W for Waka #NaPoWriMo2021


The forms of Japanese poetry most familiar to English poets are the Haiku and the Senryu, the 17-syllable poems. But these popular forms were derived from an older, but still popular poetic form, the Waka, which had been used for a thousand years before the haiku. The word waka means “Japanese poem,” and it is a form so basic to Japanese literature that it is still studied and written today.

The Waka is often considered synonymous with Tanka (another Japanese poetry form), because both follow a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable per line structure. However, some sources on the Waka suggests that it groups its lines together in a particular way and that is how it is differentiated from a Tanka. The first 3 lines should make up one piece, referred to as the upper verse, and the last 2 lines make another piece, what’s called as the lower verse. Some other sources group this poem into a 2-2-1 or a 2-3 form as well.

Here’s a poem that I wrote in NaPoWriMo 2020 and am still not sure whether to call it a waka or a tanka :-

A tinker bell
spun my beliefs out of
my head
While I tried to drag myself
out of the plato’s cave

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