Japanese for "short poem." These are generally mood pieces, generally about love, life's briefness, seasons, or sadness. A properly written tanka use strong images and lots of poetic devices that haiku avoid, like metaphor, personification, alliteration, etc.

The line, in English (because of the syllable differences), should be measured on accented ones, in this order: 2-3-2-3-3 or a sylables per line as - 5-7-5-7-7, totaling 31. As Juuichiketajin pointed out, this causes the alternate name "miso-hito-moji".

There are variations, of course, some of them going back almost 1200 years. Early tanka presented the image or thought in the first couple of lines, and a related idea in the next couple. Ex. :

thoughts of her
unendurable, I go there . . .
the winter night's
river-wind is chill
and plovers are crying

--Ki no Tsurayuki (approx 900 A.D.).

These, like haiku are ruined often by a lot of gooey sentiment.

back to Forms of Poetry

1. Japanese verse
2. Religious painting from Tibet
3. Culture of boat people
4. A village in Italy
5. Great
6. A grunge band in Estonia
7. A comic character

Tanka: Japanese verse
Tanka (meaning short verse) is a form of waka (japanese poetry) having 31 syllables, written in five lines in the form 5-7-5-7-7. The simplicity of this form of poetry allows poets to create concise, elegant expressions for complex thoughts. The themes of a tanka tend toward beauty, melancholy, and the passage of time.

Tanka: Religious painting from Tibet
A tanka is a portable religious painting from Tibet, depicting the Buddha, or lamas in their most recognizable forms. The word tanka (or thangka), in this case, comes from the Tibetan thaka, which means "something rolled up". Tankas are usually richly coloured, and are painted on thickly woven, cotton cloth, with a gesso of animal glue, chalk, and water. Larger tankas are made with just two of these cloth pieces sewn together. The whole painting is bordered in cloth, and fitted with wooden rods at both top and bottom to enable effective transport and storage.

Tanka: Culture of boat people
The Tánka (also called Tan) people are one of Hong Kong's first immigrant groups, coming from Mainland China during the Han dynasty. Most Tánka are fishers, traders, salt-producers, but other significant jobs have included pearl-diving and opium dealing. The Tánka historically lived on small boats grouped together to form colonies. The fishing village of Tai O, on the northwest side of Hong Kong’s Lantau Island, is a community built on stilts by the Tánka people, who are not comfortable to settle on land. The boats of these people are also called tankas (or tankias), measuring 7m in length, and rowed by the Tánka women. The boats are small, with a single oar in the stern, and generally carry two passengers. Because the boats have so significant a part in the lives of the Tánka people, the children would learn to climb the rigging, carrying supplies or even babies on their backs.

The Tánka people have faced political, social, and economic discrimination from both the Chinese and British governments of Hong Kong. The Tánka were traditionally not recognized as part of Hong Kong by the Chinese government, and British oppression began in the 1950s, when the colonial government made plans to destroy the stilt homes of the Tánka people, and replace these with inland homes. The stilt houses did remain, but have been transferred to government powers, and the Tánka are only allowed to stay because the state has allowed them to. Another difficulty faced by the Tánka is the decline of the fishing industry due to stock shortage, industrial pollution, and ecosystem disruption from large scale government infrastructure.

Tanka: Great
Tanka means "great" in the the Lakota, and Sioux (Dakota) First Nations language (Wopila Tanka great thanks, Ta tanka great beast, Waka’n Tanka great spirit or great mystery) This last, the Waka’n Tanka, is the godhead of the Lakota people in the same way that God is the Christian godhead, and Brahma-Nirguna is the Hindu godhead.

Tanka: A village in Italy
Tanka is a village in the commune of Villasimius, on the south-east cape of Sardinia, 50km from the capital, Cagliari. Tanka covers 43 hectares of the island, and has about 900 residences.

Tanka: A grunge band in Estonia
There is a grunge band in Estonia by the name of Tanka, composed of Oskar Danka, Denis Shelepov, Raivo Piirsalu, and Henry Hinno. They released the CD Routine in 2000, then went touring throughout Estonia. In 2001, they worked on their first LP.

Tanka: A comic character
Tanka was in the French comic book, Nevada, from issues 206247. Tanka is a blond-haired, blue-eyed muscular hero. The story of Tanka is that he was found as a baby in the jungle, and grew up developing "jungle-abilities", and fighting for the side of good. He disappeared from this space-time continuum when he found the "Master Arch", and went 7 billion years in the future. He became a time-travelling protector of good, and then returned to "normal time".

Tan"ka (?), n. Naut.

A kind of boat used in Canton. It is about 25 feet long and is often rowed by women. Called also tankia.

S. W. Williams.


© Webster 1913.

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