Let’s Talk: tanka prose

Let’s talk tanka… tanka prose, that is!

The Basics of the tanka prose form:

I try to adhere to the basic structure of tanka prose—which includes the five-line tanka written mostly in the form 5-7-5-7-7, but always in the format of s-l-s-l-l; where the middle line is a pivot between the first and the last two lines. In addition, tanka prose contains a title. As in most Japanese poetry, there is no rhyming.

Tanka poetry is not 31 continuous syllables written in a sentence.

Tanka poems derive from the Japanese waka, which is a song-like chanted poem. We write tanka in quick, breathy phrases. And like a haiku, a tanka should share a moment of awareness with the reader.

The pivot, or turn, usually happens in the third line. The pivot connects the upper poem with the lower poem with a transition from examining the image to sharing the poet’s personal response to the image.

Example from pg. 64, Word Craft: Prose & Poetry:

a coral sunset—
impressions left on pale clouds
finding clarity
when I listen to the wind
echoes of the masquerade

Colleen M. Chesebro

The pivot line is: finding clarity

Read the first three lines together:

a coral sunset— 
impressions left on pale clouds 
finding clarity

In the first three lines, I share the beauty of a spectacular sunset. The pivot is the aha moment when everything seems to come into hyper-focus.

Now take the pivot line and the last two lines:

finding clarity
when I listen to the wind
echoes of the masquerade

I reflect on my feelings in the last three lines. The sound of the wind reminds me of impermanence and how temporary this moment of splendor truly is. The last line reminds me that the colors are a short-lived illusion.

Notice how this tanka has two different meanings… also, each section can be read backward, which gives another dimension to the tanka.

The Prose Part

I also feel that the prose paragraph(s) must also seek to be, if not poetic, at least something that grabs our attention. It must compete with the verse in its style, intending to be inventive and expressive all on its own.

In tanka prose, there is one basic requirement: one paragraph, and one tanka.

However, there are different combinations:

  • Idyll (one prose paragraph and one tanka) tanka/prose or prose/tanka.
  • Verse Envelope (tanka/prose/tanka)
  • Prose Envelope (prose/tanka/prose) including alternating prose and verse elements of your choice.

There are two basic forms in classic tanka prose:

The Preface (explanation): This is where the prose paragraph is narrow, concerned with only providing the reader a factual summary of the basic information including the time and place, the name of a person, or a public occasion as the reason for writing on the set topic. A tanka follows the prose. Or you can write your tanka as the preface, and your prose reflects on the tanka.

Poem Tale (episodic narration): gives way to a subjective and more expressive interpretation of the scene or event the poet is writing about. It gives the poet the opportunity to share intimate details or thoughts with their reader. A poem tale can be a mini short story or even a biography. Remember to include a beginning, middle, and ending.


My first example uses the preface (explanation):

My next example is a prose envelope (one tanka, two prose paragraphs) Poem
Tale:

Another prose envelope (two tanka, multiple paragraphs) Poem Tale, episodic narration:

READ:

Graceguts – Tanka

Twenty-five Examples of Tanka Prose & an Editor’s Thoughts about Tanka Prose

Spilling Tanka: An Interview with Sanford Goldstein

Graceguts: The Seed of the Human Heart: Writing Tanka

#TankaTuesday #Poetry Challenge No. 269, 4/12/22, #Colleen’s SpecificForm:TankaProse

WELCOME TO #TANKATUESDAY!

This week’s form:

Tanka Prose

Here’s how to write tanka prose:

TANKA PROSE: We write Tanka prose from the first person point-of-view. The prose paragraph(s) must also seek to be, if not poetic, at least something that grabs our attention. It must compete with the verse in its style, intending to be inventive and expressive all on its own.

The tanka portion is 5-7-5-7-7, or short, long, short, long, long. There are many tanka prose combinations, such as Idyll: (One prose paragraph and one tanka) tanka/prose, or prose/tanka; Verse Envelope: tanka/prose/tanka; Prose Envelope: prose/tanka/prose, including alternating prose and verse elements of your choice.

Don’t forget the style of the prose paragraph. You choose the preface, or the poem tale to style your poem.

The Preface (explanation): This is where the prose paragraph is narrow, concerned with only providing the reader a factual summary of the basic information including the time and place, the name of a person, or a public occasion as the reason for writing on the set topic. A tanka follows the prose. Or you can write your tanka as the preface, and your prose reflects on the tanka.

Poem Tale (episodic narration): gives way to a subjective and more expressive interpretation of the scene or event the poet is writing about. It gives the poet the opportunity to share intimate details or thoughts with their reader. A poem tale can be a mini short story or even a biography. Remember to include a beginning, middle, and ending.

The following example is tanka prose (prose envelope) written in the poem tale (episodic narration) style:

“The Russian Spring”

The great Rus, a land once dominated by Tsar’s, dictators, communists, and now, by a cruel despot who longs for the glory days of the USSR. Putin’s mission is clear—he aims to reclaim all the territory that once made up the Russian empire. To prevent the Russian state from collapsing, he must halt the eastward spread of these treacherous, subversive ideas—by crushing them in Ukraine. Even if those ideas are figments of his imagination…

springtime in Russia 
the peasants dance in the streets 
attempt to forget 
the horrors of death and war 
honor the spring equinox 

Putin, the autocrat, rules the people. He tells them what to think… “Remember Siberia,” they cry in hushed tones.

“The more restrictive a regime becomes, the more paranoid a leader grows because the people don’t understand what is happening in society,” whispers the shadows of the past… “Remember Stalin…” they mutter in small voices.

old memories fade—
Putin sits on a gold throne
his puppets perform
women and their children sing
while the men perish in war

© Colleen M. Chesebro

Write your tanka prose in either the Poem Tale or Preface style in whatever feels the most natural to you.

Read more about how to compose TANKA PROSE

While you’re visiting, check out the tanka contest sponsored by the Tanka Society of America:


2022 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest Guidelines

https://www.tankasocietyofamerica.org/tsa-contest/2022-goldstein-contest-guidelines


Here are some sites that will help you write your poetry and count syllables:

Not sure how to write syllabic poetry?

READ THIS FIRST: How to craft Syllabic Poetry

Tanka Tuesday Cheat Sheet

PoetsCollective.org

sodacoffee.com/syllables

RhymeZone.com

synonyms.com 

thesaurus.com

Word Craft: Prose & Poetry – The Art of Crafting Syllabic Poetry

THE RULES

  • Create your tanka prose and teach us how to write the style you chose. Try not to use “ing” ending words to satisfy the word count.
  • Post it on your blog. Include a link back to the challenge in your post. (copy the URL: https:// address of this post into your post).
  • Copy your link into the Mr. Linky below (underlined with a hyperlink). You might have to delete your previous entry.
  • Please click the small checkbox on Mr. Linky about data protection.
  • Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work.

The screenshot below shows what Mr. Linky looks like inside. Add your name, and the URL of your post. Click the box about the privacy policy (It’s blue). As everyone adds their links to Mr. Linky, you can view the other submissions by clicking on the Mr. Linky link on the challenge post. All the links will show in the order of posting.

Follow the schedule listed below:

Now, have fun and write some tanka poetry!