Poetry: haiku, senryu and tanka

Brian Tasker has been writing the Japanese poetic forms of haiku, senryu and tanka in English since the late 1980s and founded and edited the poetry journal Bare Bones which ran for eight issues between 1992 and 1995.  Brian’s poetry has been widely-published in magazines and anthologies and he has published several collections in hand-made editions.

Originating in Japan, haiku are poems in miniature. They can convey the transience, the emotion and mood of the moment and the ever-changing constant of the natural world in the space of a breath – one moment of coming and going.  Haiku focus on the ‘here and now’ to open the mind to appreciate the unnoticed detail of our lives. The plain language, immediacy, objectivity and open-endedness can invite the reader to participate in the ungaurdedness of being alive at that moment.

Senyru have been referred to as the shadow-side of haiku, they bring a wry angle to human affairs that can often be self-deprecating to compromise both writer and reader in a playful humor.

Tanka are the classical poems of Japanese literature. composed in five phrases (five lines in English), tanka usually concerns the dynamic between the external world and inner feelings. these poems can evoke feelings of love, joy, grief, sorrow and impermanence -the point where the present is always becoming the past.

Haiku, senryu and tanka by Brian Tasker 

 Four Haiku


the scent of cut grass
carried on a March breeze
a still-sleepy bee


high tide
over and over
the shifting shingle


a light rain
into the evening mist –


the house cold
after my absence
the cat sleeps closer

 Four Senryu

cheap hotel room-
checking the sheets
with my reading glasses

Mother’s day
my sister brings a plant
bigger than mine

in the midst
of my depression
the smell of a baked potato

after an argument
on the future of haiku-
the wind in the pines

Four Tanka

steady rain
it seems all summer
not a single butterfly
has come
to the buddleia

the wind-blown clouds
lighten and darken
lighten and darken
the room
in which we argue

whispered so quietly
the words of parting
I could hear
the cry of a kite
across the valley

clearing out her clothes
to learn how little
I knew of her life
so many things
I’d never seen her wear

 ©   Brian Tasker

Books edited by Brian Tasker

In the ship’s wake, an anthology of English-language tanka, Iron Press, 2000. Available from Iron Press. www.ironpress.co.uk

ebb tide, selected haiku of John Crook, snapshot press, 2003. Available from Snapshot Press. www.snapshotpress.co.uk

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