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TANKA TAKE HOME – 1st February 2023 | poet of the month – David Terelinck

Updated: Feb 3

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: David Terelinck

1st February

David Terelinck/Tanka

a shaded corner

in the hospice garden

—slow growing ivy

as if there is all

the time in the world

[The Tanka Journal 42, 2013]

cracked and faded

a discarded alms bowl

still holding

every drop of silver

the moon can offer

[Slow Growing Ivy, 2014]

Our warmest thanks to David Terelinck for responding to our questions so graciously.

Q 1: TTH: Do you come from a literary background? What writers did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you write as a child?

DT: Neither of my parents were great readers or showed any interest in literature. My father left school at quite a young age to work as an itinerant farmer. His reading was limited to farming newspapers or short magazine westerns. My mother also left school before completing her senior years to raise her younger siblings after their mother died.

We had very few books on our shelves, and I have no recollection of being read to my either of my parents as a child. Being a low-income family, books were a luxury that were not often indulged in at home. Most of the time we lived on properties many miles from town, so visits to public libraries were out of the question. Selections in the school libraries were limited, but I do remember discovering the wonder and joy of novels by Joan Phipson, Enid Blyton, and Carolyn Keene.

I first recall writing creatively in my early years in secondary school and this was encouraged by my teachers.

Q 2: TTH: How did you get started as a poet? What was it about tanka that inspired you to embrace this ancient form of poetry? In short, why do you keep writing tanka?

DT: My initial love of poetry was fostered by two dedicated English teachers I had in my secondary years at school. Mrs Stone and Miss Webster both taught poetry from the heart; they made it accessible and easy to understand. Their passion for poetry became infectious. I remember we examined popular song lyrics and broke them down as poetry. My journey as a poet today really started with them.

I was drawn to tanka because of its ability to reveal and convey such depth of emotion in only 5 short lines. This was poetry distilled to the essence of meaning for maximum impact. I liked and valued the lessons that tanka had to teach me in other poetic genres, primarily around editing and the value of “less is more.”

I keep writing tanka today because it is a form that has captured my heart and I am happy to be held hostage to its charms. It is often the form I turn to when I have a pressing need for immediate expression, to process an emotion, or to capture a fleeting scene or moment in time. It is perfect for poetry on the move and as a snapshot of life.

It is also easy to become endeared to the form when you learn it from passionate and willing mentors. I was lucky enough to count gifted tanka poets such as Beverley George, Kathy Kituai and Julie Thorndyke among my early teachers. Each was selflessly willing to share of their time and expertise in encouraging this novice tanka poet.

Biography: David Terelinck is nefarious for holding words hostage on a page until they agree to become a poem. On rare occasions, a ransom is paid in prize money.

He has published two tanka collections (Casting Shadows, 2011 and Slow growing Ivy, 2014), co-authored A Shared Umbrella with Beverley George in 2016, and has judged tanka competitions and co-edited on journals and anthologies. David’s tanka have won awards and many have been published in various journals and anthologies around the world. Currently, David is writing a lot of free verse poetry and has won an award or two, and has been published here and there, for his free verse efforts.

David loves gin & tonic and long beach and rainforest walks. David feels we need more poetry less politics, and firmly believes dolphins should be running the planet.

Challenge for this week:

We are struck by the crystal clarity and the poignant beauty of the images in the second tanka. While the poet uses three adjectives to describe the ‘alms bowl’, neither of these feels unnecessary.

One wonders who the owner of the ‘discarded alms bowl’ was, what has become of him/her and if his/her life is similarly ‘cracked and faded’. Yet, even as the reader becomes pensive and a bit sad, the poet introduces a moment of silvery hope: the cast aside alms bowl still holds ‘every drop of silver/ the moon can offer’.

We invite you to write tanka using clear, strong images to bring out the poignancy and surprising beauty of a certain moment or situation.


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


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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