Documenting The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (updated 2016.11.11)

The first time I encountered this text was in a Literature and Writing class at Emerson College lead by Peter Jay Shippy. 

For the next 19 years, I'd search off and on for an affordable copy. Finally, I found a damaged copy that was not repaired by a skilled bookbinder.

Now, my plan is to document it for those persons still looking for a copy of their own. Below is its table of contents. I'm linking to online copies of the poems. If the poem is in translation, I try to find the original translation, but it's simply not possible all the time. In those cases, I'll link to any translation I can find. At some point, I may start writing out my thoughts about each of the poems, but that's far away right now.

Tanka Form

Traditional US understanding of the Tanka form is as follows.

  • a 5-line syllabic poem
  • syllable pattern: 5-7-5-7-7

Often, I'll see the subject matter dealing with nature. There's also can be a bit of a volta between the 3rd and 4th lines.

As with the Haiku, the syllable count and line breaks are a bit of a mistranslation.

The line breaks in traditional Haiku and Tanka are arbitrary. A web search for either form will result in a number of different configurations. It's possible to even find them written as a single line: a Haiku of 12 characters and a Tanka of 26 characters.

Written Japanese uses a logographic writing system versus alphabetical. A single Kanji character can encompass a whole concept where a single syllable could only be part of a concept. Here's an example:

交 can mean mix, intersect, exchange/communicate, or deliver. That one symbol can have a syllabic equivalent of up to 4 syllables.

For my purposes, I forgo the line breaks; but keep the syllables. 

For more information about the Tanka form, start with