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TANKA TAKE HOME - 18th January, 2023 | poet of the month - Debbie Strange

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Debbie Strange

18th January

Debbie Strange/Tanka

mute swans

under a moon bridge

the things

I should have confessed

make no difference now

1st Place, 2016 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

dried curls

of gray reindeer moss

crunch softly

underneath our boots . . .

no other sound, but breath

1st Place, 2016 San Francisco International Tanka Competition

We thank you warmly, Debbie Strange, for taking the time to respond to our questions.

Q 5:

TTH: Can you give any advice to someone wanting to write and publish tanka? As an editor what are you looking for in a tanka that makes it most likely to get published?

DS: I think aspiring tanka poets should read prodigiously, and be ruthless in editing their work prior to submission. Regularly submitting to reputable journals is an integral part of a tanka writer’s journey. Be open to editorial feedback, and do not be afraid to “kill your darlings”!

Since I am not an editor, I will instead give you an outline of what I look for when judging a tanka contest. These are personal idiosyncrasies, and should not in any way be taken as the “be-all and end-all” methods of tanka construction:

· brevity (under 24 words or syllables)

· two distinct parts, with one grammatical break

· juxtaposition

· musicality

· unique metaphors, themes, and imagery

· good command of grammar

· demonstrated understanding of the genre

· succinct construction

· consistent tenses

· mindful use of punctuation, articles, prepositions, and pronouns

· creative content and word choices

I am drawn to work that rings with authenticity, and is open enough to evoke an emotional response. The same “rules” that apply to haiku do not necessarily apply to tanka, in that we are free to use literary devices, emotion, and detailed imagery to enhance our work.

Challenge for this week:

When I read the first tanka several times and reflected on it, I wasn’t aware that a ‘mute swan’ is so called because ‘it is less vocal than the other swan species’. I was drawn to the striking image of the ‘mute swans/under a moon bridge’. The narrator could’ve said ‘silent swans’. However, ‘mute’ is more evocative and resonant. There is a deep pause after L 2 and then the narrator plunges into the lower verse with her dramatic statement: ‘the things/I should have confessed/ make no difference now’. Dexterously, she juxtaposes the muteness of the swans with her muteness or silence about certain things. Then finally ends her confession about not having confessed certain things. There is a realistic recognition of this truth: how passage of time alters the significance and impact of a confession. Or, makes it unnecessary.

An image based on direct observation and the precise simplicity of the words to speak of a certain emotion make this tanka a memorable one.

Can you use the above features to write your own tanka?


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 this theme 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.


985 views407 comments


Debbie Strange
Debbie Strange
Jan 25, 2023

Well, my dears, as there were only a couple of offerings on which to comment this evening, I think we'll sign off until tomorrow. It's hard to believe that we're beginning our final week together. I'm looking forward to seeing the fruits of your labour!


mona bedi
mona bedi
Jan 24, 2023

Tanka art #2

Revised thanks to Suraja 😊

wedding flowers

how long before

they wither

I revel in the freshness of

our relationship

Feedback appreciated:)

mona bedi
mona bedi
Jan 25, 2023
Replying to

Love the edit!! Thanks 😊


Unknown member
Jan 24, 2023

feedback most welcome :)

Debbie Strange
Debbie Strange
Jan 26, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your appreciation! I strive to attain musicality as well as emotional connectedness in every tanka I write. For me, these are both necessary elements of good tanka, so I rarely (if ever) sacrifice one for the other. The musicality in the edited version is found in the way the words roll easily off the tongue, with no awkward line breaks. The euphony (or quality of being pleasing to the ear) is found in the "w" sounds in words/within, the "long i" sounds in try/fire, the "soft l" sounds of uncontrolled/lamp, and the "p" sounds in keep/lamp. I hope this helps!


Replying to

I like the tanka. In terms of formatting I think you can increase the font size and perhaps move the text to the brown parts too make it more visible.


Debbie Strange
Debbie Strange
Jan 24, 2023

We're signing off until tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your gifts today!

Debbie Strange
Debbie Strange
Jan 26, 2023
Replying to

My pleasure!

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