Sixty-nine tanka –
Two syllables short apiece –
In each’s last line –
From me misreading its form –
Improved while fixed in a day
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion.
Notes to this poem…
A tanka is an obscure Japanese poetic form I’ve taken to quite fondly ever since I learned about it last year. The form has five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. However, for whatever reason, when I read about it, I came away with the understanding there were only five syllables in the last line instead of seven! I must have been delusionally “romantic” about the form with a symmetrical 5-7-5-7-5 syllabic layout or something, I don’t know.
Anyway, 69 tanka into my tanka writing journey, I’m quite honestly shocked nobody on the Internet had called me out for not having written a proper tanka! I thought the Internet was good at putting down people for their mistakes! (sort of lol cause it often isn’t funny in the form of cyberbullying)
When I found out late Sunday evening, getting a link to talk to someone about it, I was flabbergasted to discover I had written 69 incorrectly formed poems!!! Then, aside from the shock, was the realization of a big decision to be made to either try and fix all, some, or reclassify them all as one stanza poems, of which I also wrote many. And if I were to fix some, any titled as Tanka would have to be changed. Those would be tanka composed when not part of some other activity for which there were a collection, like running, skating, ferry riding, etc.
The decision wasn’t hard to make. I have way too much pride to have just left those tanka for conversion to one stanza poems! So I set about fixing them.
What surprised me about the process of fixing them was how quickly it went. I fixed them all in a day, batches at a time because none took me very long! In the process, I also improved most of them, in my opinion. Those extra two syllables were really valuable! I should have realized that, though, with the frequent struggle to keep the final line to five syllables when I had composed those 69 tanka incorrectly.
With all those corrections done, and improvements made as a side consequence, all I can say is I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief! I have since written a three tanka in the correct form, including this one that documents the error with in the correct form, symbolically making a statement that I can do it right in the process. 🙂
The poems titled Tanka, followed by a number, are tanka composed while I was not engaged in some activity during which I frequently composed poetry. That is why these are called the Inactive Tanka collection.