September 2016


UHTS collected works

Tanka Introduction

For your convenience, we have created introduction pages to each category that we publish in cattails, collected works of the UHTS. We hope that this will clarify for both old-timers and new writers specifics, since currently so many different schools-of-thought on each of these forms—we offer ours also for your perusal.

Tanka, meaning "short song" is the moder​n​ day term for waka which means "Japanese song", the traditional form of lyric ​court poetry which has been composed in Japan for over 1300 years. It was originally intended to be chanted aloud to musical accompaniment.

​Tanka is​ ​​a non-rhymed nature/human nature based ​melodic​ poem given ​its ​rhythm by writing to a pattern of ​short/​long​/​short​/​long/​long with varying breath pauses being made when read aloud. Rhythmically ​this s/l/s/l/l ​combines unevenness with alternation, thus providing a natural balance to offset its inherent fluidity. ​This rhythm or something close to it is acceptable for publication in cattails.

Notwithstanding, the difference in Japanese on and English syllables, the lyrical rhythm and songlike quality of a tanka whether written in either language ​are achieved from the top down. Beginning with line 1 and building tension with each line until reaching a climax in line 5—(one of three longest lines out of a 5 line short/long/short/long/long pattern), that needs to be the most significant and impactful line overall. ​The pathos of existence ​concept ​is frequently a key element in all Japanese poetry, but particularly in tanka. ​Th​is form continues to be used primarily to convey personal emotion. However, in addition there exists an equally valid style of ​tanka ​that are simply "word paintings" or sketch​es​ from nature​ and/or life​.

​The​ ancient aesthetics that define and characterize traditional ​Japanese tanka can be used to provide concrete credentials for contemporary tanka if the poet ​has knowledge of the original constructing ​of ​those tanka.

​There are a set of cultural values put in place by the poets of Japan, acceptable concepts which portray ​certain subtle principles of court poetry, (having been in place for over a thousand years), that are essential to know regardless the particulars of tanka conception that one comes to practice and the format they ultimately choose to follow.

The UHTS does not publish anything we feel might be offensive to the general public. We encourage you to send a translation of your tanka in "your" native language.

REMINDER: Please send any/all tanka submissions (within the "body" of an email), with the Subject heading of TANKA in all caps. You can submit tanka to David Terelinck at:

You must include your Country, full name, and email address to be considered!