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TANKA TAKE HOME – 1st March 2023/ poet of the month – Susan Weaver

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!


poet of the month: Susan Weaver

1st March

Susan Weaver/tanka


on the bank, a heron

hunched in stillness

blending into dusk

a lesson in when to wait

and when to soar


Ribbons, Winter 2021


thousands of galaxies

in that dark spot

are unknown worlds . . .

your silent thoughts

light years away


Moonbathing, Fall/Winter 2020


Susan, we thank you warmly for sharing your tanka and for your thoughtful responses to our questions.


1.

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


SW: Does letter-writing count? Regular correspondence was a family tradition, especially between my parents and my father's mother. She saved all the letters from her five children and returned them in shoeboxes to each family in later years – a valued record of our lives.


I treasure a note she wrote when I was 1½, which shows her sense of humor. I'd been left in her care for a few days, during which Nana composed “my first letter” to my parents. “Dear Mummie and Dada!” She went on to tell the day's events, including some mischief I got into when I was supposed to be napping. “I should have gone right to sleep, but I decided to see what was in the box under my crib. I found your address book and a map of Pennsylvania. I didn't think you'd need the map since we've moved to the Midwest, so I tore it. Nana must have heard me, because she came up before I could fix the address book. . . . It's a shame, but Nana pushed the box so far away I can't reach it!”


For myself, I became a penpal with friends I met at camp.


My mother was an avid reader, and she read to me when I was very little. I still have some old Raggeddy Ann books on my shelves. Later I devoured many other books from her childhood, from Nancy Drew mysteries to novels by Zane Gray and Gene Stratton Porter. From the library, I remember especially liking Jack London and the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley.


Of course, I wrote for school assignments. My mother saved a four-line rhyming verse I composed in third grade for Halloween, complete with drawings of pumpkins, and I still have it. She always encouraged writing.


reading aloud

my grade-school essays

as she listened

. . . somehow the feeling

I could do anything


red lights, January 2021


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.


SW: After college, I taught English for a few years, but I decided teaching wasn't for me. I found magazine feature-writing opportunities that let me interview interesting people and indulge my curiosity. Eventually, bicycling and fitness journalism, travel writing, and editing became my work.


Occasionally life inspired a free verse poem. But not until my early fifties did I feel a strong need to write poetry. I was a freelance journalist, and my concern for women's issues had led me to work part-time at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. There my experiences with residents moved me and made me want to tell their stories. They had to be fictionalized, of course, and free verse poems seemed best for handling stories that evoke feeling.

Later I read and tried writing haiku.


About fifteen years ago, I learned about tanka from my friend and writing colleague, Marilyn Hazelton (editor of the tanka journal, red lights). We've been in the same local writers' group for years, and she taught us to write tanka. With two more lines than haiku, tanka let me express more. I liked its sense of authenticity, its role as a vehicle for memoir. I began reading red lights and submitting. I found that this short form encourages me to focus and to think more about my own emotional responses. I'm grateful to Marilyn for her help as a mentor and to other editors (including David Rice, Claire Everett, Christine Villa) who have also influenced me. Gradually, I came to understand the nuances of the form. I think I'll always continue to learn about tanka. Meanwhile, I feel a sense of community, reading the work of my fellow poets. Even more, as an editor I sometimes ask for the backstory of a tanka, and it seems I come to know the poet better, which is very gratifying.


Biography: Susan Weaver became editor of Ribbons (journal of the Tanka Society of America) in 2021, after serving three years as tanka prose editor. She is a former feature writer and editor with special interests in cycling and active travel. Her eight years of staff experience at Bicycling magazine, where she became managing editor, were bookended with periods of freelancing. Between assignments, she taught as a poet in the schools, worked weekends at a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and explored local back roads on her bicycle. She also enjoyed bike travel in Europe, Canada, and the U.S. and wrote about it for Adventure Cyclist and other magazines. Much later, she discovered tanka and tanka prose. She lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with her artist/writer husband and two cats.


Challenge for this week: The lyrical quality of both the tanka stood out for me. And, in addition, the quality of silent observation that leads to deep insights. In the first tanka the image of ‘a heron/ hunched in stillness/ blending into dusk’ is a clear and memorable one. What strikes one is this – the heron is not drawing attention to itself; not only is its posture one of quiet withdrawal, but it also dissolves its identity by ‘blending into dusk’. There is a subtle spiritual lesson here for the reader.


Then comes the superb lower verse with its delicately phrased message of what the narrator learns from the heron – ‘a lesson in when to wait/ and when to soar’ – when to wait in the wings and when to step onto the stage at the right moment for one’s best performance.


We invite you to attempt tanka where you show how something observed in nature left you with a life lesson or a profound knowing that has stayed with you.


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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

PLEASE NOTE

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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201 תגובות


everyone

off to work or school

I cradle

my morning coffee

in a favorite mug

לייק

Firdaus Parvez
Firdaus Parvez
08 במרץ 2023

What beautiful tanka! So glad to read your poems and a little about you Susan. I can relate to the letter writing; we used to have a letter writing period every Saturday in school. Since we had to fill the whole page, my parents received a very thorough weather report each week! I absolutely loved that letter your nana wrote (from you); thank you for sharing your world.

Thank you Priti for posting this, what a lovely challenge.

לייק

Barbara  Olmtak
Barbara Olmtak
07 במרץ 2023

2. how short-lived the blooms of cherry blossoms pom-poms the magic of love a pink cloud barbara olmtak, March, 2023 Feedback always appreciated 🙏

לייק
Firdaus Parvez
Firdaus Parvez
15 במרץ 2023
בתשובה לפוסט של

Sorry for getting back so late. Now that you've explained, i get the drift; maybe you can work on it some more. It's a lovely premise.

לייק

Barbara  Olmtak
Barbara Olmtak
07 במרץ 2023

Thank you Susan for sharing your beautiful tanka and your path to immersing in the art of tanka💗 Lovely !! Thank you Firdaus, Kala , Priti & Suraja for hosting this beautiful Wednesday feature🌸

לייק

mona bedi
mona bedi
07 במרץ 2023

Tanka art


raindrops

dissolve in the puddle

I try to hold onto

my identity

in this relationship


Feedback appreciated:)

לייק
mona bedi
mona bedi
08 במרץ 2023
בתשובה לפוסט של

Thanks 😊

לייק
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