A Tanka Attempt: My First Try on Old Japanese Poem

As I said before, I like writing short stories but I have been trying to challenge myself to write something else. I have tried writing poems, both rhyme and non-rhyme. I guessed it’s time to increase the challenge a little by writing old style Japanese Poem.

There are 2 old style Japanese poems known to the world, Haiku and Tanka. I tried writing Haiku for this week’s picture in Creative Writing Ink…but Haiku is too short and I couldn’t manage to deliver the message. So, I tried Tanka with five chouka (long poems composed of 5-7 syllable phrases repeated any number of times and closed with 7-7 syllable). This tanka of mine was using 5-7-5-7-7 syllable, same with what Shiki Masaoka was using.

However, Tanka and Haiku have certain rules where we should include nature or season in the beginning and give conclusion in the last line….this I couldn’t do (yet). My tanka probably would end up being a laughing stock by real Japanese…at least I have tried tho it was more like a short poem in Tanka syllable.

I wrote this tanka in Japanese and gave the translation below. I called this tanka attempt as:

Embrace The Future

走れ行け
過去を離れて
素晴らしい
世界と未来
手で掴み取る

Hashire ike
Kako o hanarete
Subarashii
Sekai to mirai
Te de tsukami toru

Let’s run
Let go of the past
With these hands
Let’s embrace
A wonderful world and future

Note: I know my tanka isn’t exactly match with the picture, I merely take the fact that the  man is running. Plus my Japanese is still rusty, I most likely did a lot of grammatical mistake there.

Critiques are always more than welcome 🙂

You can read my other writing stuff here.

This tanka has been updated a few times because of my limitation in Japanese, I am very grateful to Kate who has helped me a lot in correcting my Japanese, ありがとう.

22 thoughts on “A Tanka Attempt: My First Try on Old Japanese Poem

    1. Actually I wrote it first in Japanese and then translated it into English, that’s why the English one didn’t have the 5-7-5-707 pattern. Making poems in Japanese is a lot harder than I thought. Not sure if i want to try again in the future 😉

      Tanka is a bit longer than Haiku,both are equally old. Thank you for reading this,Caroline

    1. This is tanka with 5 chouka, there is also tanka with 12 sedouka where the syllable becomes 5-7-7-5-7-7.

      Hehehe how could a tanka turns to something mysterious? Once in a while I have to write non-mysterious stuff 😉

  1. Creative approach to this week’s photo! I like the fact that you based it just on one detail of the image. That opens the writing up to many more ideas and interpretations. I can’t speak or read Japanese so thankyou also for the translation 😀

    1. Thank you Theresa.
      I have to focus on one detail because the picture was actually good for a short story but I promised myself to try old Japanese poem for this week.

      Thank you again for reading, my friend

  2. I love the positive message. To me it matches the picture because people who live in the past also have tunnel vision, and this man has let go, and is running to a new life outside of the tunnel.

    I like it. 😉

  3. I have NO idea what Tanka is, so I’m not sure if I’m a suitable person to comment on this. But I do have to say, I absolutely didn’t expect you to write something this positive from such a gray picture! This is a nice surprise!

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