Minimalist Tanka   

            While in Japan tanka is a fixed form, Western poets have experimented with reduced line length.        Minimalist tanka, as they are often called, usually have less than twenty syllables and, like haiku, are
       one breath in length.. As Michael McClintock points out in his essay, "Notes on Form, Techniques,
       and Subject Matter in Modern English Tanka," many minimalist tanka share a quandary of classifi-
       cation—would they not be haiku or senryu if written in the conventional three lines of those 
       genres?" McClintock states that, issues regarding classification aside, minimalist tanka as written in
       the West "are so numerous, in fact, that perhaps they represent a subgenre of tanka in English.
       Here are a few examples from our TO Team.

                                                         Minimalist Tanka byTom Clausen

                                                         the cold walk,
                                                         between us,
                                                         the creek running
                                                         under ice


                                                         I sort of knew
                                                         my coffee cup
                                                         was empty-
                                                         so much I look in it
                                                         just to see


                                                        it occurs to me
                                                        to retreat
                                                        from this world-
                                                        as if another world
                                                        might exist


                                                        it's not for any
                                                        simple reason
                                                        I've fallen out
                                                        of love
                                                        with my life


                                                       revealed so long
                                                       this grain of wood
                                                       on our floor-
                                                       the distance yet
                                                       we have to go


                                                       tiny bluets
                                                       all around me
                                                       and over there
                                                       a couple,
                                                       very much in love


                                                       Minimalist Tanka by Michael McClintock

                                                       From Man With No Face (Shelters Press, 1974):

                                                       into the peach
                                                       it seemed
                                                       it did
                                                       kiss me

                                                       without money---
                                                       after awhile
                                                       stopt pretending
                                                       ate a parsnip

                                                       From Letters in Time (Hermitage West, 2005):

                                                       next door
                                                       the lovemaking
                                                       stars fall
                                                       from other worlds

                                                       when you opened
                                                       my letter
                                                       were you surprised
                                                       my heart
                                                       fell out?

                                                       From Meals at Midnight (Modern English Tanka Press, 2008):

                                                       just over
                                                       the ridge
                                                       that world
                                                       that goes on

                                                       wanting to go
                                                       into my room
                                                       and be alone, yet
                                                       leaving the door
                                                       open a crack

                                                      From uncollected poems and sources (1990--present):

                                                      an old cocoon---
                                                      an hour
                                                      given to love
                                                      of emptiness

                                                      only a week
                                                      and already our love
                                                      has memories
                                                      and a past

                                                      if only
                                                      for a day
                                                      or two ---
                                                      an island circled
                                                      on a map


                                                       Birds That Sing in Winter
                                                            by Jeanne Emrich                                     

                                                       the pink azalea
                                                       to my cheek
                                                       I am not who I was


                                                       from one
                                                       to many
                                                       to all
                                                       I hardly know
                                                       water lilies


                                                       the inner voice
                                                       I rarely hear


                                                       when asked,
                                                       I said “yes”—
                                                       this year I join
                                                       the birds that sing
                                                       in winter

                                                       Credits: Modern English Tanka, Spring 2007

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