Winter – a Tanka

I was writing a haiku yesterday, and decided to go the extra mile with it. Traditionally in Japan these poems were sometimes written in the form of tanka, which are essentially poems of five lines rather than three, with a syllable count of 5/7/5/7/7.

They could also be written as linked verse, with one or two poets writing haiku, and others supplying the two remaining lines between each haiku.

I’ve gone down the linked verse route, and also given myself the remit that each verse (of two or three lines) must contain a word or sentiment linking it to those either side – something that was also commonly done.

Yesterday was cold and miserable, hence the results.

It’s my first attempt – please don’t be too harsh!


The flowers have gone.

Crumbling stems standing askew,

In waterlogged soil.


Outlined against the grey sky,

Old willows by the stream.


Ten thousand leaves are

All that remain of autumn.

Wistful nostalgia.


Memories of warmer days,

Are all but forgotten now.


Wrapped up warm and snug,

Watching the grey willows weep.

Hands in my pockets.


Leaves fall slowly through the air,

Onto silent black waters.


Now a gust of wind

Swirls leaves around and around.

Racing each other.


Shifting clouds race overhead,

Sudden drizzle on the breeze.


Spiteful winter day,

Grasses shiver in the wind.

Low sunlight dazzles.


Walking in meditation,

Clouds unexpectedly clear.


Sudden bright sunshine

Reminds me the cold Winter,

Will change into Spring.


33 thoughts on “Winter – a Tanka

  1. I like it 🙂 especially as most people have never heard of any Japanese poetry styles that are not haiku.

    My one critique is don’t get too hung up on the syllable count. The japanese “sounds” that traditionally make up the count are not easily translatable and some such as cutting words etc have no equivalent in english. Sometimes it is better to use fewer words rather than add extra ones to make up the exact count .

    Generally love it though!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Sam. I don’t always worry about the count, but I was treating this one as an exercise, so I tried to be strict with myself. I also tend to try and stick with 5/7/5 with haiku, thinking ‘If they could do it, then I should be able to!’ Where the count should be treated with caution, I think, is if you are trying to translate one from (say) Japanese to English. It’s unlikely to work then. But, having said that, some of the ones I’ve written I like most, are more freeform.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can see why you might do it as an exercise. But the 5,7,5 rarely works in english. it is often the case that people put in fluff words to make up the count rather than capturing the essence of the moment which is what haiku are supposed to do.
        The accepted count for haiku tends to be 17 syllables or less arranged in a short, long, short arrangement.

        Liked by 1 person

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