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TANKA TAKE HOME - 25 May, 2022 | poet of the month - Jenny Ward Angyal

Updated: May 25, 2022

hosts: Firdaus Parvez, Kala Ramesh, Priti Aisola & Suraja Menon Roychowdhury Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Jenny Ward Angyal

at seventy

I open a locked door

and step out—

the deep wingbeats of a heron

where the blue begins

~Frameless Sky 13, December 2020

Jenny has been a very close friend of mine for the last several years. She is an exceptional poet, mentor and editor. We'll be showcasing and focusing on her tanka this month and I'm sure we'll learn a lot if we study the way she uses words and images to craft her poems.

We had the pleasure of asking Jenny a few questions, and she graciously took the time to answer them. Here is the fifth:

Q5 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?

Read lots and lots of tanka. Read the journals and anthologies. Figure out why you like what you like. Analyse how the poem works in terms of meaning, metaphor and music. Study the Japanese aesthetics that inform the tanka art. The Way of Tanka by Naomi Beth Wakan provides a helpful introduction. And, if at all possible, find a way to get frequent feedback on your work from readers and poets.

What do I look for as an editor? First and foremost, I look for the indefinable essence that makes tanka tanka--a quality that one can internalize only by reading widely in the genre.

All tanka derive their power from the interplay of concrete, sensory images. Show, don’t tell. But ideally, the poem goes beyond description, exploring the relationship between the poet’s inner and outer landscapes and offering multiple layers of meaning, both literal and metaphorical. It often employs such Japanese aesthetic qualities as wabi-sabi, yūgen, aware, and makoto to evoke emotion without sentimentality and without telling the reader what to feel or think.

Tanka means short song, so traditionally tanka are lyrical as well as brief. The language should flow smoothly, with musical cadence and attention to the sounds of words. Diction should be simple, not flowery. Tanka typically juxtapose two parts with a grammatical break between them. Each syllable should ‘count’ toward creating a sharply focused poem without padding or wordiness, and each line should ideally be a single, coherent poetic phrase. The poem should build to a powerful fifth line.

Such ‘rules’ are not arbitrary--they are a distillation of the methods tanka poets have found to be most effective in conveying emotion and meaning. However, ‘rules’ are not written in stone and more experimental approaches may discover new ways.

I cast my words

upon the wind

to catch things as they are—

but ah! the space

between blue butterflies

~ Frameless Sky 12, June 2020

More about Jenny:

Jenny Ward Angyal spent her childhood wandering the woods and fields of rural Connecticut, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse. She spent a number of years studying and writing about biology, and many more teaching nonverbal children how to communicate.

She now lives with her husband and one Abyssinian cat on a small organic farm in central North Carolina. She has two sons and three grandchildren. She composed her first poem at the age of five and has written tanka since 2008. Her tanka (and occasionally haiku) have appeared widely in journals and anthologies. She is the author of two tanka collections, Moonlight on Water and Only the Dance, and co-author of Beetles & Stars: Tanka Triptychs. She co-edited the Tanka Society of America’s 2016 Members’ Anthology, Ripples in the Sand, and served for over five years as Reviews and Features Editor of Skylark: A Tanka Journal. She currently serves as Tanka Editor of Under the Bashō and Global Moderator of Inkstone Poetry Forum.


Are you inspired?

Challenge for this week: Have you ever tried to open a locked door and step out? Give this idea 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!

PLEASE NOTE: 1. Post only one poem at a time. 2. Only two 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 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in haikuKATHA monthly magazine.


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