View Full Version : My first Tanka!

04-17-2006, 08:28 AM
I just tried my first tanka. I don't have a clue if it works. Here goes:

sparkling water flows,
metallic tips and curls gleam;
liquid silver stream,
real, you cannot be a dream,
your blue cool envelops me.

04-17-2006, 11:46 AM
ohh this is neat. i had to look up tanka. in fact, when i saw the title of the thread, i thought you misspelled tonka and that it would be a poem about a child's toy. seriously..ok..maybe i need sleep.
love the imagery. love how brief it is yet still complete. i gotta try one.

04-18-2006, 06:15 AM
I had to look it up, too.

Here are two sites.

Pretty basic:


More info:


04-18-2006, 06:46 AM
Thank you, Cassie. I am one of "those" that thought poetry was just poetry. I am not very educated. So far, besides attempting to write in free verse, primarily, I have tried to write a few quadrains, haiku and now, tanka. I know there are so many forms of poetry, but I have to start with the simple stuff and maybe, someday, work my way up.


04-18-2006, 06:49 AM
Is this a genre debut in this forum? Cool!

I tend toward a


line scheme. much like yours.

I generally make line three shift perspective to something else. (Not that I'm intimating anyone else should)

I have one-

coming out
of a crack in my soul
a three legged dog
snuffles and growls before
it attacks a train's wheels

04-18-2006, 07:00 AM
oh, Bret, that's brilliant. Amazing how you could describe so perfectly how I've been feeling lately. lol

04-18-2006, 07:16 AM
ha ha! You too? There are wonderful new medications that can help us with these kinds of feelings you know... ;)

04-18-2006, 07:41 AM
Ooh, I like it!

Arizona's so hot right now; this was refreshing to read.

04-18-2006, 08:53 AM
yes, and I forgot to say, tanka very much.

04-19-2006, 07:35 PM
I just tried my first tanka. I don't have a clue if it works. Here goes:

sparkling water flows,
metallic tips and curls gleam;
liquid silver stream,
real, you cannot be a dream,
your blue cool envelops me.

I like it ... that cool industrial look, metallic shine. Nice, kid. Wave + wink. Smile.

04-19-2006, 09:00 PM

04-20-2006, 08:47 AM
my life so far
does it's best to resemble
falling fast asleep
on a boat that slips it's moor
i wake to the strangest sight

04-20-2006, 08:52 AM
looking like
it bites the road angrily
the dead cat-
wind from a passing car
makes a ripple in the fur

04-20-2006, 09:15 AM
my feet raise dustclouds
as I shuffle the pebbles
up the dirtrut road
the sun crisps my arms maroon
chest pastewhite under t-shirt

04-20-2006, 03:25 PM
a good change from all those haikus we've been hammering out!

I especially enjoy the first two lines of your poem, I'm sure you've got a great farmer's tan going!

My goal is to at least try once, a piece of every kind of poetry. It might take me awhile, but that's one of my goals.

So far, I've got free poetry, haiku, quadrain, tanka, found poem and historical narrative poem. I might not be great, but I'm determined.

when I'm not procrastinating, tenacity is one of my strong qualities.

04-20-2006, 03:27 PM
Thank you, everyone, for the reads and crits. Much appreciated!

04-20-2006, 04:13 PM
when I'm not procrastinating, tenacity is one of my strong qualities.
You are my Wonder Twin.

04-20-2006, 05:30 PM
How ambitious to try every form. You make me feel like a slacker! I'll probably never attempt a sestina! Good for you.

Re: Tanka. I read two fun books. Tangled Hair by Akiko Yosano and Modern Japanese Tanka by Makoto Ueda. If you run across them, take a look.

04-20-2006, 05:41 PM

Thank you for the info. I'll ask my library to get them. That's what so cool about libraries. I don't have alot of money to go buy books. The library will acquire books on request, purchased or lent from another library.

I have alot, but sadly, I'm just starting my poetry collection. I like buying obscure old books from resale stores. I feel like alot of poets/writers who never "made it" have something to say and it's fun flipping through, picking up stuff and mining for gold. I think I'm intriqued by the unknowns, the didn't-quite-make-its. I have some sort of affliation with these writers and they comfort me, they wrote in spite of obscurity and failure.

