Syllabic FormsWord Craft: Prose & Poetry Cheat Sheet for Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenges

Count your syllables and the number of lines specified for the form you are writing. Then, double-check your poem. Use to check syllables. Check your spelling. Does your poem need a title? Do your research on which forms require a title or not. Do not capitalize the first letter of each word per line of your syllabic poetry.

You can create your poetry using the syllabic poetry forms found on Be bold. Be Creative!
haikuA form with 3 or more lines following the short-long-short, 3-5-3, 2-3-2, (5-7-5 traditional) approximately twelve syllables. Haiku are written about nature, the seasons, a beautiful moment in nature, an emotional experience while in nature, or change. No title. Kigo optional. No rhyming.
senryuA form with 3 or more lines following the short-long-short, 3-5-3, 2-3-2, (5-7-5 traditional) approximately twelve syllables. Senryu do not rhyme, nor do they contain metaphors and similes. A senryu is written about love, human foibles relating to a personal event, and should have an element of irony present somewhere in the form. Senryu focus on the awkward moments in life making the human, not the world around them, the subject of their creative endeavor. Senryu poetry deals with the human condition. Focus on sexual matters, family relations, religion, politics, and anything that touches on the pain we experience through sorrow, prejudice, oppression, anger, and frustration. Humor and sarcasm are two of the most favorable elements in a senryu. No title.
haigaA form with 3 or more lines following the short-long-short, 3-5-3, 2-3-2, (5-7-5 traditional) approximately twelve syllables. First, the haiku or senryu portion of the poem is the most important part. The poem must stand alone without the image. Second, images cannot complete the haiku or senryu. If the image is necessary to understand the poem, then both the image and the poem fail. No title and no rhyming.
tanka5-7-5-7-7 syllable structure. Tanka consist of 5 lines written in the first-person point of view from the perspective of the poet. The third line is considered your “pivot,” but feel free to let it happen anywhere, or to exclude it. It is not mandatory. If you use a pivot, the meaning should apply to the first two lines, as well as the last two lines of your tanka. Tanka are untitled and do not rhyme.
gogyohkaGogyohka usually contain five lines but could have four or six lines. It’s up to the poet. Each line should consist of one phrase with a line-break after each phrase or breath. Gogyohka has no restraints on the numbers of words or syllables used. However, this form should be written as other Japanese short verse poetry. The theme for gogyohka is unrestricted. No title and no rhyming.
haibunHaibun are titled. The title should connect to the rest of the poem. Haibun prose can be written in present or past tense including, first person (I), third person (he/she), or first-person plural (we). Subject matter: autobiographical prose, travel journal, a slice of life, memory, dream, character sketch, place, event, or object. Focus on one or two elements. Keep your prose simple. Nothing should be overstated. The length can be brief with one or two sentences with a haiku, or longer prose with a haiku sandwiched between, to longer memoir works including many haiku. There are different Haibun styles: Idyll: (One prose paragraph and one haiku) haiku/prose, or prose/haiku; Verse Envelope: haiku/prose/haiku; Prose Envelope: prose/haiku/prose, including alternating prose and verse elements.
tanka proseTanka is typically written in the 5-7-5-7-7 or s/l/s/l/l five-line syllabic structure. Tanka prose contains a title. One basic requirement: one paragraph, and one tanka. There are two basic forms in classic tanka prose: Preface (explanation), and the Poem Tale (episodic narration). No rhyming.
rengaRenga or Renku features alternating stanzas, usually of 5-7-5 and 7-7 syllables. The first part of the renga is a (5-7-5) haiku (hokku) written by your guest. The second part of the renga is the host’s response (wakiku): (7-7). A cooperative poem, written by 2 or more poets. Spontaneous. It does not tell a sequential story. Structured with a beginning, middle and end. Hokku (starting verse), followed by linked verses, and ends with a tanka (small poem). Connected to the seasons. The hokku shows the season in which the gathering occurs, somewhere within the renga, there should be verses referring to each of the seasons to create a complete circle. No title and no rhyming.
chōkaThe chōka (long poem) was the story telling form of Japanese poetry from the 1st to the 13th century. It is unrhymed and written in alternating five and seven-syllable lines that end with an extra seven-syllable line. The early form consisted of a series of katuata joined together. (A katuata is 5-7-7 (19) onji, or 5-7-5 (17) onji) and is required for your poem. It is composed of any number of couplets made up of alternating 5-7 onji (sound syllables) per line. In English we can only treat the onji as a syllable. A nine-line chōka is 5-7-5-7-5-7-5-7-7 or 5-7-7-5-7-5-7-7-7. Chōka often were followed by one or more short poems called hanka, or “envoys,” summarizing, supplementing, or elaborating on, the contents of the main poem. Often, a tanka would serve as an envoy.
