Updated: Mar 24
hosts: Firdaus Parvez, Kala Ramesh, Priti Aisola & Suraja Menon Roychowdhury
Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!
poet of the month: Susan Weaver
you and I
thirty-four years this fall . . .
a scarlet maple leaf
Ribbons, Fall 2021
red-roofed boat house
doubled in the lake's
a girl fishes again
for memories of Papaw
red lights, January 2022
Our warmest thanks, Susan, for sharing your tanka and your thoughts with us.
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?
SW: As editor of Ribbons (journal of the Tanka Society of America), I encourage reviewing our journal before submitting, but admittedly it's not online. However, to see what we look for, it's possible to locate the archives of our annual tanka contest on our website and read the winning and honorable mention tanka and the judges' commentary. We have different judges each year, so one can explore a range of tastes. https://www.tankasocietyofamerica.org/tsa-contest And submission guidelines are on the website. It's also possible to buy a single issue of Ribbons at Amazon.com.
A key thing I look for in tanka is a sense/suggestion of the poet's feelings (showing preferred over telling), linked to some observation, either external or internal. What we call linking and shifting. Often an image from nature is juxtaposed to an observation of the human condition. Thus an effective tanka does more than simply describe. I also tend to prefer tanka that have authenticity and seem to come from the writer's experience.
How does the poem sound? Do words and phrases flow naturally, making good use of line breaks? Does the tanka leave room for the reader to draw on imagination and experience to help complete the story? Are there clues in the poem's imagery to help the reader intuit what's not been told?
Finally, we publish very few tanka in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern. I prefer fewer syllables, as sound units in English are longer than sound units in Japanese.
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:
Both the tanka give the reader ample ‘dreaming room’, allowing them to create a story around the poem, based on what is glimpsed fleetingly even after several readings.
The second tanka begins with the striking image of a ‘red-roofed boat house’ reflected in the ‘still water’ of the lake. The poet uses the verb ‘doubled’ to evoke this image. As one reads the lower verse one sees a girl ‘fish[ing]’, not for a certain kind of fish, but ‘for memories of Papaw’. I assume ‘Papaw’ refers to her paternal grandfather. Once again, the poet uses the verb ‘fishes’ in a unique way to speak of a girl trying to revive memories of her grandfather with whom she may have spent many wonderful moments in the boat house, dreamily adrift on the lake, enjoying the sights and sounds around, listening to stories, and spending many a quiet hour fishing in the clear waters.... This tanka has very strong and unexpected L 5.
We invite you to write tanka where you leave things unsaid, or subtly suggested, allowing the reader to wander around your poem and then imagine or create a story.
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
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.