Photo provided by Emily Jo ScalzoEmily Jo Scalzo has an MFA in Fiction from California State University, Fresno. She currently resides in Muncie, Indiana, and is an assistant professor at Ball State University. Her work has been published in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The Mindful Word, Ms. Fit Magazine, and Third Wednesday.



Emily Jo Scalzo talks about the forms of Haiku, Senryu, and Tanka and shares several of her own poems to illustrate these forms.

Excerpts from her Haiku & Tanka Project:

Chess in Uganda
alleviates poverty
for a queen savant

[Originally published in Haiku Journal Issue 23 in February 2014.]

released by children
symbols of peace in Ukraine
at the Vatican
a pair of white doves fall
to a crow and seagull

[Originally published in Cattails in May 2014.]

Every now and then
something beautiful happens
and eases Weltschmerz

[Originally published in The Germ Volume 2 Issue 1 in Spring 2014.]

Thousands of windows
shatter when it hits atmo
a meteor bomb

[Originally published in Three Line Poetry Issue 23 in January 2014.]

Peeking through the earth
mammoth tusk halts construction
for excavation

[Originally published in Hothouse Magazine in April 2014.]


Writing Prompt: Select one of these forms (see links to additional resources below) and create a poem. Pay close attention to imagery.

Definition of Terms:

Minimalism, like in art, uses pared-down language and design in a poem.

Cutting Word (or Kireji) is a moment in Japanese poetry where there is an interruption. In English this may be created by punctuation, enjambment, or fragmentation.

A fragment is a piece of something. It might happen syntactically when a subject or verb is eliminated. Poets might present imagery in a fragmented (or piecemeal) style.

Imagery is created with figurative language or language that “paints a picture” for readers.

Haiku is a short poem, usually limited to 17 syllables (or in Japan, on) in three lines of 5/7/5, which generally focuses on nature and the world with a reference to season (kigo) and has a cutting word. Modern versions variate the form.

Senryu is a haiku-style poem, which focuses on human foibles, often darkly witty or with a short of wry humor. It is also sometimes satirical.

Tanka is said to have been the predecessor to haiku, wherein the poem is generally limited to 31 syllables in five lines of 5/7/5/7/7, though it has been seen in other line forms; Harryette Mullen played with the form in her tanka collection Urban Tumbleweed. The tanka technically has two parts, the 5/7/5 is known as the “upper phrase” and the 7/7 is known as the “lower phrase.” Like with haiku, these often deal with nature.

Kyoka is to tanka what senryu is to haiku, and it has been referred to as “anti-tanka.” As with senryu, this often employs dark humor, wit, and satire, though satire/parody is not required of the form.

Links to Additional Resources:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s