Literary Shelf

Japanese Short Poems

In dictionary parlance, a Tanka is a Japanese poem consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all and giving a complete picture of an event or mood.

While Tanka and Haiku are traditional short forms of Japanese poetry, the conventional haiku consists of three syllable units and seventeen syllables in all, while the Tanka has five syllable units and thirty-one syllables.

Haibun consists of a prose poem and Haiku. It was popularized by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. The poem and the prose communicate with each other subtly or directly.  As the Haibun connects prose with poetry, Tanka prose connects Tanka with the prose, ‘written in the Tanka spirit.’

Haiku and Tanka poems have gained increasing popularity among writers from all over the world.

Here are some samples:


Leisurely Glance

It’s my weekly off. Tired of the monotonous slavery to gadgets and apps, I decide to take a stroll on the patio. The cars in the neighborhood are all gone, they would all return only by evening. The ‘Reserved’ and ‘Visitor’ signs seem to do the talking in the stillness.

wink of an eye white
trail in the sky
brings back
lost memories

The worker on the roof is spraying baking soda. His face is masked; he wears gloves on his right hand. This routine maintenance work is to prevent the moss from growing during the damp season. With agility he ascends the sloping roofs to spray the white powder from end to other. Soon, comes the familiar black towed-on vehicle. With the blow vac, the man blows all the leaves fallen around the large condominium into a pile, gathers them and disposes them into the bin. Meanwhile, the other mows the lawn; soon the grass gets collected in the bag which he disposes, once again, into the trash bin. Job done, the vehicle soon disappears down the lane.

autumn leaves
buried in the pile
her desires
drift beyond boundaries ~
(Atlas Poetica Issue No: 27)

daughter’s school work
she traces her fingers
on the writing—
reality hits her hard
nothing left to pay the fee
(Atlas Poetica Issue No:19)




sudden brightness...
snow white geese
heading south

In this quiet neighborhood, the kitchen window is my outlet to the world, the cookie cutter homes, ever enchanting. The young mother beguiles her baby with soap bubbles, the little one runs after the iridescent circles for a while, suddenly wishes to wander off on its own. Soon, the mother starts to play ball, the baby wants to enter home through the garden gate. Gently holding its hand, she takes it for a stroll in the condominium, exchanging pleasantries with the elderly woman on the patio across.

Sunday evening...
my dog wants me
to throw the ball once more

(Contemporary Haibun Online July 2018, vol 14 no 2)


The Voice

Most often, seminars and meets turn out with a motley gathering where individuals await with bated breath for their names to be announced. Once their poetry reading is done, a mental switch-off happens and the monotones continue until recess is announced.

soothing music...
the new comer
recites a verse

As I listen to the bespectacled gentleman, I feel a strange peace descend on me. I notice goosebumps on my hands. His rendition, poise, intonation and presentation is impeccably perfect.

sultry afternoon...
sudden wind
(Under the Basho, November 2018)



rainy morning
the wife showering
abuses on her husband
(Frog pond: HAS Volume 36: 3, 2013)

Autumn dusk
dancing ghosts
clothes on the line
(Haiku Universe, November 21, 2018)

early summer
Indian laburnum
(Haiku Universe May 28, 2019)

Independence Day
my sari clad mother
dons jeans and t shirt
(Haiku Universe August 18, 2019)

Juxtaposition creates powerful Haiku.


More by :  Hema Ravi

Top | Literary Shelf

Views: 3835      Comments: 1

Comment Dark daughter,
Dark you,
Dark the myths of creation!

Bamiyan Buddhas,
Disturb them not,
O Taliban!

The temple not
The place of yours
To live in!

They call you, Patita,
You Patita, fallen and degraded not,
Punita, chaste and pure!

Iskconites going,
Hare Rama, hare Krishna,
Rama-Rama, Krishna-Krishna!

Bob Dylan
With the guitar
Plucking the chords, striking the wires.

In the suite and boots,
The goggles and the hat
Giving the break dance.

Bijay Kant Dubey
06-Oct-2019 01:32 AM

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