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TANKA TAKE HOME: 1st November 2023 - Featured Book: The Ink Dark Moon

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

featured book: The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan. Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani November 1, 2023

“Mono o koso / iwane no matsu mo / omou rame / chiyo huru sue mo / katabuki ni keri”

This pine tree by the rock

must have its memories too:

after a thousand years,

see how its branches

lean towards the ground.

– Ono no Komachi

“Kaku bakari / kaze wa huke domo / ita no ma mo / awane ba tsuki no / kage sae zo moru”

Although the wind

blows terribly here,

the moonlight also leaks

between the roof planks

of this ruined house.

– Izumi Shikibu

“...Ono no Komachi (834?-?) served at the imperial court in the capital city of Heian-kyo (present-day Kyoto) during the first half century of its existence; her poetry, deeply subjective, passionate, and complex, helped to usher in a poetic age of personal expressiveness, technical excellence, and philosophical and emotional depth.”

"Izumi Shikibu (974?–1034?) wrote during the time of the court culture’s greatest flowering; a woman committed to a life of both religious consciousness and erotic intensity, Shikibu explored her experience in language that is precise in observation, intimate, lyrical, and deeply moving."

"All translations are inescapably ephemeral, linked to the poetry of their own time's language in a way that an original work is not. Yet most of us depend on translations—if we are lucky, in several versions—as the only way to encounter the poetry of other cultures and times."

– Jane Hirshfield

—The Ink Dark Moon - Love poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu.

Women of ancient Court of Japan.

Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani


Note: This book has the English translation of poems by two great Japanese women tanka poets. It has Japanese versions as well, and if you want to read how they have translated the verses I recommend that you buy the book. I can only post the tanka and probably a short excerpt. There’s a good portion of the book dedicated to the translation method and some interesting facts.


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!


The challenge for this week:  

For an assignment on a poetry site, I was given the tanka by Shikibu "Although the wind" and I was mesmerised. So I went looking for other poems by the poet and the internet threw up this book. For a long time I was fascinated by Jane's work and serendipitously I did get to 'meet' her on zoom (tbh I was a little tongue-tied). Coincidently this tanka happens to be her favourite as well. Komachi and Shikibu have inspired me for so long and I hope you find their tanka as fascinating as I do. This week uncover some positive in all the negativity around you. Seek out the moonlight that leaks into this dark world. Or write whatever these tanka inspire. Have fun!


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. <> <>

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