The tanaga is a Filipino poetry form. The earliest recorded tanaga poem is from the 16th century. Most of these poems are translated from their native language of Tagalog. It is a deceptively simple form. The traditional tanaga is a quatrain of seven-syllable lines. The syllable count looks like this: 7-7-7-7. It has an AABB rhyme scheme. Similar to the haiku, tanagas usually remain untitled, letting just the four lines hold all the weight of the poem. Modern variations of the tanaga allow for freer rhyme schemes such as ABAB, ABBA, ABAA, and occasionally even ABCD and AAAA. This poetry form is unfortunately on the brink of dying out, but there are fierce advocates of its use. We’re featuring it here to provide another outlet for its resurgence. Plus, it’s just fun! 

Rules of Tanaga:

  1. It is a poem of four lines (quatrain)
  2. It is usually a rhyming poem
  3. Each line contains seven syllables (7-7-7-7)
  4. AABB is the traditional rhyme scheme
  5. But variations in rhyme scheme are allowed
  6. Just have fun!

Advantages of Tanaga 

It’s a relatively short form, only four lines. Rhyme schemes can also be used as inspiration if you ever feel stuck. The freedom of rhyme scheme allows for some serious self-expression otherwise not available in stricter forms. 

Challenges of Tanaga

Each line is seven syllables so it can be difficult to express your ideas in natural ways, the way haiku and tanka have syllabic ups and downs that mirror conversation. Rhyming is hard for some people, it can feel like it is getting in the way of what you want to say. If you are experiencing this and really struggling, just use an ABCD form. It’s all about saying something, the tanaga is just here to help. 

7 responses to “Tanaga”

  1. All my poetry has gone
    I have nothing left to say
    May as well write in crayon
    So I’m going to walk away

    (Actually I’m just miffed about a contest result today)

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