#TankaTuesday Poetry Cheat Sheet for Poetry Challenges

#TankaTuesday Syllabic Forms

Count your syllables and the number of lines for the form you’re writing. Double-check your poem. Use a qualified syllable counter to check your syllable count. Correct your spelling. Does your poem need a title? Do not capitalize the first letter of each word per line of syllable poetry.

Check out the syllabic poetry forms on poetscollective.org. Be Creative!!


A 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 required). No rhyming. 

**Season word list: https://yukiteikei.wordpress.com/season-word-list/ & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kigo.

**Japanese season words (kigo) are a guide. The key here is the word season. Season words are a poetic device. Plus, seasonal words give us unexpected glimpses into how we view the world around us. That is why we write haiku. Season words are essential for clarity and concision in haiku. You should adapt season words that share your view of the world. Different seasons illustrate different kinds of energy. Use that to your advantage. It’s the a’ha moment that makes your haiku sing. Haiku should share a singular experience or event. Write haiku that brings your world alive for us! (paraphrased from Haiku: A Poet’s Guide, by Lee Gurga)

Haiku Sites of Interest:

GraceGuts, Michael Dylan Welch

Tofugu: Haiku, A Whole Lot More than 5-7-5

Graceguts: Further Reading, Haiku Fundamentals and Advanced Haiku

Haiku Books for Reference:

The Haiku Handbook, by William J. Higginson & Penny Harter

Haiku: A Poet’s Guide, by Lee Gurga

🆕 **For this challenge, if you write a haiku without a kigo, please call it “micro-poetry” or “haiku-like,” or “pseudo-haiku.” The same rules would apply to a haibun, as that form contains a haiku.


A 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. Humor and sarcasm are two of the most favorable elements in a senryu. But not always… think in tone. What is the tone of your senryu? 

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. The most important distinction between haiku and senryu is the tone of your poem. Think of it this way:

Haiku desires to create a feeling, while senryu wants to make a point.

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.

Please read more about haiku/senryu here: https://www.graceguts.com/essays/everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-haiku-and-senryu-but-were-too-busy-writing-to-ask


A 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.

Check out this PDF on Shahai:


5-7-5-7-7 syllable structure, or s-l-s-l-l. Tanka consists 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 let it happen anywhere, or 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 is untitled and do not rhyme.


Gogyohka usually contains five lines, but could have four or six lines. It’s up to the poet. Each line should comprise one phrase with a line-break after each phrase or breath. Gogyohka has no restraints on the number 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.


Haibun are always 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.

🆕 **SEE haiku above: For this challenge, if you write a haiku without a kigo, please call it “micro-poetry” or “haiku-like,” or “pseudo-haiku.” The same rules would apply to a haibun, as that form contains a haiku.

tanka prose

Tanka is typically written in the 5-7-5-7-7 or s/l/s/l/l five-line syllabic structure. Tanka prose always 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.


Renga 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.


The chōka (long poem) was the storytelling 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.

American Cinquain

The cinquain is a five-line, non-rhyming poem featuring a syllable structure of 2-4-6-8-2. Cinquain poems need a title. 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.

Reverse Cinquain

A reverse cinquain is a titled form with one 5-line stanza in a syllabic pattern of 2-8-6-4-2. 

Mirror Cinquain

Mirror cinquain are a titled 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. 

Butterfly Cinquain

Butterfly cinquain is a nine-line syllabic titled form with the pattern 2-4-6-8-2-8-6-4-2. 

Crown Cinquain

Crown Cinquain is a sequence of five cinquain stanzas functioning to construct one larger poem. Add a title.

Garland Cinquain

Garland cinquain are a titled 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.


The 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 Etheree

Classic Etheree features ten lines with a syllable count of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 syllables per line. All Etheree should be titled.

Reverse Etheree

Reverse Etheree have ten lines featuring a syllable count of 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 syllables per line. Add a title.

Stacked/Double Etheree

Twenty 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. Add a title.

Stacked/Double Inverted Etheree

Twenty 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. Add a title.

Classic Nonet

A 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 Nonet

Nine lines featuring a syllable count of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 syllables per line with a title.

Double Nonet

At 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 with a title.

Double Inverted Nonet

Eighteen 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 look like an hourglass. Title it.


The 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 the Shadorma.

Badger’s Hexastich

A 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. Don’t forget to add a title.


Abhanga 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. Don’t forget to title your poem. 

Double Ennead

The Double Ennead (an ennead means a group of nine, so a double ennead is 99) is a form I created for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. The site features 99-Word stories, and I thought 99-Syllable poetry would be a great addition.

The Double Ennead comprises five lines with a syllable count of 6/5/11/6/5, (33 SYLLABLES per stanza) 3 STANZAS EACH = 99 SYLLABLES, NO MORE, NO LESS!

Punctuation and rhyme schemes are optional and up to the poet. This is the 99 syllable form to use for the Around the Campfire Journal.

