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TANKA TAKE HOME: 17th January 2024 Kirsten Cliff Elliot - poet of the month

Updated: Jan 22

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Kirsten Cliff Elliot

January 17, 2024

the way he didn't

even look at me

when I told him ...

midsummer & still unripe

this tangle of wild blackberries

A Hundred Gourds 2:2 (March, 2013)

I hear her say

she's lost the will to live ...

the waves

keep on cresting

keep on breaking

LYNX XXVIII:2 (June, 2013) from 'Lost & Found' tanka sequence with Margaret Dornaus

Our warmest thanks to Kirsten for sharing her lovely tanka and her thoughtful 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.

Kirsten: When I think of people’s tanka that inspires and resonates with me I immediately think of Margaret Dornaus, Debbie Strange, Pamela A. Babusci, Claire Everett and in years past Svetlana Morisova, Hortensia Anderson, Kat Creighton and Andre Surridge (the latter four poets have passed away). As well as tanka, I read all of the genres within haikai and don't stray far unless something particularly catches my eye. Most recently that was What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo by Pascale Petit. I came across this when creating a poetry book display in the library for National Poetry Day. I’m a huge fan of Frida Kahlo as I can relate to her pain and suffering and this collection didn’t disappoint. I also love novels written in verse (also called ‘verse novels’) and read a lot of these, anything I can get my hands on, mostly young adult fiction. I’m writing one myself, which I started in 2018 and has been on pause for a couple of years; I’m always hoping I’ll get time to go back to it.

Bio note:

Kirsten Cliff Elliot describes herself as a reader, writer and librarian from New Zealand, now living in England. She also identifies as Queer and chronically ill/disabled. Kirsten has been writing and publishing haikai since 2007 and has taught poetry workshops in schools and online. She was formerly the editor of the haikai section of the New Zealand Poetry Society magazine, a fine line. She also judged the junior section of their International Haiku Competition in 2013. Kirsten published an e-chapbook of haiku and tanka in 2011, thinking of you: twenty poems of love, which she distributed as a free gift for Valentine’s Day. In 2019, her first full-length collection of haiku and tanka came out, Patient Property: a journey through leukaemia (Velvet Dusk Publishing), which was shortlisted in The Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Distinguished Books Award 2019. Copies are available for purchase HERE. Outside of writing, reading and exploring England with her husband, she is most involved with CILIP: The library and information association (UK) as: Digital Champion for the LGBTQ+ Network; an assessor on the Professional Registration Panel; and was recently named in the CILIP 125, a list of the next generation of professionals who will lead the sector into a new age of information.

Challenge for this week:

The first tanka leaves so much unsaid … unrevealed. It subtly suggests the underlying stress or tension between two people, leaving much for the reader to conjecture: ‘the way he didn’t / even look at me / when I told him …’ Then comes the lower verse with its vivid and mystifying image: ‘ midsummer & still unripe / this tangle of wild blackberries’. The ‘tangle of wild blueberries’ which haven’t ripened as expected takes the reader back to the upper verse: a relationship that is perhaps in a ‘tangle’ and hasn’t ripened to a state where it is fulfilling for both the persons involved in it.

The second tanka opens on a sad, hopeless note: ‘I hear her say /

she's lost the will to live . . .’ In opposition to this falling into despair movement is the perennial, untiring rhythm of ‘the waves’ that ‘keep on cresting / keep on breaking’. Along with the narrator, the reader feels the pain/emotional weariness of the person, wonders what could’ve led to such a hopeless state of mind and wishes she can re-gather the will to find new meaning in her life.

Select a certain emotion, mental state or mood and speak of it through something that you have observed in nature.

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.

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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823 views323 comments


Post 1

the stream after rain—

in my imagination

white water rapids

as near as I’ll ever get

to an adventure

Adelaide B. Shaw


comments welcomed

Replying to

thank you, Joanna


Tanka-art / 23/01/24

feedback is welcome

Rupa Anand

New Delhi, India

Jan 24
Replying to

So true. This reminds me of the book by Elizabeth Hurlock on Development Psychology. It's a must read. We will realise what is happening and why. Nice!



glistening in the dawn

a dew kissed web

my fondness for him

like a twisted liana

in search of blue

Nalini Shetty


feedback welcome

Replying to

Thank u joanna...

lianas are long stemmed woody vines that often climb trees in tropical forests using other plants for support to reach sunlight in the canopy.......


#2 tp

Perpetuating a Myth

In the 1840’s P.T. Barnum hired a man to pose as a naturalist and authenticate his mermaid display, which was really the top half of a monkey sewn to a fish’s tail. Then he took it on a tour of London, creating a mermaid craze.


to Smashmouth

I don’t correct

my grandson’s

I’m a bee leaver

Susan Burch, USA

comments welcome


Really evocative and powerful tanka, Kirsten.

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