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TANKA TAKE HOME: 20th March, 2024 Kathabela Wilson - poet of the month

Updated: Mar 20

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


Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!


March 20, 2024


poet of the month: Kathabela Wilson


before twilight

she spread her arms wide

my mama

with peanuts for them all

a blue jay in each hand  


Take Five 2023  


crepe paper roses

the scent of lavender

in mother’s folds

I press myself after she's gone

into the place where she slept



Spring Summer, 2024


I watch especially

the blue moon, mother,

where you might

be most likely

dressed to match


Incense Dreams


twenty feet in the air

first time I flew he says

weeks by his side

while they repaired his wings

my resilient husband


Eucalypt 2015



Moving Day


It was a romantic day when I finally moved into the teahouse. After many visits, I had a quiet mind.  My bags were full of leavings. One by one I dropped them into the stream that ran past by the edge. There soon, even the future would flow by.  I drank deeply from the basin by the entrance. The taste of now.


I listen

a soft rustling

I know

the teahouse is made

of white herons and bamboo



Spring, 2017


We are deeply grateful to Kathabela Wilson for sharing her wonderful work and thoughts with us.

Bio-note: Kathabela Wilson was born into a poetic family. Her father a poet and writer, journalist, read her The Great Poems of the English Language as bedtime stories. Her Maltese mother, born in Cairo in an international community, spoke 5 languages was a creative artist. Her first poem at 5 years old is memorable, and carries her sense of wonder: ‘Oh the moon, oh the sun oh the stars’. She found Asian poems in her childhood books, fell in love, and later traveled to Japan and other Asian countries about 10 times, with her mathematician flute player husband Rick Wilson,  developing strong ties and inspiration. He continues to accompany her in all performances, in the spirit of tanka as a little song. She "realized" she was writing tanka in about 2010, and has been deeply in love ever since. She has published a tanka chapbook, and shared tanka over the years in many international journals. She traveled to Japan in 2018 to receive the First Place Fujisan Taisho award in person.  She is Secretary for Tanka Society of America for 8 years, loving the community of poets. She founded and leads her own group of "Poets on Site" since 2008.



TTH: Who are your favourite tanka poets? In addition to tanka what other genres of poetry do you write or read?


Kathabela: I will mention just two primary inspirations and influences on my tanka life, but there are many more I could include!


M.Kei: As a scholar, editor, and a true lover of tanka, M. Kei encouraged our instincts toward freedom. In Atlas Poetica and Bright Stars he challenged poets worldwide to write beyond the ordinary, and to confront difficult questions and aspects of our lives.  He encouraged us to be adventurous and to embrace the extraordinary.


ai li the creator of cherita (also a tanka poet). Her cherita is so closely aligned and inspiring that M, Kei encouraged it and included it, devoting an issue of his tanka journal to a call for cherita.  Her cherita was born of, and influenced by, the surrealists. Her sense of poetics expression is deep and true; she enters into drawing from silence and space where words are born. When we read her work, we go beyond the ordinary. This generates our best work.


I treasure every one of the poets who have entered into poetic community with me and we learn from one another every day.


In my life, and in our poetry groups, I have always read and included every kind of poetry. Free verse to poetry prose and beyond. I don't limit poetic experience.



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?


Kathabela: I asked myself the question, ‘what am I looking for in a tanka’ when I judged the British Haiku Society Tanka Contest. It is in fact something that strongly leaps into the unknown. An extraordinary touch with life in a lyrical way, but breaking through ordinary language and experience.


Tanka gives us a vessel in which to stir up our world. It is essentially itself but unique and free-form within the recognizable essence. Like a cup or vase.


This can be called ‘magic’, but it is really a vulnerable and open, not closed, door to mystery. It is art.


In the midst of all this, I think it is a sense of humor that preserves our humanity and keeps our hearts open to mystery.


Some thoughts on Kathabela’s poems:

Enjoy the poet’s tender, heartwarming memories of her mother. In the first tanka, the poet captures a singular moment featuring her mother ‘before twilight’ (before the sky takes on a blue-purple hue) with her arms opened wide ‘offering peanuts for them all / with a blue jay in each hand’. Such a kind-hearted person and so welcoming that even the birds/the blue jays happily perch on her hand to take her offering of peanuts. The interplay of the sky’s colour suggested by ‘before twilight’ and the blue jays is lovely.


In the second tanka, the poet’s strong awareness of her mother’s absence and her yearning for the comfort of her presence is done with such a delicate and light touch.


The third tanka is an endearing one. The poet loves to watch the moon, especially the blue moon, and gazing at it brings back memories of her mother who perhaps loved to dress up to match an occasion … here, the blue moon.


The fourth tanka — a superbly-crafted tanka with an extended metaphor of a bird and flying and injured wings to describe the fearful moments of the poet’s husband’s accident and the longish period of recovery. Till L 4 the reader doesn’t even realize that what is being spoken of is an accident and not the happy instance of his first and only flight.


Enjoy the serenity and the quiet beauty of Kathabela’s tanka prose.


Prompt for this week: Write tanka centered around a family member/a loved one whose presence in your life, or absence from it, is significant for you. Or, take the cue from Kathabela’s response to the question, ‘What are you looking for in a tanka’?

(‘It is in fact something that strongly leaps into the unknown….’) and write your tanka.


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!




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.

7. haikuKATHA will only consider haiga that showcase original artwork or photos. Post details re: the source of the visual image. If you team up with an artist or photographer, make sure that it’s their original work and that they are not restricted by other publications to share it. We won't be responsible for any copyright issues.

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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766 views272 comments


Unknown member
Mar 26




heavily loaded

tossing curls

i sigh at you

counting days

Art and Poem: Amrutha V. Prabhu


Feedback most welcome :)

Replying to

Counting days before the baby's arrival? Why 'i sigh at you'? Didn't understand, Amrutha.


Unknown member
Mar 25




visits to relatives' houses

quenching thirst

on a withered bench

my mother settles

Amrutha V Prabhu


Feedback most welcome :)

Replying to

A good descriptive poem, but unsure if it is tanka. Unless the 'withered bench' is suggesting your mother's condition. Also, an unusual expression -- 'withered bench'. weathered (?)

'my mother settles' is grammatically incorrect. 'my mother settles down' (?) 'my mother sits' (?)



spring breeze

flowers falling

one by one

i savour each phase

of life's gentle flow

Pradnya Joshi


Comments welcome.


#2. 27/3/24

Revision 2: Grateful to Priti for the suggestions. Thanks.

a long-night party

perverts pretending


sprinting home as the deer

from lurking predators

Sumitra Kumar


Feedback welcome

#2. 26/3/24

1st revision: Thank you, dear Priti and Kala for the valuable feedback. Hope it’s better now.

a long-night party

perverts pretending 


sprinting home as the deer 

from predators on the prowl 

Sumitra Kumar


Feedback welcome

#2. 25/3/24

a long-night party

perverts pretending 


i dash home dodging

predators on the prowl 

Sumitra Kumar


Feedback welcome

Replying to

Thanks Priti. Glad to know it’s better now. Love your observations of the t sound that didn’t occur to me. Let me use the suggestions you’ve made and see how it plays out.


Dipankar Dasgupta