A tanaga is a short poem originating from the Philippines. It is similar in nature to the Japanese short forms of haiku or tanka. Most tanagas were passed down orally. They are claimed to be one of the oldest form of poetry in the Philippines.
Poetry Magnum Opus states that the tanaga is "emotionally charged and asks a question that begs an answer." While I couldn't find much supporting information for that statement, it drew me in instantly. Most of my sources also claim it's nearly a dying art form, and that the Cultural Center of the Philippines and National Commission of the Arts are hoping to revive it. Let's help out, shall we?
We'll be working with a "modern" tanaga; historical ones are written in Tagalog or other Filipino dialects, and I fear that is currently beyond my rudimentary ability.
Traditionally, the tanaga was presented without a title. It was expected to speak for itself. You can follow this prescription or add a title, as you like.
A tanaga is a short poem of four lines, each line seven syllables with a single rhyme. Today, other rhyme schemes are used, including freestyle rhyme, but for the purpose of this exercise, let's try to stick with couplets.
So, here's our form:
XXXXXXALooks pretty easy, right? Well, the other reasons I picked the tanaga are its extreme reliance on metaphor, and a sentence from its Wikipedia article:
Poets test their skills at rhyme, meter and metaphor through the tanaga, not only because is it rhymed and measured, but also it exacts skillful use of words to create a puzzle that demands some kind of an answer.How perfect is that for our format challenge?
Most examples available on the internet have been written in Tagalog, but I did manage to find one on Buhayin ang Tanaga, a blog curated by Jardine Davies. It exists to bring this much-neglected form into the spotlight it deserves.
This tongue-in-cheek example comes from Ergoe Tinio:
I am Ani Skywalker,While I realize that one answers no questions or utilizes much metaphor, it made me smile. So I had to use it.
With one-handed lightsaber.
Yes, Luke, I am your father.
Billie Jean's not my lover.
When used as stanzas of a longer piece, the form becomes known as an ambahan. More information on these fascinating little poems can be found at EManilaPoetry, and a little reading on the basic themes of the ambahan (so, too, the tanaga) at Indigenous Portal.
I look forward to reading your versions of this traditional format. And if you fall in love with the tanaga, be sure to submit to Buhayin ang Tanaga or a similar site as well! No poetic format should be allowed to vanish from our vocabularies.