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As many of you can see, I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately! What can I say...Life.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day Three of Poetry Week: Seventh Century Haikus and Tankas

Haikus and Tankas (Tankas being the oldest) are the two primary forms of Japanese poetry. Their focus often revolves around elements of nature and themes involving the seasons. However, in the seventh century, Haikus and Tankas performed a very important role in Japanese society as secret love letters.

See, after a day of joyfully strolling through the countryside and romping under bushes, in was a polite courtesy for one to write their lover, subtly expressing their thanks and pleasure of the day in a Haiku. Then, an immediate response was required of the lover in the form of a Tanka.

(NOTE: At some times, this was all done through Tankas, as Tankas were thought to be more "elite" and less "common" than a Haiku. However, we will study both forms as thus...)

Definition of Haiku: a form of Japanese verse in three lines of 5,7,5 syllables, usually with an emphasis on the season or a naturalistic theme.
Definition of Tanka: a form of Japanese verse in five lines of 5,7,5,7,7 syllables, the oldest type of poetry in Japan.

Rhyme Scheme?: not traditionally

Haiku: masculine advance
Tanka: feminine response

Origins: Japan
Best Known Author: Basho Matsuo (1644-1694)

All Poems are by Aubrie Anne (2010)


The dark is here now (5)
But a light shines distantly (7)
Dawn is approaching (5)

Infinite Tomorrows

The sun is rising (5)
Pushing yesterday away (7)
Carrying today (5)
A sign of second chances  (7)
And infinite tomorrows (7)

What do you believe these two lovers are saying to each other?


Winter Beauty

Winter snowflakes fall
And bring beauty to all things
Nothing is ugly

True Beauty

No, beautiful snow
Cannot fix all things ugly
Hate is ugliness
True beauty lies in the ground
Therefore flowers grow in spring

What's your interpretation of this secret exchange of words?


Have you ever heard of a Haiku and/or Tanka?
Have you ever written either?
Please share as always.
Did you learn anything new?
Anything else you would like to know?


  1. Firstly, loving the challenge of this. I just wrote my first ever Japanese poems http://wordsinsync.blogspot.com/2010/12/my-first-attempts-at-japanese-poetry.html And I really like this form actually. Might do more!

    In answer to your questions regarding the meaning of these poems, I'll make a guess that...

    1&2 - The two lovers are facing hard times now looking forward to a brighter future?

    3&4 - Superficial beauty won't last, real beauty comes from within?

    Shah. X

  2. Oh - you forgot the day (three) in the title. You work too hard ;)X

  3. Shah...Thank you for sharing once again. I look forward to your comments in the morning! You're interpretations are ever so close. You are a good reader! I'll try to explain more in depth the meaning behind the poems later, after everyone has had a go at them.

    Also, thanks for pointing out the title error. Sometimes I get ahead of myself with posts and in this case, I didn't know when I was going to post this little tutorial so I didn't put the day in. lol.

  4. I disagree regarding your comment on my poems. The line has 7 syllables:

    As - 1
    if - 2
    death - 3
    was - 4
    miles - 5
    a - 6: way - 7

    Not 8? Do you see?

    But thanks for looking. And I look forward to tomorrow's challenge though I'm out of the house all day, so I'm not sure how involved I can be till I know what poetry type it is (do I have my own example or do I need to write one?).

    Shah. X

  5. Do you pronounce miles with two syllables? That would explain it. I pronounce it with 1 syllable - 'mile' not 2 syllables - 'mi-ul'. Depends on how you say it. To my knowledge, both are correct. X

  6. I once wrote a haiku about a bag I saw sitting atop a trash can. I was dumbfounded that someone would be too lazy to stuff it through the opening.

  7. Found you on the blog hop!! I'm your newest follower!

  8. Matt...I have read some pretty random Haikus like that before lol. What do you think of Tankas now?

    It's a boy...Thanks for following! It's very much appreciated. I'll be by to give your blog a look in just a minute! :)

  9. I really like your blog.I'm looking forward to exploring your site more. I found your site through FTLOB!

  10. Well, it's interesting to learn that haiku are male advances while tanka are female responses.

  11. I really enjoy the haiku to kick start creative writing. Thanks for reminding me of the tanka, a little more challenging but still fun.

  12. Ross...Thank you and I am looking forward to seeing more of you around here. Feel free to join in on any of the discussions. Do you have a blog I can check out?

    Matt...I thought that was interesting too. I remember learning about it in middle school.

    Paul C...Yeah, it would be a great tool for starting creative writing. They can be like writing a scene in 3 lines if you think about it. Yes, loving the tanka as well. I love having the extra 2 lines.

  13. I'm so sorry I've been missing out on the past few days, I'm so horribly out of it I can't think straight! I enjoyed reading though!

  14. Different time-zones! AARRGH! ;) I'm out in a moment or two for the day, so I'll try participate later on. Loving your work Aubrie. ;) XX

  15. Donna...It's okay. Thanks for coming by and reading. I hope you feel better soon!

    Shah...lol. Yeah, some days I post my article for the day at midnight or 1 AM, but lately, with work being so early and me having to go to bed so early, it usually doesn't get up until 8 AM which is probably a really off time for you.


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