top of page

TANKA TAKE HOME - 28th 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

full of rain the river races along past everything here- I can't shake this sense I'm living on borrowed time

Hermitage v.2 no. 1-2 Spring-Autumn 2005


pushed by the wind at the far end of the sky a few clouds... I can see that what I want keeps changing too Ribbons Fall 2005


We had the pleasure of asking Tom Clausen a few questions, and he graciously took the time to answer them. Here are the final two:


TTH: Can you give any advice to someone wanting to write and publish tanka?

TC: My advice is to read widely tanka by as many poets from the distant past all the way to the present looking for those that resonate and that you feel a connection to. Make a notebook of those you like most and study those for what it is that drew you to them. At this time there are many online resources to find examples of great tanka. I would encourage those interested in knowing more to follow this Triveni Tanka Take Home feature. You can and will appreciate the way different poets' approach tanka and how varied this 5 line poem can be. I would add that in writing your own tanka be true to your heart and intuition. Make your tanka your own voice and not a copy of other poets. Write what you feel most in tune with or what you feel is "unsolved in your heart" as Rilke advised in his Letters to a Young Poet.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Always carry a little pocket notebook to record experiences, feelings and emotions that speak to you in a way suggesting they might be suitable notes to write a little poem.

When submitting your tanka anyplace be sure to thoroughly read the journal or place you are sending to so you know what kinds of tanka they publish. Follow their submission instructions carefully and most importantly, do not be discouraged by rejection! Not having tanka published is disappointing but the key to getting published is a determined practice and keeping at your writing and reading. Editors have a nearly impossible job winnowing through massive numbers of poems and some they reject not because the poem is undeserving of publication but they simply have too many that may have had similar content or subject. Q6:

TTH: Do you show your work in progress to anyone, or is it a solitary art that you keep close to your chest before letting it go for publishing?

TC: I write tanka as a solitary practice and have not sought feedback very often in the past few years. I used to show my tanka to my wife and a few friends but have not done that for many years and should probably revisit this solitary practice! It is one of many things in my life that I enjoy being solitary about but another person(s) feedback I imagine would be invaluable in improving my attempts at tanka.

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:

Beautiful tanka once again for you this week too. It was such a pleasure sharing Tom's lovely poems and thoughts for the past month. We thank him for his precious time. Taking a cue from Tom's second tanka, let's talk about change. Changing desires, wants, roles, etc.; what has changed in you? 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. Please put your name and country of residence under it.

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.

685 views203 comments
bottom of page