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TANKA TAKE HOME: 12th July 2023 Chen-ou Liu - 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: Chen-ou Liu

Biography: Chen-ou Liu is currently the editor and translator of NeverEnding Story (, and the author of two award-winning books, Following the Moon to the Maple Land (First Prize, 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest) and A Life in Transition and Translation (Honorable Mention, 2014 Turtle Light Press Biennial Haiku Chapbook Competition). His tanka and haiku have been honored with many awards. Visit his blog, Poetry in the Moment (, to read more of his poetry.

Chen-ou, 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.

July 12, 2023

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

I would like to take you through the development of the following tanka: a teen's hands touching her mother's ... the train window dis/connects their hearts broken by blasts in Kyiv Cattails, April 2023 An image/scene, often from daily life or seen on television, gets me started. In the case of this tanka, it's a farewell scene at the train station (Ls 1-3). It's heart-wrenching because of "tearful faces," not told but implied through innovative use of punctuation in L4, "dis/connects their hearts." My tanka builds line by line, up to L4, mainly about the heart-wrenching but "classic" ( especially in cinema) parting of two who love each other deeply. But L5 reveals that this is a "wartime farewell," and it throws everything into uncertainty, adding emotional weight and psychological depth to the tanka (which, now we know, is about one of the devastating impacts of Russia's invasion of Ukraine)

<> <> her toothbrush

in my medicine chest

declares residency…

gazing at the mirror

a face hard to recognize

Tanka Third Place, 2011 San Francisco International Competition.

after surgery

both of us said nothing...

her red bra

in the corner of my mind

begins to change color

Second Place, the 60th Annual Contest 2012, Pennsylvania Poetry Society

"The Distance of Love"

for my mother

on the phone

I murmur to mother,

"I love you" ...

an ocean away

the silence at her end

Coming back home after my first day in grade one, I asked, "Mom, do you love me?"

"I love you this much," she said with a laugh, holding her hands half a meter apart.

Now, forty years later, living in another country, I still can't fathom the depth of that L word inscribed in my mother's heart.

Haibun Today, 12:3, September 2018

The challenge for this week:  Both the tanka and the tanka-prose above are about relationships. Something all of us face every day. If you notice the poems have so much unsaid - for how can anyone clearly 'define' a relationship? And isn't tanka the best form (for it gives you 5 lines, with an upper verse Kaminoku and the lower verse Shimonoku) to show the unsaid in ways that would leave the readers remembering your poem for a long time?    So give us a poem on relationships and with things unsaid. A tall order, indeed!                                               


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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