


17. The Moon

The full silver moon
sits on her throne in the sky
and I envy her
I know she is with you (6)
every night, while I sleep alone (8)


19. Winter Lullabye

I hear our love song
as I curl up on the couch
by the fireplace (4)
I hear the scratch of your pen
on sheets of cold white paper


21. The Tree

Black against the sky
a single tree on the hill
moans in the night wind
When she thinks no one can hear
I know she is lonely, too


22. The River

The frozen river
is a solid sheet of ice
beneath the surface
the crystal water sleeps safe
where no one looks too closely

23. A Romance

He will always claim
that he loves me more than gold
I'm not so sure (4)
He cried when I gave his ring back (8)
without saving the receipt


24. Strangers

Beautiful strangers
pass me on the street, and smile
I don't smile back (4)
Everyone is ugly (6)
Once you get to know them (6)


25. Moonlight

Surrounded by stars
the Moon is lonely tonight
waiting for the Sun
They were lovers once, but now
They are two worlds apart (6)


26. A Conversation

"You are beautiful."
"You say it like you mean it."
"Why won't you believe me? (6)
You've always been beautiful."
"You've always been a fool." (6)


27. Last Words

Our parting words (4)
endlessly repeat in my head (8)
without meaning (4)
As though I'm overhearing
the conversation of strangers (8)


28. Brutal

In so many words
This is the short history
of a long night (4)
You came, you saw, you conquered
and left me wondering, et tu? (8)


30. Blossoms

Cherry blossoms (4)
I meant to pick a handful
before the frost (4)
I only find the right words
when you're too far away to hear (8)


31. Footprints

It snowed last night (4)
everything covered in snow
except our footprints
Beauty can only hide (6)
what wasn't deep to begin with (8)


32. Boreas

Icy morning wind
Cold fingers tangle my hair--
a winter embrace
I keep remembering you
and it just makes me colder


33. Tears

Some wounds are so deep
no one can ever see them
but you still feel them
Look up, smile through the pain (6)
let us think they're happy tears


34. Lilies

Floating white lilies
petaled stars in a deep sky
untroubled by waves
They think they'll live forever
and we know nothing of frost


35. Less Traveled

Two roads diverged (4)
and I chose the one less traveled: (8)
the path was unworn
and I soon lost my way (6)
in that silent yellow wood


36. For a Season

You were like the snow
Soft, comforting, yielding, white
Now, you are like ice
Treacherous, cold, beautiful
I am so sick of winter

37. Unconvinced

No point pretending
we can't remember the past
But why dwell on it?
We can never move foreward
If we can't stop looking back


38. Victory

I never chose this
but then again, who would? (6)
This just isn't fair
I might have won the battle
if there hadn't been a war

39. Price

Life's just money (4)
you don't know how to spend (6)
and you're just the girl
with a thousand dollar watch
and a fifty cent soul (6)

Please vote for your favorite! - #21 The Tree


Happy trails,

Ed Bradley.

PS- If you have not checked-in on your FW Mrknbrg E-mails, lately, then please do.

Wed, January 31st, 2007 4:45am

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for the help. Yes, I know some of my syllable patterns don't follow the exact Japanese form--most English ones don't, including past contest winners. I do try to keep the syllable count to 31 though, so if I have more syllables in one line, I will subtract a few from another.

Thank you also for noting the mispellings--it is not my strong point at all :-).

~Bitter Irony

PS-I do check my e-mails regularly. While I very much appreciate the offer, I'm a rather private person who prefers to keep correspondence with people I don't know "from life" out in the open, through comment systems such as these. I'm sorry, it's just a policy of mine.

Wed, January 31st, 2007 1:02pm

zephyrmail

most are truly good--my favs are #4, #5, #8 and #16---I love writing tanka and go more for the free flowing type as long as they flow nicely--as long as it sounds good to me--lol--that's all I worry about---counting syllables confuses life and I don't need that ...good luck on your contest entries....

Wed, January 31st, 2007 7:05am

Author
Reply

Thank you! I know what you mean, counting syllables can get very complicated and confusing. Often, I get in a syllable counting mindset and find myself counting everything I say for the rest of the day!

~Bitter Irony

Wed, January 31st, 2007 1:04pm

sineadmc1990

they hardest style of writing poetry is when the writer limits the number of syllables or lines. to write so many, with so few errors, is truly amazing.

Wed, May 9th, 2007 9:31pm

Author
Reply

Thank you! It takes quite a bit of practice to master haiku or tanka, and I know I'm nowhere near masterful yet. :-) One good thing about syllable limits, though: they force you to think about what you want to say and then say it, without any added frills. They allow a sort of brutal honesty that can't always be found in other forms. Thanks for the comment.

Wed, May 9th, 2007 5:07pm

Soprano98

Really beautiful language use. Some of them are very thought-provoking. I especially liked numbers 4 and 15. Good luck with your contest!

Mon, September 29th, 2014 2:01am

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