The Haiku , Tanka, & Cinquain:  Syllabic Verse

Syllabic verse measures the lines according to a set number of syllables in each line. It does not concern itself with the metre, the number of stressed syllables in a line. This poetic form did not have a significant role in the English poetic tradition, until Japanese poetry was translated and imitated after WWII.  The two forms of Japanese poetry that had the greatest impact were the Haiku and Tanka.

Syllabic verse has characteristics which come from these two poetic forms. This type of verse is compressed, relying on imagery, symbolism, and extended or indirect metaphor to carry complex emotions or observations about the world. These poems appear simple in form and content, yet have a very disciplined structure and convey complex ideas in a very subtle manner.

The Haiku:    This verse consists of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. The tone of this poem is derived from its syllabic structure, imagery, and choice of words. It reflects the values of Japanese culture and  the strong influence of Zen Buddhism. The haiku emphasizes a single moment, usually giving a very brief description of some event or object belonging to nature. Traditionally, they contain either a direct or indirect reference to a season that  directs the reader's attention to  the passage of time and immortality.

  Because of the differences between English and Japanese, there is great debate over what is the correct form and content of an English Haiku verse.
"Sixty-five (Conflicting) Rules of Haiku" by Jane Reichhold
Haiku: Serious, Humorous, Old & Recent
A classic tanka by Anonymous from the Kokinshu translated by Donald Keene:

Because there was a seed
A pine has grown even here
On these barren rocks:
If we really love our love
What can keep us from meeting?

More examples and information:

Tanka     Three ways to write tanka           American Tanka   Tanka & Haiku
Haiku & Juxtaposition

Haiga is a Japanese concept for simple pictures combined with poetry, usually meaning haiku. Oringinally, haiga meant a brushed ink drawing combined with a poem, handwritten as part of the picture. Now haiga can be watercolor paintings, photographs or collages with a poem of any genre that is integrated into the composition. Sometimes the poem is handwritten or it can be computer generated, depending on the artist's taste.

HaigaPage   Haiku & Photography   Haiku-Photo
by Adelaide Crapsey

Listen -
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

The source of the sample poem.

More on Cinquains:  AHAH-POETRY
AMAZE: The Cinquain Journal

The Tanka poem has been considered the most important form and the oldest style of Japanese poetry. It dates back to the 1300s.This verse consists of five unrhymed lines of five, seven, five, seven, and seven syllables whose intent is to focuss the reader's attention on a single event, or image and the mood that is associated with it. In it its Japanese form it is considered a lyric poem. While sharing some of the same concerns as haiku verse, Tanka poems often are romantic in nature or concerned with the temporariness of love.
Cinquain:  Cinquain is an American poetic form that can be traced back to Adelaide Crapsey. Crapsey, influenced by Japanese haiku, developed this poetic system and used it to express brief thoughts and statements.
Most cinquain poems take the form of a single, 22 syllable stanza. A cinquain consists of five lines. The first line has two syllables, the second line has four syllables, the third line has six syllables and the fourth line has eight syllables, the final line has two syllables.