04-22-2006, 08:52 PM
Obscurity and failure are a couple of my favorite subjects! I've been researching them for quite sometime...:)

Re: used poetry books. I am swamped by books of poetry I've found second hand. The library sells discards and then there are the garage sales, flea markets and used book stores. A couple of my friends keep an eye out for me too. If they find a book of any kind of poetry for under a buck when they are garage "sailing" they buy it for me.
(Recent score: The Complete Poems of Octavio Paz.)

Wherever I am, I run into these great deals on used poetry. On my rained out trip to Hawaii last month, I found some great haiku and a rare Marge Piercey book in a used store in Kauai. Once you get tuned in, the books are drawn to you as if magnetically.

There are some good deals on Amazon for haiku that are otherwise impossible to find. (Like the Red Moon Anthologies)

04-22-2006, 11:05 PM
Cool info, Bret. Thank you!

05-09-2006, 05:20 PM
a man fastens a rose on
a witch's gate.
behind a hedge of nettles,
a thick silence expands

05-21-2006, 02:18 AM
a crow flies
across a sunflower field
in a mad man's mind
a bent and rusty wheel
squeaks around its hub

07-05-2006, 12:03 AM
repost of the "lost tanka" of June:

In her later years
grandma called me her son's name
and then my own
pine needles drift over
the stepping stones

My pen is as still
as a frog hunting heron peering
into the page
like it thinks another poem
will satisfy the hunger

the photograph I took
of your shadow proves
a part of you
was never here

07-06-2006, 02:16 AM
Toy box orgy
tangled hair and long long legs
our daughter's Barbies
stripped of their clothing
and any sense of shame

07-06-2006, 08:39 AM
Planet Earth--
surely we climbed here
from the stars
hand over
burning hand

07-07-2006, 05:11 PM
your thoughts pour out
as blue as this
I always hold you tighter
my little pen

(with thanks to William Ramsey)

07-08-2006, 02:09 AM
Friday afternoon
And the weekend draws closer
A real POETS day
(I'm gonna P*** Off Early
Tomorrow is Saturday)

07-08-2006, 03:37 AM
in the car
bearing a DARWIN emblem
fail to retrieve
any survivors

07-12-2006, 03:51 AM
her hair spills over
the bright white tub
as blackly as
everything else does in
the crime scene photo

07-14-2006, 04:02 AM
choosing to include
these long slow notes
in a poem
about loneliness

07-16-2006, 02:41 AM
black motorcycle
lean over in the far turn
you mirage
your rusty pipes blat smoke
black motorcycle

07-16-2006, 02:46 AM
july heat
drops of sweat soak into
the redwood deck
like supernovas
flare and fade

07-16-2006, 03:54 AM
old friends funeral
a twinge of guilt watching
shadows curve
away from the light
below his widow's breasts

07-16-2006, 04:10 AM
Camaro SS
your dark black glare
is blinding
on the fresh waxed finish
sunbeams shatter lances

07-18-2006, 08:11 AM
Monday afternoon
talk turns to a deceased boss
the way his wife looked
18 years ago mowing
their lawn in a bikini

Ok. That's it for the tanka binge. Done!

07-18-2006, 10:49 AM
I kick clods of dirt
across bleached, cracking pavement
watching, in old boots
as they careen and crumble
trailing crumbs in dumb runes

07-22-2006, 08:02 AM
I said I'd quit inflicting these on you

I lied.

between the pages
of an unmade bed
her nightie
becomes a

07-22-2006, 08:12 AM
I said I'd quit inflicting these on you

I lied.

ohh, but bret, you make it hurt so good.

