Structure of Tanka Poetry
Words that express the poet’s feelings or the seasonal conditions are set into a 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure. As there are no ‘season words’ required like they are with Haiku, Tanka allows more freedom of subject matter.
Tokai no – kojima no iso no – shirasuna ni – Ware nakinurete – kani to tawamuru. On the white sand of a rocky beach on a small island off the Tokai coast, Soaked in tears, I play with a crab.”
This is a poem by Ishikawa Takuboku, an example from the Meiji period – 1886-1912 -. If you read it aloud, you will hear the 5-7-5-7-7 rhythm.
The pleasing resonance of its words is one of the reasons Japanese have long cherished Tanka poetry.
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