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Jul 27
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Haiku and Tanka

Tell your community story through poetry. Try the simplicity of Japanese haiku and tanka.

Japanese author Daistez T. Suzuki on the haiku poem: “[They] get inside an object, experience the object’s life, and feel its feelings.”
The haiku is a Japanese form of poetry that developed out of group poetry.  Nearly nine hundred years ago groups of young poets gathered to write together what is called a renga, a type of collaborative poem.  By the 1400s the short sections of the poem broke from the long poem and developed into haiku.
What is haiku? Although nothing is hard and fast, a haiku poem has these qualities:

  • It contains 17 syllables in lines of five, seven, and five syllables.
  • It usually has a theme of nature
  • It sometimes includes a word or two that alludes to the seasons
  • It is written in the present tense about the present moment

What is a tanka poem?

  • The Japanese tanka is a 31-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single unbroken line.
  • A form of waka, Japanese song or verse, tanka translates as "short song," and is better known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count form.

More info on haiku:
More info on tanka:
(Photo credit: Kevin Huang)