some old tune

no one but us
in the long night swaying
to some old tune
from the radio we bought
long ago when we were young



I wrote this tanka on a prompt given by Kristjaan at Carpe Diem Haiku Ka, the idea being to write a tanka inspired by tone, sense and spirit of a tanka by Lenard D. Moore quoted there. Kristjaan gives the guideline that tanka should be written in 5-7-5-7-7 syllables (though the Moore poem is actually 4-6-4-7-7).

In any case, for me, it’s far more important to have the tanka build line by line, hopefully the last line being the strongest, also that each line have a coherence and a natural flow, almost able to stand on their own, with no enjambment. Of course, wonderful tanka (and other forms) are written breaking all of any guidelines given by scholars.

And talking of scholars, for anyone just starting with tanka, or wanting to teach it here is a wonderful resource:Tanka Teachers Guide, and a link to the wordpress site of baltimorepoet Denis M. Garrison who complied it.

Tanka may be my favourite poetry form (at least today). Much as I love the spare objective quality of haiku, tanka fleshes it out allowing the experience of the more personal emotions. A good haiku will make you gasp; a good tanka will open your heart. And of course both can do both.


10 thoughts on “some old tune

  1. Thanks for the links Belinda, it’s a tricky ask to go from the pared down craft that is haiku, to the more fluid ‘fleshing out ‘ of tanka…
    I’m just starting to explore tanka and need all the help I can get!


  2. My heart has been very nicely opened with this one. Perhaps “Tanka” is in my future.

    PS “enjambment” was a new word for me. I thought it was French and I had to look it up. I’ve finished “Songlines” (you recommended) and now read a book of essays by John Berger “The Shape of a Pocket”. He makes me stop and think: “Yes.It’s just like that.” I want to underline…but it’s a library book. His prose is poetry.

    Thanks for the education.

    1. oh Berger is just wonderful isn’t he? I have read shape of a pocket, but can’t presently remember it. is it the one with his (alive/dead) mum? his images really stick in the mind. and the language! has lots of good tanka online. if you look down the right hand side there’s a list of specials he has run (M Kei editor). you’ll find me there under ’20 Tanka Prose’! should add a few links to this post

      1. Berger’s writing is deep and complex. He has a keen eye and mind. A real pleasure for a few quiet minutes. But not mum (so far). I haven’t read all the essays yet.

        Thanks for the link.

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