KidPoWriMo Day 17 ~ Tanka

Our Wednesday haiku adventures have led us first to 5-7-5 (17 syllable haiku) and then to six word haiku. I would rather not use the word “haiku” to describe poems that are much larger than 17 syllables because there are larger forms of poetry. These poems could fit into these other descriptions. Tanka is one of these slightly larger poetic forms.

Poetic word of the day: tanka (click here to see this word defined on

The easiest way to describe tanka is to add two 7-syllable lines to the American 5-7-5 haiku format.

So, you will have five lines and the syllables per line will be in this order: 5-7-5-7-7.

Although this is 14 syllables larger than haiku and you get to say almost twice as much as you can say in a 5-7-5 haiku, I encourage you to make the most of all the syllables you have just as you would be when writing haiku.

If you have any haiku that you think need more words to be the poem you want it to be, try remixing it into a tanka.

You may start by moving the lines around. The five syllable lines can switch places and the seven syllable line can go in one of three places in the tanka. You may also add two syllables to one or both of the five syllable lines. Then once you write whatever lines are missing, you will have a tanka.

Let’s go through this creative process together. I will create as I write.

PROMPT: Write a tanka poem by remixing an existing haiku by you or someone else.

I am going to remix a 4-line haiku poem entitled “Bad Morning” by Langston Hughes into my own tanka (the title and author’s name link to the poem on the All Poetry site). I like his haiku because he sneaked in a rhyme.

Pick your haiku or write one to get started.

Here is my version of Langston Hughes’ 17 syllables. I have reworked them into 3 lines:

(5) Oh, Lord have mercy!

(7) I’m sitting here frustrated

(5) Shoes are mis-mated.

Next, I will write an original haiku poem inspired by this one:

(5) No tissues in sight,

(7) I need to suppress a sneeze!

(5) Heaven help me please!

by Cheryl Crockett inspired by Langston Hughes’ “Bad Morning”

Notice, my haiku has a different topic and is unique and original.

Next, I can take take one or both of my 5 syllable lines and make them into 7 syllables by adding two.

(7) THERE ARE no tissues in sight

(7) OH LET heaven help me please!

As I build my tanka, I can use these lines in either of their 5 or 7 syllable forms, edit them again or write new lines.

Now, my haiku has a complete message, but as a tanka, it needs more information. I will think about other things that accompany a sneeze and a need for tissues or a substitute for tissues. This will help me create a word list that I can expand into phrases.

(1) Cold

(1) Flu

(1) Dust

(2) Shirt sleeve

(2) Paper

(2) Towels

(2) Pollen

(2) Disease

(3) Allergies

(3) Infection

(3) Contagious

(4) Toilet tissue

Now I can finish my tanka by expanding my haiku:

(5) Pollen fills my lungs.

(7) There are no tissues in sight.

(5) But with all my might,

(7) I need to suppress a sneeze!

(7) Oh, let heaven help me please!

by Cheryl Crockett

How did your tanka develop? If you would like to share it, feel free to do so as a comment below this post.

FOR PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN:  Read some haiku that you have written using the prompts earlier during #KidPoWriMo, or find some on the internet. You can do this by typing “HAIKU” into your favorite search engine. Talk to your child(ren) about each haiku and ask them what else might have happened before, during or after the story or message in the haiku. Help your child(ren) to create 7 syllable lines based on the details they imagine. Add these lines to the haiku to make a tanka.

With each of these exercises, because your children may need help writing from an older person, make sure to tell them that you are “making poetry together“. This tradition will stay with them and they will understand that poetry is important to you and it will become important to them, too.


KidPoWriMo Day 10 ~ Haiku Part 2

When you think about poetry, what comes to your mind?

Poems can be small, like haiku, or smaller. Have you ever heard of a one word poem? I remember one that made the news because it won a contest and was only one word in length (and that one word was misspelled). Some poems may have a few dozen words, or a handful of stanzas. Epic poems can be larger than chapter books or novels.

I think of an epic poem like a blockbuster movie. Spoken word poems that take up a few pages, I think of as television shows. Sonnets, pantoums and other poems that fit on one page are like a music video. And haiku are like a snap shot or photograph. Comparing them to another genre of art helps me when choosing how much detail I want to add to my poems.

One third of the way through the month, we have lots of tools we can combine to write hundreds of poems. And there is so much more we can add to our poetic tool chest.

On Day 3, we learned about 17 syllable haiku, the one that has 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the middle line and 5 in the final line. With respect to the poets who prefer to write haiku that is smaller than 17 syllables, I decided that we would take some time to do that, too.