07-22-2006, 05:31 PM
Work is calling me
Get up from the computer
and take a shower
Strange how I must be so clean
To end up feeling so soiled

That was my first. Hah. Nailed the syllables...okay, that's about all I did right. But I'm no longer a Tanka virgin

07-22-2006, 08:23 PM
atta boy limey! it has that tanka flavor for sure. some great tanka resources here: http://www.ahapoetry.com/tanka.htm

I'm not a 575 haiku guy, my tanka reflects that.

the thin hot wire
that runs through my heart hears
voices from the past

the end from the future
snapped by a falling tree

07-22-2006, 08:38 PM
a black motorcycle fender
ground hurtles past
the remainder of your life
is too fleeting to percieve

07-24-2006, 04:07 AM
If you
drink too much coffee you
can see the tunnels
long ago hummingbirds
built inside the air

07-24-2006, 04:09 AM
the soft parts of me
try so hard to make a name
my sensible bones
want to lie unnoticed
in an unmarked grave

07-24-2006, 09:19 AM
So I write poems
but I can't bench three fifty-
it doesn't matter.
While you have your girlfriend's eye
my soft words caress her heart

07-24-2006, 09:29 AM
an unnamed tree
is completely not the same
as any of
a forest of nameless trees
the sawmill changes that

07-24-2006, 09:40 AM
A wooden table
might be made of oak and ash
and maple maybe
but hammer and nail don't care
it's all the same in the end

07-24-2006, 02:25 PM
Ooooh. Haven't tried this one before.
Hang on...


(Removed by Rivana)

07-24-2006, 11:27 PM
Hope I'm not violating some universal Tanka rules here...

For Lorrie

Our future beckons
to us: "Come, come, hand-in-hand,
and I will show you
such wonders as those only
hearts entwined in love can know."

Our present comforts
like a warm hug: "You're safe here
with me, so hold me
close to you and promise me
you will never let me go."

Our pasts wave to us
like old, true friends: "Bon voyage...
think of us fondly
but please let us go, for we
have nothing to offer you."

07-24-2006, 11:31 PM
No worries. We're subverting the form. ;)

07-24-2006, 11:43 PM
Well Bret, as long as we're doing something we shouldn't, count me in.:hat:

07-26-2006, 05:17 PM
she thought
I was her shining knight
so i advanced
two steps forward
and one to the side

07-26-2006, 11:46 PM
hot air balloon
of paper mache'
sits idle
it's maker left
to chase boys

07-26-2006, 11:53 PM
a snake of dominoes
slithers across cool tile
carefully constructed
with one poke
it falls like shed skin

07-27-2006, 12:10 AM
I tap the keyboard
as if the sound could coax forth
the images hiding
in my mind to come out
and paint my empty white canvas

07-27-2006, 01:36 AM
(Removed by Rivana)

07-27-2006, 01:46 AM
The exotic sights
of the world on distant shores
are surely no match
for the wonders of nature
that surround you in your land

07-27-2006, 02:06 AM
(Removed by Rivana)

07-27-2006, 03:04 AM
Trees hide the bright moon
and thick limbs cast long shadows
that move around me
as though dark whisps sway and dance
to my tired mind's dark music

07-27-2006, 06:52 AM
pad to the board-end
scan the poolside: are they watching?
two, three cautious bounces
gaze past glare into the blue
jump... second thought! smack flat back; burn.

07-27-2006, 12:02 PM
(Removed by Rivana)

08-02-2006, 02:34 AM
not to see
an old love
not to see me

08-02-2006, 02:36 AM
between us now but
windblown litter
though that red haired woman
once told me I was beautiful

08-02-2006, 10:59 PM
pale yellow---
underneath the dome light
an adulterer
pecks through his spare change
looking for his wedding ring

08-03-2006, 02:20 AM
there are abandoned cities
carved of jade
waiting to be discovered
on the moon's dark side

08-04-2006, 02:51 AM
ocean winds twist
the limbs of Monterey Cypress
these tangled thoughts---
will even a calm day
let me sort them out?

08-10-2006, 07:34 AM
for the one
who dies in a car crash
a stop light
in a distant city
turns dark

08-12-2006, 02:28 AM
Dusk comes first
on skinny black scarecrow legs
"Prepare ye the way!"
for Night he means- sowing
black manna over the fields

08-12-2006, 07:38 PM
rusty lace girders blur
bridgeplate seams hum thump bump
pipes blat snarl bite
chrome steel mirror rivets run
motorbike black shine night ride

09-22-2006, 11:36 PM
Stripped of my dreams
by the howl of midnight wind
when I wake alone
surely dawn will reveal
a cold bare branch

09-23-2006, 07:59 PM
A rose emerges
From a cracked stone wall
Will there be a time
When your cold heart
Gives way to spring?

