MSJames's Workshop: Tanka!

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MSJames's Workshop: Tanka!

This workshop is now CLOSED. All entries (all 23 of them, I should specify) are at the end of this journal. Tanka seems to have been popular with you, and we're very happy you participated.

I notice some new workshoppers, too. Welcome!

MSJames is currently reading all the entries now, which makes him a busy man. Go light on him, folks.  Meanwhile, you know the drill. Start critiquing and helping each other out!

As a surprise, Laurence55 and Jade-Pandora sent in some of their tanka to read. They're not up for critique, but they're fun to read. Thank you, Laurence and Jade.

April 6, 2008

MSJames is one of the lit community's most prominent haijin. He's known for hosting HaikuWriMo (haiku writing month) and the Spring Haiku Contest. His gallery is worth a visit or two, for his writing as well as his photography. (When you get the time, do read A word about haiku by Michael James, which is an excellent haiku resource.)

For this workshop, he has decided to focus on tanka, another Japanese poetic form.


This poetry workshop is going to concentrate on Japanese poetry. So much has been done and said about haiku and senryu, that I have decided to focus this exercise on a little known Japanese poetic form called the Tanka. This form of Japanese poetry has been around for more than 1300 years and there are more Tanka poems preserved than any other form in the world.

Tanka, like many other Japanese forms, grew as an offshoot of a previous form called a Choka. A Choka was an even longer form of poem originally derived and written in Chinese before the Japanese made it their own.

A Tanka has a format similar to that of a Haiku, but with two extra lines and they are as follows: 5-7-5-7-7, all written on their own lines. However, a Tanka is not just a longer Haiku. They are/can be two poetic ideas joined together by a transitioning line. So the first 5-7-5 are normally one idea, while sharing the middle line, the last 5-7-7 are normally another, connected idea. These elements make up the Tanka poem.

In the 10th century, the height of the Heian period of Japan, Tanka were revered not only as a poetic form, but also as a prerequisite for being involved in the imperial court life. These poems were usually haunty and mostly involved some kind of liaison between a man and a woman.

Please investigate this for yourself!
Tanka Month Journal
by Laurence55

One of the most prolific and well-known writers from that time was a woman named Ono No Komachi, she furthered the Tanka form and made it a true art form, in every sense of the word.

About her
Her poetry

But we live in the here and now, and the Tanka form has changes so many ways over the past 10+ centuries. So now lets take a look at the modern Tanka. The long and the short of it can be read here in just a few minutes.

But I want to give you my definition. I believe that you can marry the old and the new quite well, keeping with tradition and still maintaining a modern freshness. As a result, my Tanka tend to have a romantic slant to them, with a mixing of nature. Here is one of my recent Tanka.

in the sky
I see the beautiful face
of my love
there is no other
in the world for me

Now that is written in the traditional sense, on an esoteric level at least. But that is just my take on it. Others make their Tanka much more modern, exploring all kinds of possibilities. Let’s take a look at another couple of examples of modern Tanka from a fellow deviant Laurence55

and the meadow
so thick
I almost slip

as if
we needed
a reason
to embrace-
sudden wind

Now that you have seen example of ancient and modern Tanka, it’s your turn. I really want you to decide for yourself how you want to write your Tanka. Just keep in mind that nature and romance should be evident somewhere and that the 5-7-5-7-7 syllable rule is the same as haiku, there is no need to stick to this because this was only a device for the Japanese language. Remember, the more brief and concise, the better.

Good luck!

How to Submit

After submitting your entry as a new deviation or scrap, send us a note with a link to your poem. Include the subject line "TANKA" in your note. The deadline is midnight April 16, 2008. All times are set for GMT. MSJames will respond to the entries on April 20, 2008.

A note from Writers-Workshop: Please note that this is a poetry workshop, meaning that we will only submit poetry entries. And most of all, have fun with it! :) We hope you enjoy this workshop, especially as this is Poetry Writing Month (officially) and Tanka Month.

:postit: On Accepting Critique

:bulletblue: Always thank the critic. This gratitude must be as sincere as possible, even if you did not like the critique given, because the critic has taken time to offer his/her opinion of the piece.
:bulletblue: If you do not like the critique, it is not necessary to mention so. Simply thank the critic and move on. You can always ignore their suggestions, while not making a scene of it.
:bulletblue: If you are unsure of what the critique means, feel free to ask the critic what s/he meant. Building rapport with your critic is one of the best ways to survive in a workshop and to learn. If you want examples, ask. Similarly, if you like the suggestions given, mention it. Critic's have feelings too. :)
:bulletblue: In the unlikely case that a critic offers rude/sexist/racist/etc comments, feel free to contact Writers-Workshop in a note and we will try to help you. A decision regarding the rudeness of the critique will be taken, and if we're not sure ourselves, we will consult with one of the GDs or anyone else high up on deviantART.

:+fav: our news article.


April 17, 2008

Entries (in alphabetical order of deviant's username)

Flight by Aethelwolfess
Tanka 1 by Amy--Louise
A Free Country by Art-of-Hilt
Dirty Kitten by Art-of-Hilt
Tanka: Unfunny Play by AstarteKatz
A British Tanka Day 9 by BeccaJS
Tanka Attempts by Bogbrush
Crimson road by CrystalSeeker
Mistress by darksouldream
tanka by essuie-glace
Industry by fense
Clear Moonlight by GaioumonBatou
Playtime by Gibah
A conversation between lovers by infrangiblegreen
5 by inspiredimperfection
Stealing the Secrets by itzjusdrama
pillow by livingtoxic
Lover Eyes by PrincessMelissa83
closed doors irony by RakistangNars
if thank you's are enough by RakistangNars
Tanka: Clouds to Water by samjaymc
Flowers by wyldhoney
Strength of little things by xCamix

And some more for your reading pleasure

Laurence55: Tanka Series | April Tanka Series 1 | Tanka Series 2 | Tanka Love Buzz

Jade-Pandora: April Tanka Collection | Tanka Series I | Death Tanka | Death Tanka 2

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GaioumonBatou's avatar
I liked this one, even if I have no idea whether or not mine's good or bad. XD