Meditation in Tanka

On a worn seat pad

on a folding metal chair—

I follow my breath,

meditate on compassion

‘til my mind wanders, again.

This short poem is a tanka, similar to a haiku. A haiku is defined as a three line, non-rhyming poem, often referring to an event in nature, or a moment in nature keenly observed. And in Japan it is written in three lines, 5 sound syllables in the first line, 7 sound syllables in the second and five in the third. A sound syllable is similar to but not quite the same as a syllable in English. English-language haiku writers generally ignore the 5-7-5 format, since it's not as culturally meaningful in English as in Japanese.

Tanka is similar, but longer. It's five lines, non-rhyming, 5-7-5-7-7, 31 sound syllables. Sometimes you just can't get it all into three lines.

Thanks to meditator Gordon Gaippe for sending his tanka and providing desciptions of a how to write a haiku and tanka. See for more of his poetry.