Haiku, Tanka, and Haibun. It’s all poetry to me. Learn the difference.

Some of you may have run across two strange words while reading the Haiku offerings in the Haiku Challenge each week.

Those words are Tanka and Haibun. Both look a lot like Haiku. There is a reason for that.

Starting with Haibun.

Haibun is a Haiku but is more prose related than poetry related. A great deal of what many of you write is a Haibun as opposed to a Haiku.

What you do is write the prose part and then write a Haiku related to it. A lot of you do that and I love it. The content can be autobiographical, non-fiction, or fictional. Write your prose in a paragraph or two, and often with a little more flare than a normal paragraph, if you choose to do it that way, or simply write a couple of paragraphs the normal way. Then follow that with your Haiku that sums up what you said in a Haiku of the 5/7/5 syllable structure but is more one long sentence made up of the three lines instead of the usually Haiku in English of two sentences made up using the second line as a common part of each sentence.

You will be at ease
Once trying this new method
Of writing your life.

That’s a Haibun type Haiku. I wrote a paragraph about something, and then the Haiku summed it up.

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Normally in Haiku in English, it would be something like,

You will be at ease
Once you try this new method,
Write your life with ease.
Here you have that second line being the end of a sentence.
You will be at easy once you try this new method.

And then it is the beginning of a second sentence.
Once you try this new method write your life with ease.

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Now let’s look at Tanka , also at times may be called a Waka.

This one is pretty simple as well.
You have the syllable structure of 5/7/5/7/7.
You have the upper phrase of the 5/7/5.
And you have the lower phrase of the 7/7.
The upper phrase would be your traditional Haiku in English style. The lower phrase then is connected by that third line.
I learned of some new
Styles of poetry today,
Made up of many
I could spend all of my days
Writing each poetry style.
You can see how line three connects with the lower phrase. (Bold above is only for this article, not to be included in actual Tanka.)
Made up of many, I could spend all of my days writing each poetry style.

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I know my examples here aren’t the greatest, but I wanted to give you the idea of what the styles are like. If you are doing the Haiku Challenges, it’s fine to try the Haibun and Tanka out instead. Stretch your creativity and expand your experience.

© 2020 Ronovan Hester Copyright reserved. The author asserts his moral and legal rights over this work.


23 thoughts on “Haiku, Tanka, and Haibun. It’s all poetry to me. Learn the difference.

  1. Thank you Ron. That was very informative. It is strange that once you start to study poetry you notice how important it is to count your syllables for poetry that is not just a Free Verse.
    With a Sonnet each line should have 10 syllables in a specific meter pattern.
    Haiku really helps you become a better poet, since it teaches you to count syllables. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Very nicely explained. I’m not sure I knew (or do) about the third line transition. I love learning more and (hopefully) improving as I go. Thanks for the “lesson”! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is fun and I am learning so much. Thank you for taking the time to explain and share. Who knows what will come of it, my mind is already spinning with ideas.


    • I’ve been somewhat out of action the past 5 days or so. I relapsed and have been medicated and doing nothing but staring at walls. But I just read and awesome.


  4. Thank you, and I know you have been going thru some rough days; do hope you are feeling better…and I believe your ESP read the post…coincidence?…nah.


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