Tanka – Japanese lyric poem
„Tanka: The typical lyric poem of Japanese literature, composed of five unrhymed metrical units of 5,7,5,7,7 ‘sound symbols’; tanka in English have generally been in five lines with a total of thirty-one or fewer syllables,Танка often observing a short, long, short, long, long pattern.
Tanka usually need no titles, though in Japanese a ‘topic’ (dai) is often indicated where a title would normally stand in Western poetry.
In Japan, the tanka is well over twelve hundred years old (haiku is about three hundred years old), and has gone through many periods of change in style and content. But it has always been a poem of feelings, often involving metaphor and other figurative language (not generally used in haiku).
While tanka praising nature have been written, and seem to resemble „long haiku,“ most tanka deal with human relationships or the author’s situation.
In the words of Sanford Goldstein, „behind the scene is the autobiographical moment of the poet’ (‘Tanka Off the Back Burner,’ Frogpond, XV:2 Fall-Winter 1992). The best tanka harmonizes the writer’s emotional life with the elements of the outer world used to portray it.“
Draft definition form the Haiku Society of America definitions committee led by William J. Higginson (published in the HSA Newsletter in early 1994):