top of page

TANKA TAKE HOME - 15 June, 2022 | poet of the month - Ken Slaughter

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Ken Slaughter

no more waiting

for the next breath...

at sixty four

I let go

my mother’s hand

Gusts 28

a bug

crushed under my foot


I released one

into the garden

Atlas Poetica Arthropod Feature

We had the pleasure of asking Ken a few questions, and he graciously took the time to answer them. The previous questions are in the earlier posts, here’s the fourth one.

Q 4. 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.

Ken: I am a huge fan of Susan Burch, Janet Davis, and Debbie Strange. I like Susan’s unassuming wit, and she can hit you with an unexpected line 5. I like Janet Davis because of her plain language and penetrating insights. Debbie’s poems, haiga, and taiga are always very original and just very human and relatable. As for tanka literature, my favorite book is The Way of Tanka, by Naomi Beth Watkin. The book is written for the average tanka poet, not necessarily for the “experts”. I love the examples she chose, and she has an easy and clear way of explaining things. I like anything edited by M. Kei. I find experimental work in his publications that wouldn’t be published anywhere else.

As for non-Japanese style poetry, I gravitate toward plain-speaking, easily understood poets. I’m a fan of William Stafford, Ted Kooser, and Billy Collins. All of these poets are easy to read, but very accomplished as well.

More about Ken:

Ken Slaughter is a tanka poet who also likes to write senryu. He was vice president of the Tanka Society of America for a couple of years. He won the annual TSA contest in 2015. He submits primarily to Ribbons, Gusts, Prune Juice and Failed Haiku. You will see some of Ken’s tanka here in the excellent publication haikuKATHA. He lives in Worcester, Massachusetts with his wife, and is the proud servant of two one-eyed cats.

Are you inspired?

Challenge for this week: Is there a particular scent that triggers a memory? Use a scent in your poem. See where that takes you.

Give this idea 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 this theme too.


1. Post only one poem at a time.

2. Only two 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 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly magazine.

489 views139 comments


Debbie Strange
Debbie Strange
Jun 30, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind mention, Ken! I particularly enjoyed the ambiguity you employ in the first tanka. This could be interpreted as the writer letting go of his mother's hand as she passes, but I also think this tanka has a much deeper sense of mystery and intrigue. Perhaps this is a "death poem" of sorts, and it is the writer who envisions himself taking his final breath, letting go of his elderly mother's hand as she keeps vigil at his bedside. Thank you for sharing your gift, and I look forward to commenting on your offerings further when my reading assistant has a bit more time to help!


to lakshmi my feedback:

a perfect

arrangement of leaves

on the tree

sunlight touching them


it's poem but, it doesn't "move" me at all. a tanka should move the reader in some way.

i would rewrite the last 2 lines with a juxaposition. pls don't be offended. blessings, pamela

lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Jun 22, 2022
Replying to

Thanks. I never get offended in any way. Your inputs are encouraging! How about


sunlight passing

equally through each

and every leaf

the way even the clouds

float in perfect patterns



lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Jun 21, 2022

such a perfect

arrangement of thick leaves

on the tree

sunlight touching equally

on each of them


Feedback please

Replying to

I'm not sure 'perfect' is a good word here. I think it would be better if you could make it subtle.


spread evenly

on the tree

sunlight touching

each one

is just one way. But if this were mine I would be tempted to start with this:


touches each leaf

on the tree...

And then a human observation or question in lines 4 and 5.



Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
Jun 20, 2022

in the darkness

a stirring

within lotus buds —

soon their secrets will open

to the rising sun

feedback appreciated.

Reid Hepworth
Reid Hepworth
Jun 21, 2022
Replying to

This is a beauty, Kala!


mona bedi
mona bedi
Jun 19, 2022

Revised: Thanks to Ken, Billie and Firdaus:

dad’s diary

i cling onto his scent

on each page

the penned lines tell me

how little I knew him


dad’s diary i hold onto his scent on each page the penned lines tell me how little I knew him Feedback appreciated:)

Jun 29, 2022
Replying to

Good one

bottom of page