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Exploring Haiku & Tanka

What better way to whittle away the sunny summer days than by writing poetry? Even if you don't fancy yourself a wordsmith, haiku and tanka are two short forms that can provide a fun, creative, and addicting challenge.

Haiku and Tanka are very old forms of Japanese poetry. 

Haiku are 17-syllable
poems that paint a single image in three compact lines. Haiku were
created for beginnings to a longer work of poetry. Haiku rarely rhyme.

Haiku
is simple: one
short line, one long line, and another short line

first line begins
five
a b o u t   7   s y l l a b l e s
end the poem with
five

crickets, well I have
a lizard named nick who loves
crickets at midnight

          – Hunter (age 15)


Tanka are 31-syllable
poems
that
paint a single image in five compact lines
. While Haiku were created for beginnings, Tankas were created for
endings.
Tanka rarely rhyme.

Tanka
is simple: one
short line, one long line, another short line then two long lines

first line begins
five
a b o u t   7   s y l l a b l e s
use five for line
three
a b o u t   7   s y l l a b l e s
a b o u t   7   s y l l a b l e s

dark clouds curl above
sails thrusting through a summer storm
an unexpected
sunset drops behind the splish splash splish
splash splish sounding of the waves
                            – Jonathan (age 12)

Now pour your children a glass of lemonade, find a shady spot and have fun with haiku and tanka. Their poetry can be about anything at all, just have them take a look around and write! After they have filled a page or two, pick a favorite and share it with us here by leaving a comment.

If you are interested in exploring these fascinating forms of poetry more with your children, we highly recommend the following two books:

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Haiku (Asian Arts and Crafts For Creative Kids), by Patricia Donnegan


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Cricket Never Does: A Collection of Haiku and Tanka, Myra Cohn Livingston

For a strong introduction to the forms and fundamentals of poetry for 5th grade through high school students, check out our Exploring Poetry unit.

1 thought on “Exploring Haiku & Tanka

  1. I love your new blog. The stories are very heartwarming.
    Here’s my Haiku
    Refrigerator
    Looking for inspiration
    Peas, hum, broccoli

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