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TANKA TAKE HOME: 15th November 2023 - Featured Book: The Ink Dark Moon

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

featured book: The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan. Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani November 15, 2023

“Yamazato no / aretaru yado o / terashi tsutsu / ikuyo henu ran / aki no tsukikage”

This abandoned house


in the mountain village—

how many nights

has the autumn moon spent here?

– Ono no Komachi

"Natsu no yo wa / maki no to tataki / kado tataki / hito tanome naru / kuina nari keri"

Summer night,

a rap at the gate,

a rap at the door…

how hope answers

the water rail’s knock.

– Izumi Shikibu

"Of the many differences between the language in which these poems were composed and that into which they have come, one of the most significant is that Heian-era Japanese (and present-day Japanese) is a highly inflected language. This means that grammatical constructions are often contained within the words themselves, usually in their endings, as in Latin; when an auxiliary word is used, it generally follows rather than precedes its companion. English, by comparison, is a partially inflected language; although some information is given in word endings—for example, the distinction between singular and plural—word order also greatly determines grammar. “The man ate the lion” means something quite different from “the lion ate the man."

Because of the conventions of ordering in English grammar, the understanding of a sentence tends to develop from beginning to end, and when auxiliary words are used (“I will have left by then”), they generally precede the part of speech they modify. For novice readers of Japanese, the order in which a poem’s information unfolds, both within phrases and over the course of the poem, at first often seems reversed. Again, anyone who has studied Latin or another inflected language knows how quickly one learns to take one’s cues as they come; but until the originals’ order begins to seem natural, reading the phrases backwards word by word or starting the poem from its end will usually help in untangling the meaning. (An additional source of potential confusion is the fact that the language of the Heian era differs more greatly from contemporary Japanese than that of Chaucer from contemporary English, and some of the words in these poems were archaic even at the time of composition.)"

– Jane Hirshfield

—The Ink Dark Moon - Love poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu.

Women of ancient Court of Japan.

Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani


Note: This book has the English translation of poems by two great Japanese women tanka poets. It has Japanese versions as well, and if you want to read how they have translated the verses I recommend that you buy the book. I can only post the tanka and probably a short excerpt. There’s a good portion of the book dedicated to the translation method and some interesting facts.


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!

Please also, in case of tanka-art, tell us if it's your own picture or someone else's. We will be unable to accept it otherwise.


The challenge for this week:  

Even after over a thousand years we can relate to these tanka; they are timeless. What do you feel about them? Do they take you somewhere into the past? Write about solitude, of waiting, of looking for something perhaps, or just anything these tanka inspire. Most of all, have fun!


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. <> <>

579 views221 comments


joanna ashwell
joanna ashwell
Nov 28, 2023


left alone

with just the wind

how many times

must I sit and wait

for earthrise

Joanna Ashwell


Feedback welcome


joanna ashwell
joanna ashwell
Nov 20, 2023


20 November 2023

raindrops falling

through my dream journal

of solitude

the way minnows

weave towards sunshine

Joanna Ashwell


Feedback welcome


#1 Tanka prose

20th November 2023

Feedback welcome.

Revised (thank you, Lakshmi!)

Late summer

After more than a month, my nine year old daughter thinks, I might still be emitting the radioactive rays. She confirms from me everytime before she hugs me or uses the same restroom. These were two of a few things she was forbidden to do during my isolation period after radio ablation.

after rain

a white sheen spreads....

the hibiscus

petals still droop as if

waiting for more rain

Amoolya Kamalnath



Late summer

After more than a month, my nine year old daughter thinks, I might still be emitting the radioactive rays. She confirms with me everytime before she hugs me or uses the…

Replying to

I partly modified my tanka as per your suggestion. Thank you, Lakshmi!


Adelaide Shaw
Adelaide Shaw
Nov 20, 2023


lingering cold wind

and patches of snow

and yet. . .

the first sighting

of a red breast

or for L5

of a feathered red breast

comments welcomed

Replying to



Jennifer Gurney
Jennifer Gurney
Nov 20, 2023

#1 11-20-23

I wait gently

upon the shore

eating my peach-breakfast...

for you, hidden in the reeds

to show your glorious selves

Jennifer Gurney


note: photo mine (I'm new to this site - not sure whether photos are allowed - but thought I'd offer this one to go with the tanka. Apologies if that's not the case.)

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