top of page

TANKA TAKE HOME - 21st Dec, 2022 | poet of the month - Tom Clausen

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Tom Clausen

Tom Clausen / Tanka

quite by surprise my daughter asks me if I'd like to be a woman the gravity in the moment I took to answer Tanka Splendor 1998


bowed to the ground the goldenrods too tall of themselves- I couldn't tell her why the sky is blue Tanka Splendor 1998


We had the pleasure of asking Tom Clausen a few questions, and he graciously took the time to answer them. (He has enriched us with his thoughtful responses; todays is a treat for the reader in you)


TTH: Who are your favourite tanka poets? In addition to tanka what other genres of poetry do you write or read? Tell us about some of the books you've enjoyed.

TC: My favorite tanka poets would certainly begin with Ishikawa Takuboku, Ryokan, Yosana Akiko, Machi Tawara, Saigyo, and include literally several hundred others! Whenever I read a tanka that resonates, connects, shares something I wanted to know and/or was waiting to know or shares something personal yet universal at once, something that opens my heart and mind to the poet who wrote the tanka then that is my favorite tanka poet in that moment. To read an indelible tanka is a true ecstasy and a real gift. It is certainly a worthy effort to look for these tanka! They can and do appear in all the journals and all it takes is the time to search them out! I have seriously felt rewarded over and over by poet after poet in the tanka community who have written inspired, poignant powerful tanka that once read will remain as a touchstone of truth and poetry for as long as I can remember.

Maya Angelou once said: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That is how I feel about hundreds of tanka poets who have positively enriched my life with one or many of their tanka and I will never forget how their tanka made me feel.

I began reading and trying to write haiku and senryu in the late 1980's and tanka in the early 90's and have enjoyed reading longer forms of poetry since the late 60's.

My favorite poet, since I first read one of her poems, has been Mary Oliver and I cannot recommend any book of poetry more than any one of her many great collections. I discovered Mary Oliver while in a local book store in the early 1980's and saw her book, American Primitive. I had never heard of her and randomly opened the book, read one poem and walked right to the check-out counter, bought it, went home and was magically captivated and magnetically happy in the embrace of each of her poems. I have been entranced and a devotee of her poetry ever since.

Some of my favorite tanka collections are:

Poems to Eat by Takuboku Ishikawa (translated by Carl Sesar) Tangled Hair by Yosano Akiko Salad Anniversary by Machi Tawara At the Hut of the Small Mind and This Short Life and Four Decades on My Tanka Road by Sanford Goldstein The Windblown Clouds by Brian Tasker Gusts by Marianne Bluger Lip Prints and Elvis in Black Leather by Alexis Rotella First Light, First Shadows by George Swede The Rice Papers by Pat Shelley

hedgerows tanka pentaptychs, fieldgates and on the cusp encore by Joy McCall Where Deer Sleep by Brian Zimmer

this hunger, tissue thin by Larry Kimmel

The Trees Bleed Sweetness by Carol Purington

Now That the Night Ends: The Tanka of Gerard John Conforti

Slow Growing Ivy and Casting Shadows by David Terelinck A Thousand Reasons and A Solitary Woman by Pamela Babusci The Forest I Know by Kala Ramesh Talking in Tandem and twelve moons by Claire Everett Dancing Naked by Michael Ketchek

drops from her umbrella by laura maffei Always Filling Always Full by Margaret Chula More Light, Larger Vision by Geraldine Clinton Little

Cigarette Butts and Lilacs, tokens of a heritage by Andrew Riutta My Tanka Diary and The Maternal Line by Kawano Yuko (translated by Amelia Fielden) Early Indigo by Cherie Hunter Day

The Pleiades at Dawn by Jeanne Emrich

Baubles, Bangles & Beads and Still Swimming by Amelia Fielden

More About Tom:

Tom Clausen (Ithaca, NY) is a life-long Ithacan living in the same house he grew up in with his wife Berta. He became interested in haiku and related short forms of poetry in the late 1980's after reading an article about naturalist Ruth Yarrow, profiling her haiku. There was instant recognition that haiku was a form that might help with his tendency with wordiness, repetition, and overstatement. He has been reading and trying to write haiku, senryu, tanka and haibun since then. Tom is the curator of a daily haiku feature, online, at Mann Library, Cornell University where he worked for over 35 years before retiring in 2013.

In 2003 Tom was invited to join the Route 9 Haiku group that formed in 2001. The group publishes twice a year a journal, Dim Sum, featuring selected work by members John Stevenson, Hilary Tann, Mary Stevens, Yu Chang, Tom Clausen and a guest poet as well as haiga by Romanian artist and poet, Ion Codrescu. Tom enjoys walking, biking, photography and simply going about observing and documenting what is there to be found. He especially cares for cats and deer.


Links to his books:

a worn chest by Joy McCall & Tom Clausen (tanka pairs 2022) here

Interchange haiku, prose & photos by Tom Clausen and Michael Dudley(2022) here

My Own Heart, 25 Years of Tanka by Tom Clausen ( 2021) here

Growing Late (tanka - 2007) here

Challenge for this week:

Tom's tanka make us pause; the questions are simple enough however, the answers are not. With such ease, Tom has made us think deeper and dig within ourselves. How many times have we been confounded by a curious child? What questions dwell in your mind? Let's play with questions today. Interpret it as you like. Most of all, 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 this theme 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, tanka-prose (within 250 words), and tanka-art to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly magazine.

537 views167 comments
bottom of page