top of page

TANKA TAKE HOME - 11 May, 2022 | poet of the month - Jenny Ward Angyal

Updated: May 12, 2022

hosts: Firdaus Parvez, Kala Ramesh, Priti Aisola & Suraja Menon Roychowdhury Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Jenny Ward Angyal

plague-year parsnips

browned in butter—

the flavor

of my mother’s victory garden

in another sort of war

~First Place, Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest 2020

Jenny has been a very close friend of mine for the last several years. She is an exceptional poet, mentor and editor. We'll be showcasing and focusing on her tanka this month and I'm sure we'll learn a lot if we study the way she uses words and images to craft her poems.

We had the pleasure of asking Jenny a few questions, and she graciously took the time to answer them. Here is the third:


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

There are no fixed stages! A poem may begin from within--as memory, thought or feeling—or from without--when something catches my eye and sparks my interest. Either way, I have to be paying attention or I will miss the moment. It helps to consciously slip into a state of peaceful, alert awareness that I think of as ‘tanka mind.’

the cry

of a kingfisher—

I seize

from the blue lake of morning

this nameless bounty

~ from ‘Flight Feathers

Ribbons 10:1, Winter 2014

If the impulse arises from within, I search the outer landscape for images to give it voice. If it comes from without, I muse on why this object or event seems significant--how does it connect to my inner landscape?

Sometimes the right words arrive like a gift, but usually, it takes many days to shape a poem from the initial thought, impulse or idea. Often, I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say until I find the right shape for the poem. I constantly ask myself ‘What’s the point? Why do I want to write about this?’ I search for clarity and simplicity, layers of meaning and metaphor, shapeliness and music.

When I get stuck, it helps to get up and do something else. Tanka are brief enough that I can compose them in my head while I go about the rest of my life. A brisk walk outdoors in nature will often set the words flowing. I record ideas on my phone as I walk, so I don’t forget them before I can return to my computer.

I often ponder a poem I’m working on just before I go to sleep and let my subconscious mind have a go at it. I may wake in the middle of the night with words, images & ideas demanding to be written down before I lose them. In the very early morning, adrift between sleeping and waking, I can often tap into the subconscious mind, letting words arise uncensored.


a baby not my own

in a dream

she signs to me

the words of a poem

~ from ‘Flight Feathers

Ribbons 10:1, Winter 2014

After days of tinkering, when the poem finally feels ‘just right’ to me, I almost always share it with an online workshopping forum for feedback. The poem may receive a final lick of polish . . . or I may discover that it doesn’t say what I thought it did--which is well worth knowing! Then, it’s back to the drawing board . . .

More about Jenny:

Jenny Ward Angyal spent her childhood wandering the woods and fields of rural Connecticut, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse. She spent a number of years studying and writing about biology, and many more teaching nonverbal children how to communicate.

She now lives with her husband and one Abyssinian cat on a small organic farm in central North Carolina. She has two sons and three grandchildren. She composed her first poem at the age of five and has written tanka since 2008. Her tanka (and occasionally haiku) have appeared widely in journals and anthologies. She is the author of two tanka collections, Moonlight on Water and Only the Dance, and co-author of Beetles & Stars: Tanka Triptychs. She co-edited the Tanka Society of America’s 2016 Members’ Anthology, Ripples in the Sand, and served for over five years as Reviews and Features Editor of Skylark: A Tanka Journal. She currently serves as Tanka Editor of Under the Bashō and Global Moderator of Inkstone Poetry Forum.


Are you inspired?

Challenge for this week: Get your lower verse to be meaningful and poignant. You could use 'WAR' as your overall theme. PLEASE NOTE: 1. Only two tanka and two tanka-prose per poet per prompt. Tanka art of course if you want to. 2. Share your best-polished pieces. 3. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while. 4. Post your final edited version on top of your original verse. 5. 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 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in haikuKATHA monthly magazine.


743 views333 comments
bottom of page