Crapsey CinquainThe Crapsey Cinquain is a five-line, non-rhyming poem featuring a syllable structure of 2-4-6-8-2. Choose words that create drama that builds into the fourth line. The turn occurs on line five, the most important line. This is where you change your focus away from the drama in some interesting way. Needs a title.
Reverse cinquainA reverse cinquain is a form with one 5-line stanza in a syllabic pattern of 2-8-6-4-2. Needs a title.
Mirror cinquaina form with two 5-line stanzas consisting of a cinquain followed by a reverse cinquain 2-4-6-8-2-2-8-6-4-2. Add a title.
Butterfly cinquaina nine-line syllabic form with the pattern 2-4-6-8-2-8-6-4-2. Add a title.
Crown cinquaina sequence of five cinquain stanzas functioning to construct one larger poem. Needs a title.
Garland cinquaina series of six cinquains in which the last is formed of lines from the preceding five, typically line one from stanza one, line two from stanza two, and so on. Always add a title.
EthereeThe Etheree poem consists of ten lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 syllables. An Etheree can also be reversed and written 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Create a memorable message. Poets can get creative and write an Etheree with more than one verse, but the idea is to follow suit with an inverted syllable count. Add a title to all Etheree poetry forms.
Classic EthereeTen lines featuring a syllable count of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 syllables per line. Needs a title.
Reverse EthereeTen lines featuring a syllable count of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 syllables per line. Needs a title.
Stacked/Double EthereeTwenty lines with a syllable count of1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 syllables per line which looks like two triangles joined together in the center. Needs a title.
Stacked/Double Inverted EthereeTwenty lines with a syllable count per line of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 syllables per line which looks like an hourglass when centered on the page. Needs a title.
Classic NonetA nonet is written in any number of 9-line stanzas with the following syllable count per line: 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. Rhyming is optional, although they are usually unrhymed. Because of the hourglass shape of a double nonet, it can be used to represent time’s passage. They can be written on any subject. Add a title to all nonet forms.
Reverse or Inverted NonetNine lines featuring a syllable count of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 syllables per line. Title it.
Double NonetAt least two or more stanzas with nine lines each, featuring a syllable count of 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 syllables per line. Title it.
Double Inverted NonetEighteen lines with a syllable count per line of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9, 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 which looks like two triangles joined in the middle or 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 syllables per line which looks like an hourglass. Title it.
ShadormaThe Shadorma consists of a six-line stanza (or sestet). Each stanza is written as 3-5-3-3-7-5 for a total of 26 syllables with no set rhyme scheme. When writing a Shadorma I would concentrate on a specific subject. Add a title to make it interesting.
Badger’s HexastichA Badger Hexastich consists of six lines written in 2-4-6-6-4-2 syllables per line. It is unrhymed with optional rising and falling end-words, which I think is an interesting twist. Add a title for impact.
AbhangaAbhanga are written in any number of 4-line stanzas with 6-6-6-4 syllables each. L2 and L3 rhyme. The end rhyme scheme is abbc. Title your poetry.
DiatelleThe structure of the diatelle is as follows: 1-2-3-4-6-8-10-12-10-8-6-4-3-2 1 with a set rhyme pattern of abbcbccaccbcbba. This poetry form may be written on any subject matter and looks best center aligned in a diamond shape. Add a title.
Word Craft: Prose & Poetry The Art of Crafting Syllabic PoetryFor a more in-depth analysis of these forms, find the book available on Amazon HERE. If you are writing your poetry to submit to literary journals, check the rules! Do your research. No one want to be rejected because they did not learn how to correctly write the forms.