top of page

TANKA TAKE HOME – 15th March 2023/ poet of the month – Susan Weaver

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Susan Weaver

15th March

Susan Weaver/tanka

swaying to a clarinet's

riffs and wails

suddenly long-ago notes

and tangled longings

let loose in me

Moonbathing, Spring/Summer 2022

grapevine drapes hemlocks

like an arm around

my mother's shoulder

. . . wishing I'd been there

when she called my name

red lights, January 2021

We do not have enough words with which to thank you, Susan, for your tanka and your deeply enriching responses to our questions.


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.

SW: There are many poets whose tanka I admire. One is Edward J. Rielly, who grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and whose poems often evoke that experience. They have special appeal, as my dad also was raised on a dairy farm in the Midwest, and we'd visit there when I was a child. This poem by Rielly took first place in the Tanka Society of America's first international tanka contest (in 2000):

traveling the path

through rustling cornfields

to the cow pasture

I see father waving his cap

just before I wake up

I like how Rielly takes us with him and doesn't let on until line five that this is a dream.

I have also been struck by what seems to be a growing number of poets from India whose evocative tanka are appearing in Ribbons. One of my favorites, this poem by Richa Sharma from our fall 2022 issue juxtaposes a vivid image in the opening lines with the speaker's experience in the last two lines. The strong fifth line suggests much without overexplaining.

waves lit up

by moonrise

this time

I return to him

without expectations

As I read it, the predictable motion of waves adds layers of meaning. Just as waves ebb and flow, she has left him before and gone back, perhaps more than once. This time she has no illusions.

I still write some free verse poems and am partial to poetry by my friend Ann E. Michael, who is a long-time member of my writers' group. Just today we learned that she has won a prize that includes publication of her second full-length collection of free verse.

Biography: Susan Weaver became editor of Ribbons (journal of the Tanka Society of America) in 2021, after serving three years as tanka prose editor. She is a former feature writer and editor with special interests in cycling and active travel. Her eight years of staff experience at Bicycling magazine, where she became managing editor, were bookended with periods of freelancing. Between assignments, she taught as a poet in the schools, worked weekends at a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and explored local back roads on her bicycle. She also enjoyed bike travel in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. and wrote about it for Adventure Cyclist and other magazines. Much later, she discovered tanka and tanka prose. She lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with her artist/writer husband and two cats.

Challenge for this week:

In the first tanka one can hear the music of the clarinet and the wistful music of the narrator’s past ‘tangled longings’. The repetition of the ‘l’ sound throughout the tanka in words with different syllabic counts gives the poem its beautiful languid/dreamy/ unhurried pace.

I wrote to Susan Weaver because I wished to understand her second tanka better:

I have read it several times; both visually and emotionally it appeals to me a lot. However, I don't think I really get the symbolism in the upper verse. The internet tells me that the grapevine symbolizes prosperity, fertility, well-being. And the 'hemlock trees, by their very nature, are mature, graceful beings. Their drooping boughs and fine, soft needles define them as elegant, wise elders that teach us to embrace change gracefully.' Does your upper verse allude to any of the above? And how does it fit into the lingering feeling of regret that you have with respect to your mother? (That you were not there 'when she called my [your] name'.) Also, whose protective or tenderly caring arm is around your mother's shoulder? Is there a pause at the end of L 1? Or, is one supposed to read the first three lines of the upper verse together.

I am able to feel your tanka without really being able to understand it well. Is it possible for you to throw some light on it?

Susan’s detailed and illuminating response:

“Walking in a local wooded area, I saw a wild grapevine that had climbed a tree trunk and then grown sideways to drape hemlocks ‘like an arm around’ someone’s shoulder. To me, the vine image suggested loving support.

I would pause only briefly after L1, as I read the first three lines together. They allude to caring for my mother in the last several years before she died at 96. She was in a continuing care community 2 hours from my home, and as time passed, I realized that she needed not just social visits and sharing fun activities. She needed help: with her checkbook, her laundry, responding to her mail, accompanying her to doctors’ appointments. I’d go and spend three or four days with her at a time. So, the arm in L2 is meant to be mine.

Of course, relationships aren’t simple. Readers may reflect that the grapevine also depended on the hemlocks it clung to. My mother was a loving, encouraging, tactful mentor all my life. The older I became, the more I appreciated what a special woman she was. She never stopped being nurturing and optimistic, and she never lost her sense of humor.

I didn’t think about additional symbolism with the grapevine and the hemlock when I wrote the tanka. However, it occurs to me now that hemlock trees do well in cool temperate climates, where snow and ice can damage the branches of other trees but hemlocks’ drooping branches and soft, fine needles let snow and ice flow off. Like a hemlock, my mother’s forgiving nature allowed her to let negative things go.

She would not have wanted me to feel regret, but the lower verse refers to her last days, when her death came more quickly than I expected. I had spent the weekend with her and then driven home during a thunder and lightning storm. When the nursing staff called me the next day, I couldn’t get back in time to hold her hand and be with her when she died.”

We invite you to write tanka about a loved one.


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.


531 views231 comments


Reid Hepworth
Reid Hepworth
Mar 21, 2023

Happy World Poetry Day!

Reid Hepworth
Reid Hepworth
Mar 21, 2023
Replying to

Thank you, my friend!


Unknown member
Mar 21, 2023

a tapestry

of my life

... disconnecting ...

and connecting

the threads of karma

Feedback most welcome :)

Unknown member
Mar 22, 2023
Replying to

I saw the entire tanka as an image - a tapestry of my life :)


from the other side

i view the bench where dreams formed

and you mother

would twiddle her hair

reflecting on your own youth

Replying to

Thank you Priti. I’ll consider it.


Bryan Rickert
Bryan Rickert
Mar 21, 2023



in her hands

I take

whatever shape

our embrace makes

comments always welcome

Replying to

Love it!


Billie Dee
Billie Dee
Mar 20, 2023


swaying to elevator music my dad

grinning in the wheel chair pushed by a pretty nurse

feedback welcome


Billie Dee
Billie Dee
Mar 22, 2023
Replying to

It stacks vertically like an elevator :)


my dad



bottom of page