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TANKA TAKE HOME: 21 June 2023. Sonam Chhoki: Featured Poet of the Month

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

It is our pleasure to feature well known haijin and poet Sonam Chokki this month. Welcome Sonam! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! We hope you will visit us and share your comments and insights on the poems that will be posted.

5 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?

SC: As in the case of question no. 3, this will vary for each poet/editor.

A question I ask myself is: “Why would anyone want to read or publish this poem?” I revise and rewrite as an answer to this. T.S. Eliot, the poet and literary critic (1888 - 1965) said that writing is a craft that has to be worked at and refined. It’s a fallacy that we lose our unique voice when subjected to critique.

A recurring issue not only in tanka but also in general, is that we often think that what we write about has to be “true” or that when we write about something, it has to be presented exactly how it happened. But for an experience to be transformed into a tanka we must eschew this mistaken notion of presenting the truth and nothing but the truth. Our goal as tanka poet is a poem that flows with a smooth rhythm, has alluring wordplay and layers of possible connotations and not a factual reproduction of an actual experience. To illustrate this, here is a tanka I revised several times. The removal of the rather mundane statement of a factual experience in the final line, with a visual imagery gave a more layered closing to what was felt and thought. Using an imagined and ubiquitous imagery of “butterflies skimming the waves” opened up the tanka without losing the sense of mourning and pain:


crossing the river

where my father's ashes

were scattered

the eddies froth and churn

memories of that gray dusk


crossing the river

where my father’s ashes

were scattered

the eddies froth and churn

butterflies skim a curve of wave

Ribbons Spring 2011

If I may say so, as a poet and editor, critical feedback and the willingness to edit, polish and refine, are the cornerstones to writing a satisfying tanka.

Presenting Sonam's poetry:


not just the broken leg

my mind too is encased

this November night

the wind moves through trees

I stare at a single page

American Tanka Issue 20, 2011

In how many ways do we restrict ourselves? Sonam has expressed this beautifully in her tanka. The single page speaks to me- perhaps it is the blank page that every writer faces and at times fears. Or perhaps it is the blank slate of one's life where all is erased and there are only possibilities, once someone has broken through the proverbial ties that bind. The mastery in this tanka lies in the way specific images are used to convey deep insights.


in dreams of mother

searching in the mountains

a snow leopard calls

to me in her voice

from the mouth of a cave

red lights Vol. 11, No. 1 January 2015

Perhaps it is knowing that Sonam is from Bhutan, but the majestic Himalayas immediately spring to my mind...Who is mother? The poet's mother? The snow leopard? The mountain? The earth? What does her voice sound like? This poem is so rich in imagery, engaging the reader on multiple levels...I leave you to experience it in your own way.

This week's challenge: Write about mountains and valleys. Write a tanka or a tanka prose. Tanka off-prompt are welcome too.

An essay on how to write tanka:


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, too.

3. Share your best-polished pieces. 4. We are not looking at SEQUENCES NOW, of any length.

5. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.

6. Post your final edited version on top of your original verse.

7. 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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Jun 27, 2023

tanka # 1

Attempted to write a humorous tanka. Not sure if this works.

Feedback welcome🙏🏻

Edited based on Suraja’s feedback

*** sitting

on a heap of old newspapers

in the attic you say you would move

mountains for me


original versions

version 1

*** you say you would move

mountains for me


on heaps of old newspapers

in the attic


version 2


heaps of old newspapers

sit in the attic for years

and you had said

you would move

mountains for me


Jun 28, 2023
Replying to

Thank you Suraja. I like your edit🙂


mona bedi
mona bedi
Jun 26, 2023

Tanka prose

Revised thanks to Kala:

A Breath

Delhi heat is unbearable. A mountain vacation is a must in summers. Packing our bags for the hills we talk about how cold it will be there. Excitedly we get going. Nearing the mountains we sense a coolness in the air. The sun is hiding behind the clouds. Further up it becomes colder and we pull out our jackets. Crisp mountain air rustles the tall pines.

I secretly wish to have a home in the hills.

art class

we draw a green mountain

with a small hut

sound of laughter from within

resonates in my ears

Feedback appreciated:)

A Breath

Delhi heat is unbearable. A mountain vacation is a must in summers.…

mona bedi
mona bedi
Jun 26, 2023
Replying to

Thanks… I was stuck here😊


Unknown member
Jun 26, 2023

#Tanka 3


it's topmost arc

the moon

this journey from womb to tomb

in the loop of time

Feedback most welcome :)

Unknown member
Jun 27, 2023
Replying to

I like your suggestion. I tried to use L3 as pivot. I will mull over and get back on it. Thank you for the suggestion, Kala. :) .... I was talking in general about cycle of birth and death with the rise and fall of moon.

My bad, I overlooked the apostrophe in possessive pronoun. Thank you for pointing out.


#1 tanka prose

It’s That Time of Night

when I yell at the TV. People Puzzler, America Says, or whatever is on.

in the eye

of Hurricane Susan -

my husband

in his noise-cancelling


comments welcome

Replying to

I agree.


Billie Dee
Billie Dee
Jun 25, 2023



a glint at the edge

of this creek water

eddy. . .

a woodpecker feather

joins the