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TANKA TAKE HOME: 13th March, 2024 Kathabela Wilson - poet of the month

Updated: Mar 15

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


Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!


March 13, 2024


poet of the month: Kathabela Wilson


one evening

when bamboo turned blue

you were a metaphor

do you still paint somewhere

and do I still write?


Bright Stars, 2014


deep curve

in the trunk of the olive

how we grow

around obstacles

that have disappeared


Presence, November 2018


passion flower

and poison ivy


we don’t choose

what to hold onto


Blithe Spirit Spring 2019



between rocks


I speak in birdsong

and meandering creek


A Hundred Gourds Sept 2012


We are deeply grateful to Kathabela for sharing her beautiful work and thoughts with us.


Kathabela Wilson was born into a poetic family. Her father, a poet and writer, journalist, read her The Great Poems of the English Language as bedtime stories. Her Maltese mother, born in Cairo in an international community, spoke 5 languages and was a creative artist. Her first poem at 5 years old is memorable, and carries her sense of wonder: ‘Oh the moon, oh the sun oh the stars’. She found Asian poems in her childhood books, fell in love, and later traveled to Japan and other Asian countries about 10 times, with her mathematician flute player husband Rick Wilson, developing strong ties and inspiration. He continues to accompany her in all performances, in the spirit of tanka as a little song. She "realized" she was writing tanka in about 2010, and has been deeply in love ever since. She has published a tanka chapbook, and shared tanka over the years in many international journals. She traveled to Japan in 2018 to receive the First Place Fujisan Taisho award in person.  She is Secretary for Tanka Society of America for 8 years, loving the community of poets. She founded and leads her own group of "Poets on Site"; she has been doing it since 2008.



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


Kathabela: As I start to write, inspiration  grows stronger and I feel the pull, like a magnet that leads me  to the center, the core of the tanka, that will give it strength. I feel drawn to that and try to be led into the real possible depth to be expressed. It is a humble feeling, and strong. We become almost a witness to our own possibilities, to the creative spark. I allow myself to be led by intuition, beyond logic. This can happen because I know the malleable  shape and limits of tanka. 

A tanka begins with the vital incitement of a specific attraction like the way love works ... unexplainable and powerful yet tangible. Like the irritant that grows the pearl. Being sensitive for that powerful incitement gives the heart, core, centerpiece it is built from. The poet senses the shape of the vessel that holds it ... but the genuine power of creation comes from that kernel. Then the lyrical nature of tanka hopefully can freely sing within its bounds.


To find the kernel we stay emotionally and sensually vigilant. So even with a prompt ... it strikes a chord in our heart and experience ... more emotional than haiku and we take the plunge; sometimes it takes writing and shifting the lines to clear the way for the essence, and essential clear expression.


Some thoughts after reading Kathabela’s lovely tanka:


The first tanka: blue bamboo is a rare species of bamboo that looks beautiful. I wondered if the poet-narrator is describing a magical moment when the real world takes a different hue and meaning: ‘one evening / when the bamboo turned blue / you were a metaphor’. In that enchanting moment the person referred to transforms into something beyond a flesh and blood person — ‘a metaphor’ — standing for something other than themselves. One realizes that that particular person is no more present in the poet-narrator’s life because she wonders: ‘do you still paint somewhere / and do I still write?’ A charming, romantic query. However, L 5 did take me by surprise — ‘and do I still write?’ Of course, the poet is writing, hence this tanka. The surprising and curious L 5 took the poem to a different level of appeal for me.


I loved the vivid image in the upper verse of the second tanka followed by a profound reflection on life and our response to ‘obstacles’ that life places before us. Once again, the final line of the tanka is remarkably well done.


Tanka 3: the supports one holds onto in one’s life (sometimes not of one’s choosing) may be as removed from each other as passion flower and poison ivy. Both are trailing vines and yet they are so far apart in their symbolic significance.


Tanka 4 highlights the refined sensibility of the poet, who having cultivated a sensitive ear and a vision uncluttered by entrenched/fixed impressions, can understand the language of nature’s forms and creatures. It is such a fresh and heartwarming tanka, full of endearing music.


Prompt for this week: Write tanka about a magical moment that you experienced in nature – when you felt that the distance between you as an observer and the observed object/life form dissolved to a large extent or completely. Alternatively, you may write about a past relationship that suddenly comes into focus because of an external stimulus.


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!




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.

7. haikuKATHA will only consider haiga that showcase original artwork or photos. Post details re: the source of the visual image. If you team up with an artist or photographer, make sure that it’s their original work and that they are not restricted by other publications to share it. We won't be responsible for any copyright issues.

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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Dear Triveni and all of you,. I am so moved by Pritti's beautiful insights, appreciation, Thank you for this honor, you have inspired me too! Even in gathering the thought and work you asked for , increased my understanding of myself, and the magnetic feeling for tanka rises in my heart and takes wing, I hope to take more time here, to appreciate all your writing and work. Lovingly Kathabela

Replying to

Thanks for being here!


mona bedi
mona bedi
Mar 19

Post #2


snow moon —

the old pine sheds

it’s leaves

I spot a few of gran’s hair

in the dust bunnies

Feedback appreciated:)

Mona Bedi


mona bedi
mona bedi
Mar 19
Replying to

Thanks ☺️


Post 2


to the earth rubble

and cement dust

for weeks now ...

the bathroom's fresh look

Priti Aisola


Feedback is welcome.

Replying to

Thank you, Susan!


#2 17/3/25

the earth

takes a beating next door


the tremors reach my elbow

resting on the table

Sumitra Kumar


Feedback welcome

Replying to

Thank you, Priti!



Version 3 (Thanks to @Priti Aisola again.)

the dog with a missing forepaw ... her past continues to be shrouded in mystery

Dipankar Dasgupta India (Feedback welcome.)

Version 2 (Thanks to