Winter Winds

-Coordinators, ELS

A frosty nip in the air, warm mugs of cocoa, chattering teeth and foggy mornings. Winter is a powerful assortment of varied experiences and feelings, a season whose many emotions have inspired countless artists in their own ways, from Debussy to Dickens, Monet to Milton, Kurosawa to Keats, just to name a few. In this creative writing competition, we want you to try to capture and express some of the sentiments this season rouses within you.

So, this year we present you with a lesser known form of Japanese poetry called the Tanka. In the 7th century, the tanka was so popular that nobles in the Japanese Imperial court would write tanka poems and compete. Tanka poetry was also frequently given to a partner in courtship at the end of an evening spent together.

Tankas consist of five lines usually with the pattern of syllables being 5-7-5-7-7. The 5-7-5 is called the kami-no-ku (“upper phrase/poem”), and the 7-7 is called the shimo-no-ku (“lower phrase/poem”).

For example:

The weather is cool
It’s clear that fall is coming
The leaves will soon change
The days will become shorter
And then winter will fall too.

And some historic examples:

The faintly glowing
color of the maples,
when it fades away
before the falling of snow,
serenity in mountains.

Mokichi Saito


Are you getting weak
As the autumn nights grow cold?
Your cry sounds faint
And becomes more distant.

Monk Saigyo
(1118 – 1190)

(Note that the latter don’t rigidly follow the syllable structure as they have been translated from Japanese)

So, what you have to do is write winter themed Tankas (following the given structure) and send it to us on or before 10th January 2016. You can mail us your entries at Multiple entries are allowed. The best submissions will be published on the blog and the top three entries will be awarded books as prizes. Happy writing!


Filed under Coordinator's Desk, Creative Writing Competition, Creative Writing Topic

3 responses to “Winter Winds

  1. Pingback: A Motley of Winter Tankas | English Literary Society, IIT Kanpur

  2. Pingback: A Second Motley of Winter Tankas | English Literary Society, IIT Kanpur

  3. Pingback: Winter Winds: Results | English Literary Society, IIT Kanpur

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