Optional Forms

The Diatelle, the Kerf, Arkquain Swirl, the Whitney, & the Double Ennead HERE.

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

For 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 wants to be rejected because they did not learn how to create the forms. 

Don’t forget to use the forms created by our poetic community:

New this year for 2023: Poets can choose to write Free verse & Free style poetry in addition to a syllabic form, creating two separate poems.

What is the difference between free verse and freestyle poetry?

Free verse poetry is when you refrain from using a specific pattern of rhyme or meter. Examples of Free verse poetry

Freestyle poetry is when you don’t have a formatted style or pattern, but you use rhyme most of the time and therefore create a catchy beat with your words, similar to rap. Here’s a link about rhyme schemes.

The poem, Leaves of Grass, a collection by the American poet Walt Whitman, is an example of freestyle poetry. Allen Ginsberg famously imposed a structure upon free verse with his 1955/1956 poem Howl. He didn’t use a rhyme scheme or specific meter, but the poem holds structure through Ginsberg’s use of repeated phrases.

The option to use Free verse and freestyle poetry remains a choice, not a requirement.

Literary Devices Defined

anaphorathe repetition of a word or phrase, usually at the beginning of a line. 
alliterationthe repetition of sounds in a sequence of words. (See alsoconsonance and assonance.) 
allegorynarrative with two levels of meaning, one stated and one unstated. 
apostrophedirect address to an absent or otherwise unresponsive entity (someone or something dead, imaginary, abstract, or inanimate). 
assonancethe repetition of vowel-sounds. 
beata stressed (or accented) syllable. 
binarydual, twofold, characterized by two parts. 
blank verseunrhymed iambic pentameter. 
caesuraan audible pause internal to a line, usually in the middle. (An audible pause at the end of a line is called an end-stop.) The French alexandrine, Anglo-Saxon alliterative meter, and Latin dactylic hexameter are all verse forms that call for a caesura. 
chiasmusfrom the Greek letter Chi ( Χ ), a “crossed” rhetorical parallel. That is, the parallel form a:b::a:b changes to a:b::b:a to become a chiasmus. 
climaxthe high point; the moment of greatest tension or intensity. The climax can occur at any point in a poem, and can register on different levels, e.g. narrative, rhetorical, or formal. 
consonancethe repetition of consonant-sounds. 
couplettwo lines of verse, usually rhymed. Heroic couplet: a rhymed iambic pentameter couplet. 
dictionword choice, specifically the “class” or “kind” of words chosen. 
elegysince the 17th century, usually denotes a reflective poem that laments the loss of something or someone. 
end-stopped linea line that ends with a punctuation mark and whose meaning is complete. 
enjambed linea “run-on” line that carries over into the next to complete its meaning. 
footthe basic unit of accentual-syllabic and quantitative meter, usually combining a stress with one or more unstressed syllables. 
free versepoetry in which the rhythm does not repeat regularly. 
imagerythe visual (or other sensory) pictures used to render a description more vivid and immediate. 
metera regularly repeating rhythm, divided for convenience intofeet. 
metonomya figure of speech in which something is represented by another thing that is commonly and often physically associated with it, e.g. “White House” for “the President.” 
odea genre of lyric, an ode tends to be a long, serious meditation on an elevated subject. 
prosodythe study of versification, i.e. the form—meter, rhyme, rhythm, stanzaic form, sound patterns—into which poets put language to make it verse rather than something else. 
refraina phrase or line recurring at intervals. (N.b. the definition does not require that a refrain include the entire line, nor that it recur at regular intervals, though refrains often are and do.) 
rhythmthe patterns of stresses, unstressed syllables, and pauses in language. Regularly repeating rhythm is called meter. 
scansionthe identification and analysis of poetic rhythm and meter. To “scan” a line of poetry is to mark its stressed and unstressed syllables. 
similea figure of speech that compares two distinct things by using a connective word such as “like” or “as.” 
speakerthe “I” of a poem, equivalent to the “narrator” of a prose text. In lyric poetry, the speaker is often an authorial persona. 
speech actthe manner of expression (as opposed to the content). Examples of speech acts include: question, promise, plea, declaration, and command. 
stanzaa “paragraph” of a poem: a group of lines separated by extra white space from other groups of lines. 
symbolan image that stands for something larger and more complex, often something abstract, such as an idea or a set of attitudes. (See imagery.) 
symbolismthe serious and relatively sustained use of symbols to represent or suggest other things or ideas. (Distinct from allegory in that symbolism does not depend on narrative.) 
synecdochea figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent the whole, e.g. “wheels” for “car.” 
tonethe speaker’s or author’s attitude toward the reader, addressee, or subject matter. The tone of a poem immediately impresses itself upon the reader, yet it can be quite difficult to describe and analyze. 
toposa traditional theme or motif (e.g. the topos of modesty). 
tropea figure of speech, such as a metaphor (trope is often used, incorrectly, to mean topos) 
valedictionan act or utterance of farewell.
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