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TANKA TAKE HOME: 10th January 2024 Kirsten Cliff Elliot - poet of the month

hosts: Firdaus Parvez, Kala Ramesh, Priti Aisola & Suraja Menon Roychowdhury

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Kirsten Cliff Elliot

January 10, 2024


in that deepest green . . .

the mountain alone

has left its imprint

on my psyche

LYNX XXVII:3 (October, 2012) from 'Forever Home' tanka sequence with Margaret Dornaus

I start again

my search for freedom . . .

with each slow step

the cow's udder sways


A Hundred Gourds 2:2 (March, 2013)

We are delighted to feature Kirsten Cliff Elliot this month. She has answered all our questions very graciously and we're grateful for her time and effort.


TTH: How do you develop a tanka? Please guide us through the stages of a poem. 

Kirsten: A tanka could develop in one of several ways for me:

Initially as a haiku that I then expand on as I think about emotional events that connect or contrast to the haiku moment, or I may have two lines that I love but they aren’t going to work as a haiku so I search deeper to see how they could be worked into a tanka

Or it could start with me looking through observations I’ve written in my journal and then working those into a tanka, either several short observations or one that I expand on - sometimes I can have bits and pieces (half sentences, a description, a thought, a question) in my journal for some time, even years, before I find a place for it in a poem. I regularly go back to my journal for inspiration because it’s such a great resource and sparks off all kinds memories

Sometimes a tanka can come fully formed, it was always a tanka right from the beginning, although it may need to go through a few rounds editing

Bio note:

Kirsten Cliff Elliot describes herself as a reader, writer and librarian from New Zealand, now living in England. She also identifies as Queer and chronically ill/disabled. Kirsten has been writing and publishing haikai since 2007 and has taught poetry workshops in schools and online. She was formerly the editor of the haikai section of the New Zealand Poetry Society magazine, a fine line. She also judged the junior section of their International Haiku Competition in 2013. Kirsten published an e-chapbook of haiku and tanka in 2011, thinking of you: twenty poems of love, which she distributed as a free gift for Valentine’s Day. In 2019, her first full-length collection of haiku and tanka came out, Patient Property: a journey through leukaemia (Velvet Dusk Publishing), which was shortlisted in The Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Distinguished Books Award 2019. Copies are available for purchase HERE. Outside of writing, reading and exploring England with her husband, she is most involved with CILIP: The library and information association (UK) as: Digital Champion for the LGBTQ+ Network; an assessor on the Professional Registration Panel; and was recently named in the CILIP 125, a list of the next generation of professionals who will lead the sector into a new age of information.

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Challenge for this week:

Losing and finding oneself, slowly emerging out of a situation that curbed self-expression or the freedom to be true to oneself — these seem to be the themes of the two tanka above. And Kirsten has explored these wonderfully well through familiar images that leave a mark on our ‘psyche’. When ‘the mountain alone’ leaves ‘its imprint’ on her ‘psyche’, she can take that as her beacon light and come out of ‘the deepest green’, however ‘lost’ she may be in it. However alluring this ‘deepest green’ may be, it also has its lurking dangers. To understand its complex nature and to keep one’s focus on something that soars above it all, is not a simple task. Yet, she manages to do so.

Can you write your poems keeping in mind the themes expressed or glimpsed above? For example, a quest for what defines you.

Important: Since we're swamped with submissions, and our editors are only human, mistakes can happen. Please, please, remember to put your name, followed by your country, below each poem, even after revisions. It really helps our editors; they won't have to type it in, saving them from potential typos. Thanks a ton!

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And remember – tanka, because of those two extra lines, lends itself most beautifully when revealing a story. And tanka prose is storytelling.

Give these ideas some thought and share your tanka and tanka-prose with us here. Keep your senses open, observe things that happen around you and write. You can post tanka and tanka-prose outside these themes too.

An essay on how to write tanka: Tanka Flights here


1. Post only one poem at a time, only one per day.

2. Only 2 tanka and two tanka-prose per poet per prompt.

Tanka art of course if you want to.

3. Share your best-polished pieces.

4. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.

5. Post your final edited version on top of your original verse.

6. Don't forget to give feedback on others' poems.

We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished tanka and tanka-prose (within 250 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly magazine.

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