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 ...
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.
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.