When writing a poem that must be a certain number of syllables, we sometimes have to add words that may be unnecessary or remove words that we thought were important to the message we want in our poem. When writing smaller haiku poems, a poet can make a message without worrying about counting syllables. No extra words have to be added and no important words need to be taken away.

Poetic word of the day: “succinct” (Click here to read the definition on

Haiku, loosely defined, is a small poem. The #haiku hashtag is very popular on Twitter. Another popular hashtag is #sixwords. People use it to write poems, stories, sayings or whatever they like.

PROMPT: Write a 6-word poem / haiku. Put two words in each of 3 lines. As a story has a beginning, middle and ending, give your poem a beginning, middle and end. After the reader finishes reading the first two lines, they may think they know where the poem is going, but you may surprise them with the last word.

I will use  an example from my own daily haiku project:

Haiku #150 (May 21)

green thumb
long weekend
container garden

by Cheryl Crockett

Notice, small words, such as “a”, “the”, “if”, “is”, are missing from this poem. Still, my message is clear.

PARENTS OF YOUNGER CHILDREN: One at a time, have your child(ren) say a word that comes to mind, a noun. Then have everyone else add a word. They do not have to be favorite words. Go around the room a few times. Add adjectives to the nouns, using a different color ink or crayon. Instead of writing the words on a piece of paper or in a notebook, an older person can write them on 3 x 5 cards.  Put the cards on the side of the table, a pile near each person. Have each person put one word in the center of the table and read the word pairs you see. If anyone likes a word pair, leave those two words in the center of the table and take away the other word cards. Say and write more words to complete a six word haiku. Do this again and again. This is not a game where someone wins and someone else loses. It is an activity where everyone works together to make a poem. Save the cards you make for future poetry activities.

KidPoWriMo Day 3 ~ Haiku? Nice to meet you!

After I published my Day 2 post, my phone started to percolate with e-mail notices that people were liking or following KidPoWriMo. A few also commented or re-tweeted my posts of the Day 2 link. On Google+, 8 people joined in just a few hours.

Now that we have reached Day 3, please know that anyone may start at any time during the month and do any challenge in any order. If you are inspired to Day 2 on Day 4, go right ahead.


When introduced to haiku, especially in elementary school, we learn to count our syllables. We create a poem by writing a five syllable line, then a seven syllable line, followed by another line with five syllables while avoiding rhyme. Then, before sharing the haiku, we count the syllables in the finished poem to make sure they add up to 17. And while listening to others share their haiku, we count their syllables, too. I know you have done it. I have, too.

Poetic Word of the Day: “HAIKU” (click here to see the definition in

When you look up the word “haiku” in any English Dictionary, you will find something like this definition. Many haiku poets are committed to 17 syllables and the 5-7-5 arrangement of syllables. Since this form of poetry originated in the Japanese language, many haiku are translated for those who read and speak other languages to enjoy. Many attempts have been made also to translate the rules of making haiku to other languages.

Unfortunately, some rules of the Japanese language do not translate well to other languages, like English. What poets in America understand about haiku likely came from someone’s interpretation or best guess at how Japanese haiku might work in English.

People’s  ideas about English haiku vary. Some of them disagree about whether 17 syllable haiku should be the rule. One of the reasons for this is that an English haiku has more information in 17 syllables. Its Japanese translation would be a much larger poem, if it contained the same message. Because of this, some poets think English haiku should be shorter: much less than 17 syllables.

Because I think 17 syllable haiku is just as valid as other, shorter kinds, this month, we will write haiku in different ways, on different days. For our first KidPoWriMo haiku, we will use the most popular, basic and familiar approach to building haiku in English.

PROMPT: Write a 17 syllable haiku about something in nature. Do your best to put 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second line and 5 in the third line. If you have trouble with the 5-7-5 format, work on making your syllables add up to 17.

Twitter is a popular place for haiku because it is nearly impossible to exceed the 140 character limit when writing 17 syllables. If you have a Twitter account, type #haiku in the search bar to see what people are writing. Literally, thousands of haiku are posted to Twitter every week. You can find two very active haiku communities on Google+ and lots of haiku groups on Facebook. And I am one of the countless poet/bloggers who are writing one haiku per day and posting them on-line.

FOR PARENTS WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN: Find some haiku you like and read them with (or to) your child(ren). If you do not own any haiku books, you may find haiku for free at any of the following places:

– public library

– search on your favorite search engine using keywords: free, haiku, poetry, children

– check your favorite on-line bookstore for free sample previews of books of haiku

– search on wordpress, blogger, tumblr, or your favorite blogging site. Many hundreds post haiku on these sites everyday. My haiku may be found organized individually on Blogger (click here), and organized in weekly groupings on WordPress (click here), if you are interested.

Thanks for joining me for our first haiku day of the month. I look forward to reading your poems.