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TANKA TAKE HOME: 29th November 2023 - Featured Book: The Ink Dark Moon

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

featured book: The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan. Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani November 29, 2023

“Iro miede / utsurou mono wa / yo no naka no / hito no kokoro no / hana ni zo ari keku”

How invisibly

it changes color

in this world,

the flower

of the human heart.”

Ono no Komachi

“This poem, also one of Komachi’s most famous, is usually read as alluding specifically to love, a commentary on the way passion can fade without leaving any mark on the lover’s outward appearance;...

...Yet this poem can also be taken as a statement about the nature of change in general—in the world of nature, change is accompanied by outward signs, whereas in human beings the feeling heart continually changes quite invisibly; thus, human emotion is even less permanent or trustworthy than any other natural phenomenon. Here, as in many of her best poems, when Komachi dwells on the nature of love at its deepest, she makes her home in the realm of larger questions.” – Jane Hirshfield

“Matsu hito no / ima mo kitara ba / ikaga sen / humamaku oshiki / niwa no yuki kana”

If the one I’ve waited for

came now, what should I do?

This morning’s garden filled with snow

is far too lovely

for footsteps to mar.

Izumi Shikibu

“Shikibu has waited through the night, once again, for a lover who did not appear—this time, however, she has transcended the situation. This poem is slightly reminiscent of Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man”:

One must have a mind of winter

To regard the frost and the boughs

Of the pine-trees crusted with snow…

and not to think

Of any misery in the sound of the wind…

Shikibu has achieved this “mind of winter,” accepting both what is there and what is not, at one with things as they are.”

– Jane Hirshfield

—The Ink Dark Moon - Love poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu.

Women of ancient Court of Japan.

Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani


Note: This book has the English translation of poems by two great Japanese women tanka poets. It has Japanese versions as well, and if you want to read how they have translated the verses I recommend that you buy the book. I can only post the tanka and probably a short excerpt. There’s a good portion of the book dedicated to the translation method and some interesting facts.


Important: Since we're swamped with submissions, and our editors are only human, mistakes can happen. Please, please, remember to put your name, followed by your country, below each poem, even after revisions. It really helps our editors; they won't have to type it in, saving them from potential typos. Thanks a ton!

Please also, in case of tanka-art, tell us if it's your own picture or someone else's. We will be unable to accept it otherwise.


The challenge for this week:  

As we wrap up this month with these two lovely tanka written by two women almost 1300 years ago we realise how words connect us despite the distance of centuries and we can still relate to the sentiments of the poets. Isn't that amazing? I hope it has been an inspiring month. This week's challenge is to write about the heart but don't use the word 'heart'. Of course you can write outside the challenge as well. But mostly, 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 these themes too.

An essay on how to write tanka: Tanka Flights here 


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. <> <>

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