about writing Tanka

Tanka means short poem or short song in Japanese and is written using 31 Japanese syllables in five phrases in one line. Tanka has a history of more than 1300 years, so people may think that tanka is very old. Yes, it is old, but it has been modernized and many Japanese people today enjoy reading and writing tanka.

When we write tanka in English, we usually use five lines. As for syllable counting, I personally like to use about 20 English syllables because this shortness is very close to Japaneses tanka. If you don't like to count syllables, just count words. Use 10 ~ 15 words, or up to 20 words at maximum. In the past, English tanka were often composed using 31 English syllables, but today's English tanka are much shorter.

The five lines can be arranged in a short/long/shorft/long/long pattern following the Japanese tanka's 5/7/5/7/7 syllable sequence. This sequence is very rhythmical in Japanese, and if you feel the short/long/short/long/long pattern in English very rhythmical, you can follow, but not required always.

© Kozue Uzawa 2014