National Poetry Month Haiku & Tanka

Haiku

The kanji for haiku. The kanji is a bright silver.

The kanji for haiku. The kanji is a bright silver.

A very short poem in Japanese literature. In Japan, a person who writes haiku is called haijin. Originally called hokku, the haiku, like the tanka, received its modern name from Masaoka Shiki, who promoted a theme of describing observations of nature. The first haiku published in English was by Ezra Pound in 1913.

Basics

  • May only contain seventeen syllables in a 5-7-5 format.
  • Usually used as a sharp contrast of two objects, occurrences, or ideas.
  • When the kireji (cutting word) is used in the middle verse it changes the thought and, making the first and second thought half independent of each other. When used at the end, it signals a final resolution of the two thoughts.

Tanka

The kanji for tanka. The kanji is bright gold

The kanji for tanka. The kanji is bright gold

The tanka is an ancient form of Japanese poetry that uses 31 syllables. Once upon a time, it was called waka. Tanka translates to “short poem” to distinguish it from a “long poem” choka. Long ago, waka was exchanged between cultured lovers. In the late 20th century, Japanese poet and critic Masaoka Shiki wanted to renew the art form and decided to let tanka be the renewed name.

Basics

  • Follows a common syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7
  • The 5-7-5 is known as the kami-no-ku (upper phrase) and the 7-7 is known as the shima-no-ku (lower phrase)

Examples

  • Cricket Never Does: A Collection of Haiku and Tanka DB046169
  • Haiku: Asian Arts and Crafts for Creative Kids DB060202
  • The seasons of Time; Tanka Poetry of Ancient Japan BR000906

The background is Japan's flag. On the left side is the kanji for tanka, on the right side is the kanji for haiku. In the middle the text says, "haiku & tanka"

The background is Japan’s flag. On the left side is the kanji for tanka, on the right side is the kanji for haiku. In the middle the text says, “haiku & tanka”

 

April marks National Poetry Month! Throughout this month we will share information about renown poets, some of the varying poetry styles practiced today and a little bit about their history. The purpose of the month is to increase the awareness and appreciation of poetry, and maybe help a few people find their inner poet talent.
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The North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NCLBPH) is a special public library that circulates books and magazines especially made for persons who cannot use regular printed material because of a visual or physical disability. The library is located in Raleigh, but mails materials throughout the state. The NCLBPH is a state agency operated by the State Library of North Carolina as a part of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. It is also a part of the network of regional libraries operated by the Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).
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