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TANKA TAKE HOME – 12th April 2023 poet of the month – Rebecca Drouilhet

Updated: Apr 13

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Rebecca Drouilhet

Biography: Rebecca Drouilhet is a retired registered nurse, author of two books, winner of numerous contest and awards. Her work has appeared in a vast majority of the top haiku and tanka journals. She lives an hour from New Orleans, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Hattiesburg, MS, a culturally rich gumbo of Deep South Culture and cuisine. Playing with her large family and enjoying music and art occupy her days. She is currently a haiku moderator on Inkstone Poetry Forum.

Rebecca, thank you very much for taking the time to respond to our questions. Our readers will gain so much from your experiences. We look forward to reading your comments on the submissions here.

April 11, 2023

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

My tanka are a curious blend of life, experiences, imagination and serendipity. I often get a surge of creative energy when daydreaming or studying something new—energy that lets me know this subject is something I must write about and explore. I sit at my desk and let the tanka flow from me, often editing and revising multiple times before I’m satisfied. I keep my mind open and flexible without allowing any negative self-talk to interfere while trying out multiple ideas and word choices. Later, when the tanka have ‘cooled’ a bit, I might come in with a more rigorous and critical editorial mind to do the final trims and adjustments.


TTH: Who are your favourite tanka poets? In addition to tanka what other genres of poetry do you write or read? Tell us about some of the books you've enjoyed.

I love to read the ancient Japanese classics, often delighting in poets who wrote their tanka or ‘waka’ ,as it was known then ,a thousand years ago. I enjoy the tanka of so many: Jenny Ward Angyal, Joy McCall, Claire Everett, Kala Ramesh, Ken Slaughter, Janet Lynn Davis, An’ya, Dru Philippou, Susan Constable, Michael McClintock, Chen-ou Liu, Ryland Li and many others.

I also enjoy Yeats, the New Orleans-born poet Sheryl St. Germain (Let It Be a Dark Roux by Autumn House Press), Love Haiku by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie and many others.

Here is a tanka and a beautiful tanka prose from Rebecca for us to enjoy.


opening a window

on this night of summer rain…

a flash of lightning

luminates the path

we no longer walk together

*Publication credits: A version of this appeared in TSA Membership

anthology, 2015. My poem contained here uses the old-fashioned word ‘luminates’

This tanka is a beautiful example of an upper verse with an outer reflection, a lower verse with an inner reflection and a bridge or a pivot.

opening a window

on this night of summer rain…

a flash of lightning

A beautiful stormy moment in nature is captured in this upper verse.

a flash of lightning

luminates the path

we no longer walk together

Here is the poignancy and sense of loss. Or perhaps it is a sense of relief- the flash of lightning might signify an insight into why the relationship is no longer tenable.

Put the two together and you have a lovely tanka that captures an ending with all the attendant drama, beautifully exemplified in the nature metaphor. The relationship is not defined- it could be romantic, it could be a business relationship, it could well be a spiritual relationship. There is plenty of space for the reader to dream...


Where Others Walked Before

It began after we'd had the house blessed. Each time, we wonder what is happening, but there are no answers. My husband gets up at night to let the dog out and hears a woman sobbing—deep, heart-wrenching, unmistakable sobs. But when he looks in the spare bedrooms, there is no one there. Often, he is awakened by someone shouting in his ear. One night after this happened, we sat talking about the strange phenomena we were both experiencing. Ghoulish nightmares that have us waking in terror; the way the bathroom door swings open energetically on its own. As we spoke, I heard the sound of a small child crying piteously outside our front door. I started to go investigate, but when I realized my husband couldn't hear the child, I knew I didn't want to open that door. The color of things does not lie in the shadows.

Before white people lived here, this community was a large Choctaw settlement. All the old timers know the legends. Many of them have a Native American among their ancestors. My great-great grandfather, who was ordained in the local church in 1857 and probably preached there through the Civil War and beyond, was married to a Native American, and together they had many children. People remember that the Choctaw men danced around the sacred tree in the churchyard, chanting all day, before the Indian removal. The next day, the government soldiers came and took them away. The stream behind the house no longer runs red with blood, but the ghosts do not rest quiet here, and neither do we.

this grief

a circle that never ends...

I ask

for nothing

but songbirds after the rain

*Publication credits: Drifting Sands Haibun, #12

Wow...what a heart-wrenching story of displacement. It is said that trauma lives through generations, wounds carried over from our forefathers and foremothers acting out in our lives even today. Native American history is replete with such stories. President Andrew Jackson and the US Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, forcing the Choctaw and other tribes, to relinquish their homelands completely, and move westward. The act passed the House in May 1830, by only five votes. I leave you to imagine the horror of this displacement... The tanka, simple words used so effectively, expresses an immeasurable sadness and exhaustion.

This tanka prose is also about relationships- intergenerational ones.

Challenge for this week:                                                       

Drawing inspiration from these two poems, try writing about relationships - not just romantic. Think about your ancestors. Or perhaps your descendants. If it is a tanka, then see if you can try the structure of upper (inner reflection) and lower (outer reflection) verse with a bridge.


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 


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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