09-23-2006, 08:29 PM
Bret these tanka are just breathtaking.

09-23-2006, 08:55 PM
Thanks PH! :)

I've been reading "The Ink Dark Moon." Tanka by two of Japan's great women poets. Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu. I found it inspiring.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly:
Matters of the heart and spirit and the transient nature of time and existence are the dominant themes of this collection of love poems by two leading female literary figures of Japan's Heian era--Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu.

Book Description:
These translated poems were written by 2 ladies of the Heian court of Japan between the ninth and eleventh centuries A.D. The poems speak intimately of their authors' sexual longing, fulfillment and disillusionment.

Here's one by Ono no Komachi-

When my desire
grows too fierce
I wear my bed clothes
inside out
dark as night's rough husk

and one by Izumi Shikibu-

my garden fills
with summer growth-
how I wish for one
who would push the deep grass aside.

I find both of these rated at least PG. ;) Though raciest short poem award still goes to Tzu Yeh-

Longing, I watch out the open window,
my sash untied, long sleeves dragging.

This breeze lifts gauze so easily,
if my skirt should open, blame the warm spring wind.

09-24-2006, 04:44 AM
wow, wow wow, these are beautiful.
I am hooked on this style but am stumped on how to find my voice.
Bret, you are so brilliant.
my best to you

09-24-2006, 06:56 AM
Outside of this thread, (even in this thread there may be some debate;) ) few would dare use "Bret" and "brilliant" in the same sentence but I humbly recieve your gracious bouquet.

Some people start writing them by taking a haiku they have written and expanding it with a couple more lines that use the haiku as a jumping off point. Here's a good how to link


and as always, a good way to start is to have a few hundred good examples.




here's a bunch of free online tanka anthology stuff.http://www.ahapoetry.com/whbktan.htm

Its kind of a difficult form for western readers because it seems "backwards" and the shift between points of view is hard for some readers to wrap their linear heads around. Check out this "how to"


experiment with "adding on a room" to a few of your favorite haiku. You'll get the hang of it.

09-24-2006, 12:55 PM
look at me
i can see right through you
look at me
i know you, i know you
i know how to make you smile, cry

09-26-2006, 11:41 PM
in the treeless crags
a crevice here and there
still holds old snow-
after all of this time
can you not forgive me?

09-26-2006, 11:44 PM
press your pen
deep into the paper
who will read it?
this faint dim scratch
high on the wall of time

09-27-2006, 02:45 AM
a face in the window moves
back from the light
how will we reconcile
what we will not behold?

09-29-2006, 07:41 AM
this preachy crow struts
across the barren yard
as black as a bible his
murder of petty sins

10-08-2006, 06:06 AM
time slips off bared souls
satin as the shroud that hides
imprisoned lovers
pressed between two walls in dark
fearful of a deadly fate
brazen in their lust for love

10-08-2006, 06:12 AM
orange streaks yellow sky
silloute memorials
testify to day
another image gone black
as memory turns the page

10-08-2006, 06:18 AM
let us count the ways
love escaped comprehension
fled our grasp and hid
innumerable seconds lost
irretrievable, we cry

11-16-2006, 06:07 PM
dust and leaves
blow through the door with me
late in the season
even autumn wants to
come in from the cold

11-22-2006, 06:16 PM
Picture Frame

these words
hammered into the page
as if it were possible
to nail a moment to the wall
and gaze at it forever


you were constant
and steady as the heavens
strange i should miss you
in this morning's darkness
the stars fall one by one

Dappled Light

birdsong in the glen
where she used walk
from sunbeam to sunbeam
but at last
into shadow

11-24-2006, 02:26 AM
dew drops sparkle
like palace wealth
it disappears
no one can hoard these jewels
come with me, be rich this hour

12-08-2006, 06:24 AM
underneath steel skies
oaks and brown winter grasses
whisper shy wishes
to fly, yet are attached to
this earth, roots ever sinking.

12-08-2006, 09:40 AM
sometimes you surprise
like making love in the park
i think i know you
but your eyes show me nothing
except clues that lead me on

01-05-2007, 05:45 AM
dawning awareness
breaks like shattered bullets lodged
subtly for long years
until a carefree jump in
cool water. shrapnel kills quick.