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TANKA TAKE HOME: 19th July 2023 Chen-ou Liu - poet of the month

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Chen-ou Liu

Biography: Chen-ou Liu is currently the editor and translator of NeverEnding Story (, and the author of two award-winning books, Following the Moon to the Maple Land (First Prize, 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest) and A Life in Transition and Translation (Honorable Mention, 2014 Turtle Light Press Biennial Haiku Chapbook Competition). His tanka and haiku have been honored with many awards. Visit his blog, Poetry in the Moment (, to read more of his poetry.

Chen-ou, thank you very much for taking the time to respond to our questions. Our readers will gain so much from your experiences. We look forward to reading your comments on the submissions here.

July 19, 2023


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.

My favourite tanka poets are Ishikawa Takuboku, Yosano Akiko, and Shuji Terayam. In addition to tanka, I read and write kyoka, haiku, senryu, haikbun, tanka prose, somonka and zuihitsu.

In Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature, Makoto Ueda’s structural approach to the poetic ideas held by the Japanese tanka/haiku poets, such as Masaoka Shiki, Yosano Akiko, and Ishikawa Takuboku, was very helpful for me to situate tanka in the socio-cultural-political contexts of the Japanese poetic tradition. His introduction from Modern Japanese Tanka: An Anthology provided the historical contexts of various tanka groups and movements, and the text itself showcased modern Japanese tanka poets and their works.

Masaoka Shiki: Selected Poems and Songs from a Bamboo Village: Selected Tanka from Take no Sato Uta, gave me a glimpse into the suffering soul and prolific life of an innovative poet, Masaoka Shiki. Shiki’s three poetic principles — shasei (“sketches from life”), makoto (“truthfulness”), and everyday language — helped me set my feet firmly on the ground. His struggle with new literary expressions of tanka and haiku reminded me of Lu Xun.

Moreover, disregarding all pain, Shiki wrote most of his heartfelt tanka and haiku from his sickbed with a discerning eye for beauty. This made him a model for human courage, and was epitomized in the following diary entry: “there are ten goldfish in a glass bowl on the table. I watch them intently from my sickbed as I struggle with my pain. I feel the pain and I see the beauty (April 15, 1901).” And his fighting spirit helped me to confront the harsh reality I faced without backing down.

Yosano Akiko’s Tangled Hair: Selected Tanka from ‘Midaregami, opened up a new window through which I saw private emotions (jikkan) play an influential role in instilling female selfhood, sexuality, and body imagery in the framework of centuries-old poetry. As well, the final three chapters of Janine Beichman’s Embracing the Firebird: Yosano Akiko and the Birth of the Female Voice in Modern Japanese Poetry, which are devoted to an interpretation of Akiko’s Tangled Hair, helped me further understand her audacious creativity in breaking the taboos in poetic expressions.

As one who has long been interested in cinema, Kaleidoscope: Selected Tanka of Shuji Terayam, greatly appealed to me because Terayama’s “fiction tanka” not only dismantled my hard-learned ideas about what the tanka is but also interweaved the narrative threads of personal mythology, trauma, cultural memories, socio-political events and surreal imagination

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she speaks

of winter sunlight breaking

through the trees ...

her son’s nose print

on the hospice window

Second Place, Mandy's Pages Annual Tanka Contest, 2015

Untold Story

the night

shimmers on fresh snow ...

a frown

wrinkles my forehead

in the bedroom window

The German Shepherd claims, "The old map of Taiwan on the wall shows where his heart lies."

"But not his mind. He reads and writes English daily," comes a rebuttal from the dog-eared Chinese-English dictionary on the coffee-stained desk.

With scarcely a moment's pause for reflection, the jar of salted bamboo shoots joins the discussion. "I think everything in his life is going okay ... except for the food. He can't stand Canadian food!"

the stillness

of another morning

new layer

upon layer of snow

buries my immigrant past

Ribbons, 17:2, 2021

The challenge for this week:  The Techniques of Link and Shift—The How and Why

To begin, let’s look at two techniques used by filmmakers to tell a story. Mise-en-scène (pronounced meez-auhn-sen) is a French term that literally means “to put into the scene” or “staging an action.” Anil Zankar, a professor at the Film & Television Institute of India in Pune, explains:

 At its simplest, it could be defined as the art of combining the animate (the actors) and the inanimate (sets, costumes, properties, natural and other ambiance) elements to produce a cinematic scene. This usually includes set design, location, actors and their movements, costumes, make-up, sound, shot compositions, and lighting. All these elements blend in the composition of a scene in a film. In other words, mise-en-scène is the capability of the director in making a harmonious whole out of the various parts.  Montage is another bit of film-world jargon. The dictionary defines it as “the technique of selecting, editing, and piecing together separate sections of film to form a continuous whole.” Isn’t this what we do when employing link and shift in our poems, piecing together and juxtaposing words and images rather than film ‘shots’? We want a tanka or a tanka-prose using these film techniques. Can you?  That's your challenge! Go for it!                                    


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.


595 views242 comments


Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
Jul 25, 2023


dark drapes

on my windows

each gloomy thought

flitting across my face

so open to view

Feedback is very welcome.


Keith Evetts
Keith Evetts
Jul 25, 2023

#2 25 July

a whole afternoon

spent watching a couple

of kingfishers dive

I know I'm too lazy

to better myself

Comments welcomed (and yes, the gentle haikai irony is intentional!)

Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
Jul 25, 2023
Replying to

The dreamy langour of this piece is palpable and 'the gentle haikai irony' is well done!


Billie Dee
Billie Dee
Jul 25, 2023


pearl-gray doves

preen on our window sill

last night I dreamed

you crept into the bedroom

looking for your morphine


feedback welcome

mona bedi
mona bedi
Jul 25, 2023
Replying to




deep within

the undergrowth

that snake

crossing our path

in the sunlight

Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
Jul 25, 2023
Replying to

Lovely feedback!


Bryan Rickert
Bryan Rickert
Jul 24, 2023


pond ripples

from a thrown stone

my reflection

warped and scarred

from years of you

comments welcome

lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Jul 25, 2023
Replying to

Loved it.

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