Tanka Poetry Prompt Challenge Guidelines


Are you ready to get your poetry groove on? Then, you’re in the right place! Pull up a chair, order some coffee or tea and let’s talk TANKA poetry.



I love to write Tanka poetry because it 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. 5/7/5/7/7 is the exact breakdown of syllables. Even though I love Haiku for its brevity, I have found that writing a Tanka gives you more of a story. Since we’re all writers and storyteller’s here, I thought it would be perfect to inspire our creativity to new heights.

Here’s WHY I want to sponsor this challenge:

To inspire creativity from a different poetry form

To have fun and enjoy Tanka

To share and for the chance to get to know each other

To inspire and create a community of Tanka lovers


Here are some great sites that will help you write your Tanka.


For Synonyms and Antonyms. When your word has too many syllables, find one that works.


Find out how many syllables each word has.

Click on the “Poetry Workshop” tab to create your Tanka. Here are the rules for the Tanka form: howmanysyllables.com

Poets.org gives the definition and the rules for the writing of a Tanka. Please note the following from the site:

“In many ways, the tanka resembles the sonnet, certainly in terms of treatment of the subject. Like the sonnet, the Tanka employs a turn, known as a pivotal image, which marks the transition from the examination of an image to the examination of the personal response. This turn is located within the third line, connecting thekami-no-ku, or upper poem, with the shimo-no-ku, or lower poem.”

Visit Jean Emrich at tankaonline.com She gives excellent instructions on how to incorporate your feelings into this poetry form.

Shadowpoetry.com shares the following (I have quoted the page):

Definition of Tanka

An unrhymed Japanese poem consisting of five lines of 5/7/5/7/7 (5 kana in the first line, 7 kana in the second line, 5 kana in the third line, 7 kana in the fourth line, and 7 kana in the fifth line) totaling 31 kana.

General thoughts on Tanka

Tanka is generally written in two parts. The first three lines is one part, and the last two lines is the second part.

Tanka in English is relatively new, so there are not as many guidelines as with haiku and senryu. You may include kigo (season words), but it is not necessary.

One exercise for beginners is to write a haiku and add two more lines.

However, tanka is not really a longer haiku, and should not be thought of as such. While tanka does use many of the same elements such as juxtaposition, concrete imagery, and is usually centered around nature, tanka is less constrictive.

You may use metaphor, simile, and many of the other devices generally not used in haiku or senryu. You may show a more personal and emotional viewpoint.

If tanka were seen in a book that contains only Japanese poetic forms, they would be easily recognizable. However, if the same poems were seen in a freestyle poetry book, they may be confused with any other five line poem.

English tanka has not totally found its voice.

Three ways to write tanka

There are three basic ways to write tanka.

1) Write 5 lines of 5/7/5/7/7. Just replace one syllable for one kana. Most English speaking writers do not do this, as there are too many vast differences between the Japanese and English language.

You are certainly free to do this, however, your tanka will be about one-third longer than the Japanese tanka. There are some Japanese who think this is the only real way to write tanka, but there are others who feel that making English writers adhere to the form serves no purpose.

2) Write 5 lines of 31 syllables or LESS, following the short/long/short/long/long form. This way, your tanka will achieve the same basic effect as the Japanese tanka.

3) Write 5 lines of 31 syllables or LESS, letting the poem dictate the line length. You are free to experiment more with this last option.

Everyone who writes tanka must make their own personal decision on which form they want to use. Some experiment with all three forms and find their own paths.

Examples of tanka (#3)

in her rocker, failing eyesight–
knotted fingers stitch the eyes
on yellow gingham dolls
just for me

in the gloaming. . .
finding peace in indecision
day and night pass
each other, pale blues
fade into darkness

I have only discussed tanka in the simplest of terms. For more in depth information on tanka or its history, feel free to see the links on this page for more information.

Tanka Links

bullet   Tanka
bullet   Tanka Society of America

Article written by Kathy Lippard Cobb. All Rights Reserved


I will publish the Tanka Tuesday prompt at 12: 03 A.M. Mountain Standard Time (Denver time). That should give everyone time to see the prompt from around the world.

How Long Do You Have and Your Deadline: You have a week to complete the Challenge with a deadline of Monday at 12:00 P.M (noon). This will give me a chance to add the links from everyone’s Tanka post from the previous week, on the new prompt I send out on Tuesday. I encourage everyone to visit the blogs and comment on everyone’s Tanka poem.

The rules are simple.

I will give you two words that should be used (in some form) in the writing of your Tanka.

The two words can be used in any way you would like to use them. Words have different definitions and you can use the definitions you like. Feel free to use synonyms for the words.

To do a Ping Back: Copy the URL (the HTTP:// address of my post) for the current week’s Challenge and paste it into your post. You may also place a copy of your URL of your Tanka Post in the comments of the current week’s Challenge post.

People from the challenge may visit you and comment or click like. I also need at least a Ping Back or a link in the comments section in order to know you participated and to include you in the Weekly Review section of the new prompt on Tuesday.

I want you to be CREATIVE. Use your own photos and create “Visual Tankas” if you wish, although it is not necessary. You can use FotoflexerPicmonkey, or Canva.com, or any other program that you wish to make your own images. Click the links to go to the programs.


I will visit your blog, comment, and TWEET your TANKA.

You may copy the badge I have created to go with the Tanka Tuesday Challenge Post and place it in your own post:


Many thanks to Ronovan’s Writes and his Haiku Challenge which inspired this event. I used his “Rules” for this challenge.

Here’s a sample of a Tanka I wrote:


If you have any questions you can contact me at silverthreading@gmail.com. Please reference the Tanka Challenge in your subject line.

Thanks for stopping by. I can’t wait to see your creative Tanka Poems. Bottom line – HAVE FUN!