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learning: 31 Poetic Senses - an'ya

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

31 Poetic Senses

-- an'ya

Those of us who write haiku and/or tanka, are aware that there are 5 main seasons, plus numerous sub-seasons. However, as far as the “senses”, it’s more extensive. With this article, I’m addressing the subject hoping it might help other poets to expand their minds as well as enhance their writing of the Japanese genre. The first person who tried to make a list of human senses was the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC–322 BC). He was also the first one to name the 5 basic human senses. Later, 4 more senses were added to his list, and then they were further differentiated to reach 21 or more (sometimes 33) human senses, depending on differences of opinion. A list of the human senses (those that are generally accepted), their related human sense organs, and the function of human senses are the following.

The 5 Basic Senses

Visual Perception, Sight:

watching a wild finch

flit casually to and fro

uninhibited I start to wonder if it’s

a curse to be born human

Auditory Sensations, Sound:

ever since love I have known all four sounds

of the seasons spring song and summer panting

autumn moans and wintry sighs

The Tongue, or sense of Taste:

month of june a wild blueberry parts

the jay’s beak this stellar recollection

of kisses that made me love

The Nose, or sense of Smell:

washday postponed

although I clearly detect

the scent of lemon

even on this misty morn

you’re able to distract me

The Skin, or sense of Touch:

mimosa why do you shy away

from my hand

love is to know what

is touched touches back

The 4 Internal Human Senses

Skin as the lack or an increase of Temperatures:

your fingertips caressed my skin as if

reading by braille on this dark winter’s night

how felt the written word

(recent 3rd Place HPNC)

Body Parts, or awareness of them without Visual input:

while you slumber I work late into the night

our own rhythms like full moon and rising tide

what’s one without the other

Whole Body, or the sensation of Pain or Pleasure in the body, skin, or organs:


above a watery moon

tightly clasped

we too part satisfied

with our encounter

The 6 Additional Senses

Skin, or its perception of Pressure as a sense:

before puffballs took flight on the spring wind

I dreamt of this your soft roundness against

my rough skin one last time

Whole Body, or the sense of Acceleration:

desert tortoise

moving at breakneck speed

for what it is this love of ours compares

more to a bullet train

Blood and Brain, or the sensations of Hunger/starvation, Thirst/dehydration, Sickness/vomiting, Shortness of breath/suffocation, or Mental confusion:

what will work to clear my mind full

of cobwebs

when the spider spins

so prolifically

Sense of Balance, either Physical or Mental or both:

birds on a wire the afternoon stillness

steadies their world

will love be this way too

without a safety net

Skin, or the sense of being Flushed or Blushing:

the first burst of hot pink sky shone so brightly- but the blush on her cheeks

was even more poignant

Muscle Stretching, or the sense of Childbirth, Gag reflex, or Bodily excretions:

my blood and bone

slipping from darkness

into bright light her small skull as round

as a slavic moon

Body Parts or a cocktail of senses like Frowning at someone’s Voice, or Smiling at another’s Looks:

you were the one who always made me smile

until today- the rodeo clown’s face

painted blue with tears

The 6 more controversial Extrasensory Perception Senses

The Sixth Sense, Intuition:

you colored in all of the empty loops

in my handwriting

and after this I sensed

there would be no other

Premonition, or the subconscious sense of Future events, usually of foreboding:

close enough to reach out and touch

a sandhill crane will you also come close

only to wing away

Telepathy, Auditory perception of a person’s (near or distant) Thoughts:

our chance meeting to what might we compare it

all was quiet on mutual horizons until swan geese came honking

Precognition, Visual perception of Future events of any type:

in this month of leafy willows fluid

with windy ways

perhaps it's fated that we

will brush against each other

Clairvoyance, Visual perception of Invisible objects or Events:

never alone even though in the flesh

you are absent for your spirit's not lost

it’s where a seabird flies

Clairaudience, Auditory perception of the Invisible:

night music

nobody knows about

our secret only the mockingbirds

sing of what we whisper

The 10 Roles of Human Senses


across the blue on a cirrus cloud morning

various shapes of angels & chimeras we all view things differently


the moon the sun and horizontal currents

that move the tides how intimate are we too

with love’s ups and its downs


on new-fallen snow the sight of a headless bird

makes my heart ache

what am I now without you

except also incomplete


oh falling star

how fortunate tonight

you pinpoint me in this whole universe

full of other people


sheet waterfall

steadily spilling

over the edge a mountain wept tears

or so does it feign


how many times I've crushed autumn leaves

until today when a chickadee drank from one that cupped the rain


the breast feathers

of a great blue heron

tickle my thoughts

this evening your heart

brushes against mine


painted lady I’ll never cease to love

nor forget the way that you drink

nectar from a thistle


as sure as rain kept falling from the clouds

that sensation when our eyes met and what

started could not be stopped

Sense of Time:

funeral day steady rain unearths

our time capsule

filled with the treasures

we buried as siblings

Publication Credits: Skylark, Lynx, Yellow Moon, Atlas Poetica, Angels & Chimeras,

Ribbons, Tanka Calendar Contest, cattails, Tanka Companion, moonbathing, and Mariposa. All tanka examples are by an'ya.

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22 comentarios

Debbie Strange
Debbie Strange
31 may 2022

Thanks so much for sharing your vast knowledge and inspiring us!

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Kavita Ratna
Kavita Ratna
26 mar 2022

This is a priceless collection - to be read over and over again! A million thanks!

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Beautiful, fluid, lyrical work. an'ya is one of my favorite poets, the treasure trove of her mind, heart and creativity overflowing with poetic gifts for the rest of to read and savor. The tanka appeal on so many levels, on many occasions seeming to get beneath language to the raw essence of emotion and perception.

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Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
24 feb 2022
Contestando a


Such a lovely feedback. And it's doubly lovely to see you here in Triveni Haikai India.

Please share your tanka in TANKA TAKE HOME. Would love to publish you in our journal - haikuKATHA _()_

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This article is inspiring! I have read many of these poems before but to see them shared all in one place is truly a gift. I am encouraged to continue writing tanka intrigued as I am by the list of senses so well articulated by the author. an’ya is, in my opinion, so generous both as a poet and how much she shares in her poetry but also as an editor. I have just joined this lovely group and am slowly making my way from page to page. Thank you for posting this and to an’ya for writing it.

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Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
24 feb 2022
Contestando a

Thanks a ton for this warm feedback, Barbara. _()_

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shobhana kumar
shobhana kumar
08 feb 2022

This is a treasure. Echo Shalini"s sentiments. Thank you for sharing.

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