Two Tanka

reaching for more
I topple the glass
spilling tears
not for the milk
for the sighs
in the hall
we all laugh
not seeing the boy
stuffing himself

in his backpack

© 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

I’ve decided to dedicate the week to tanka. Tanka is an ancient Japanese form, even more ancient than haiku. Tanka consist of five lines. The first three lines offer an image. The last two lines offer a commentary on the first image, sometimes through an additional resonating image. In Japanese tanka use 5-7-5-7-7 “sounds.” In English one might use 5-7-5-7-7 syllables or fewer.

I’m personally drawn to tanka for the double, resonating images. I think the form might be particularly suited to middle school students who often seem to be thinking about what’s happening and what they think about what’s happening.

Here’s a link to my current favorite tanka:

More later.


2 replies
  1. Pauline
    Pauline says:

    Liz, I love both of these. I can picture the moment in both. The wistfulness of the emotion at the close of the first makes it resonate after the words are gone. The complexity of ideas and emotions at the end of the second, which allows us to imagine so much about the boy, his character, and his life, really draws us in.

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