Tanka Treasury 02-17-18: 12 General Rules on Writing Tanka

Updated on March 1, 2018
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Jose got Sonnet Grandmaster title during MySpace days. His peers recently dubbed him Shogun of Haiku. Now he gives attention to tanka.

An old Japanese painting showing maple viewers.
An old Japanese painting showing maple viewers.

the tanka shall have
two major types as to style
Eastern and Western
Eastern is old Japanese
Western taps Western device

there may be contests
where the management prescribes
rules regarding style
these rules shall bind contestants
but not tanka art itself

old Japanese type
has its beauty and viewpoint
that should be preserved
preservation however
shall be compartmentalized

in English tanka
a poet may utilize
Western devices
the poem shall be deemed
a Western-type tanka

some tankas are hard
to classify as to type
Eastern or Western
unless they are for contests
it shouldn’t really matter

tanka in the end
is just like other poems
in terms of purpose
it is for self-expression
and communication

other purposes
such as for art or beauty
are merely details
it’s the bard expressing self
and that’s communication

a poet may use
both Eastern and Western styles
a sort of hybrid
this may involve one poem
or else a whole collection

limiting tanka
to a single type or theme
is a waste of form
HSA-type of ruling
is forbidden in tanka

in English tanka
you first count 5-7-5
then 7-7
let Japan observe it too
in honor of its forebears

Japanese are barred
from ditching its two rhythms
that’s unJapanese
that would be like detaching
Japan from its strong moorings

blaze now, browse later
by observing tanka form
you are in safe zone
study in your leisure time
niceties and refinements

Related article:
Tanka Treasury 02-12-18: Poetic License in Tanka and Haiku


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