Bird in Imayo: #TankaTuesday

Since Colleen Chesebro’s weekly #TankaTuesday poetry prompts are so inspiring to me, I bought her book that describes the various types of syllabic poetry so that I could use that as a guide instead of the wonderful links she has on the Wordcraft website. This way, the book is right at my side when I need it.

Ironically, this week’s #TankaTuesday is to write in a form not in the book. We are to write a poem about a bird in the Japanese form Imayo.

The imayo is comprised of four 12-syllable lines. Each line is divided into a 7-syllable and a 5-syllable section, with a hard pause (or caesura) in between. The pause will generally be represented by a comma, semi-colon, or similar punctuation.

  • 4 lines (8 lines permissible)
  • 12 syllables per line divided as 7-5
  • make a pause space between the 7 and 5 syllables
  • use comma, caesura or kireji (cutting word) as the pause
  • no rhymes
  • no meter
  • no end of line pauses – the whole should flow together as though one long sentence
  • The Imayo is a literal poem so do not use symbolism, allegory etc.

I decided to write about the Great Blue Heron that showed up in my yard last year. In the photo, the coyote behind the heron is an inanimate metal coyote!

I glanced out the front window — the Great Blue Heron

stood motionless by the pool — it stared straight ahead

perhaps lost in the desert — perhaps it mistook

pool for a swamp or wetland — beauty or sadness?


Hmm not my favorite form. When the description mentions “literal,” it means the form is not to employ figurative imagery. In general, in English language poetry, literal poems tend to be for children whereas figurative poems (using metaphor, simile, etc ) are for adults. In a literal poem the focus is on a plain description or a simple point or philosophy.


Filed under #amwriting, #poetrycommunity, #TankaTuesday, #writingcommunity, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Poetry, Writing, Writing prompt

70 responses to “Bird in Imayo: #TankaTuesday

  1. I agree with you. Not my favorite form either.

  2. Just the same, nicely done, Luanne.

  3. I’m not crazy about syllabic poetry in general, but it seemed to me from the dVerse prompt and examples I read that the form could include imagery, just not symbols and metaphors–the same as haiku. It’s like a longer observation than a haiku.

    • Yes, it is. But a haiku is so small. Something ok in a small dose is not always ok in a larger dose. Imagery yes. But literal not figurative. Literal imagery like “the red sun slid down past the horizon.” Rather than figurative like “the sun is a red ball.”

  4. I never get the forms – but I like your interpretation

    • Syllabic poetry is something I was never interested in, but they are inter To study and good exercises for me. Thank you, Derrick!

  5. VJ

    I’d say this is a very challenging form. Your heron, though, provided the perfect muse

    • Thank you so much! The heron was so beautiful, but he was in completely the wrong place! The form is challenging, and I don’t feel comfortable with it. It doesn’t suit my personality, I think. So far the syllabic forms I’ve used that I like better are haibuns (love them) and tanka (very sweet and simple). But there are many more to try!

  6. Very difficult, Luanne but Bravo to you for working it – seems like a kind of puzzle to me!
    She’s got it, oh baby, she’s got it!!

  7. Not your favorite, but you did it well.

  8. I like your poem!!! The heron is beautiful…such a stately creature. I like the last line of your poem…good ending!

    • Thank you, Linda! Yes, very stately! I understand they do stand very still like that, but he had to be thinking, where am I and where do I go now?! Thank you re the last line. I was pretty happy to come up with that ;)! XO

  9. A startling photo for a challenging poetic form

    • Thank you, Ellen. Yes, it’s a challenging form and it feels awkward to me. Isn’t that heron something?! Right in the middle of the desert!

  10. Even with both hands tied behind your back by the form’s rules, you managed to wriggle one hand free enough to write a very effective poem. “[B]eauty or sadness” makes the poem.

  11. You do everything well, Luanne!❤️

  12. Because I’m a literal-minded person, I confess I like this form. I enjoy metaphor, but writing one is nearly impossible for me.

  13. I have Colleen’s book as well. I love it to pieces. You will, if you don’t already. It’s a treasure.
    As for your yard, wow. The snake, the piggy-like piglet missing his mommy and now the great blue heron. OOH, gorgeous. And this poem is exquisite. Thanks for sharing, Luanne. Blessings.

  14. Roberta Eaton Cheadle

    Hi Luanne, very nice poem. The responses are so varied this week, it’s good fun reading them.

  15. This form is quite challenging but you seem to have sailed smoothly Luanne. I like how it flows!

  16. Well, I like what you did with it, but, yeah, too many rules!

  17. Your poem captures that stillness of a heron, where it’s easy to wonder what they might be thinking.

    • Thank you! I understand they are still because they are predators, but this one had to be confused by the pool and no marsh grasses!

  18. What a beautiful bird and I love your Imayo, it captures the scene perfectly 💞

  19. Your backyard is a wild life refuge, Luanne!! Wow, to see a great blue heron so close to home. Very inspiring. 💙

  20. This was a new syllabic form I learned about from the dVerse Poet’s Pub. I’m still researching the form, but I believe the subject of the poem is the focus. In my example, I tried to be quite literal. I was more surprised by the use of the kireji (cutting word) which we don’t normally use as it’s not translatable from Japanese. In my book, I call this a “pivot” where you change the direction of your poem to another aspect. In the Imayo, they use punctuation to achieve this goal. It’s an interesting concept. Your poem is fine, and how cool to have a Great Blue Heron visit! 🩵

  21. I love how you bring in conflicting emotions, Luanne! I think your poem is great!

    Yvette M Calleiro 🙂

  22. Very nicely done 💜💜

  23. WordPress is giving me issues as I am trying to “like” this post. Anyway, I love this! The flow of thought from one line to the next is perfect. The message is wonderful.👌🏻

  24. Lovely poem to go with the stillness of the heron. I like the question you pose at the end, Luanne. <3 .

  25. What an unexpected surprise! Beautiful.

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