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TANKA TAKE HOME: 2nd August 2023 Joy McCall - poet of the month

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Joy McCall

August 2, 2023

Once more on Barton Fell

We have spent the morning roaming the fells, picking the wild leaves, not saying much.

Each of us is looking for something we know well, unfamiliar to the other.

I hear the Gypsy a little way off, singing 'the wild mountain thyme'.

I'm humming 'love grows where my rosemary goes'.

The hours pass and we meet again in the old stone circle with our small bags of leaves and roots.

It is quiet on the hill. Just the bleating of lambs and the occasional call of a hawk.

he fills the bowl

with wild carrot

bearberry leaf

shepherd's purse

sticky goosegrass

it is now he speaks

his prayer to the land

giving thanks

for the green things

the shoots, the roots

I pass the box of matches. Somehow, a modern lighter is not right for this kind of thing.

Is there a holiness in the striking of a match? It seems so to us, a thing that goes back and back, to flint and fire.

The sun is low in the sky. The stones are casting long shadows. They give shelter from the chilly wind.

He strikes the match and lights the leaves. They sputter a little then settle to burn, slowly.

The smell is - what can I say - heady, bitter, beautiful, somehow fitting in this desolate place.

We sit watching the sun going down, each lost in our own musing.

Now and then we speak, of dreams and longings and questions.

The smoke curls upwards and is caught by the wind and gone.

I feel sad. Rituals do that sometimes.

my moments

like the thin smoke

there - and gone

leaving only a trace

a sea-change

all those times

I wanted to keep -

how slowly I learn

the gentle art

of letting go

on Barton Fell, Cumbria, England

Joy McCall has settled in many countries and has memories of them all, from villages and cities to wilderness places.

(All the tanka-prose we'll be featuring have been published in Atlas Poetica down the years)

We are delighted to share Joy's poems and thank her for taking the time to answer our questions. Here's the first:


TTH: Do you come from a literary background? What writers did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you write as a child?

Joy: My mother and grandparents were both unpublished writers, as were others in my family so I wrote poems early in my life. My Swedish grandfather taught me so many old poems that I can still recite by heart. I was often in trouble at school for daydreaming of poems when I should be learning mathematics and geography.

My mother published a book of tanka when she was 92, inspired by my books, and by a Christmas gift of handkerchiefs from Sandy Goldstein (Cathy Street, a Thankful Heart).

Joy McCall was born in Norwich, England at the end of World War II. Her father served as a chaplain in the British air force in India and Burma. After marrying a Canadian, Joy raised her two daughters in Canada. Later, she moved back to Norwich, where she worked as a nurse to be close to her parents until their passing. Life took a heartbreaking turn when Joy's younger daughter, Wendy, a psychologist, tragically succumbed to Multiple Sclerosis in 2021, leaving a profound void in her mother's heart.

Despite facing tremendous challenges, Joy remains resilient. She suffered a life-altering accident 21 years ago, leaving her paraplegic and amputated, confining her to a bed. Throughout it all, her devoted husband, Andy, has been her unwavering support and rock.

In the face of adversity, Joy finds solace in poetry and the beauty of nature. She has channeled her passion for writing and has authored several books of tanka, available on Amazon.

Joy began writing tanka when she was nine years old, after discovering Ryokan's poems in the school library. The sense of the outside world and how it relates to her inner world fascinates her. Poems just come to Joy; she doesn't actively "think" about them. Often, they arrive at night or after she observes something in nature that deeply moves her.

While Joy admires the works of old poets, she also believes that there are many wonderful tanka poets in the present age. She refrains from naming them, fearing she might inadvertently leave out someone who matters. Her knowledge of tanka expanded not just from studying Ryokan, Shiki, and Saigyo, but also from the teachings of modern poets like Sandy Goldstein, Denis Garrison, M. Kei, and numerous others.

The challenge for this week:  So happy to feature Joy for the month of August, her poems are simply mesmerizing. She has about 20 books on amazon if you're interested. I'm reading her third book and she does not disappoint. The introductions by M. Kei are truly enlightening. I'm a little enthralled. For this week's challenge, write about whatever Joy's tanka-prose ignites in you. We look forward to reading your responses. 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.

600 views195 comments


lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Aug 08, 2023

#1, self edit, 10/8


thoughts rush in me . . .


I find myself floating

in a silent bed of waves


the tussle between

my inner peace & storm ends


I find myself floating

in a silent bed of waves

Feedback please


Unknown member
Aug 08, 2023



The shutters slowly roll from halfway down. They could neither easily open nor roll down. I try to make funny doodles of the serious man who attempts to hold our attention for more than an hour after the official lunch. Mini-me sends messages to my tired eyes now and then. It every time reads, “Reboot, do not shut down yet”. I then lean back and try to focus. “Perhaps it could be the large serving of sweets”, mini-me thinks. Just then someone from behind boldly prompts for a tea break leaving behind a gingerly smile on everyone’s face.

lying low

yet stirring thoughts

autumn leaves

our true life goes by

almost unnoticed

Feedback most welcome :)

Replying to

I’ve been in plenty of staff development meetings like that at school.


Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
Aug 07, 2023

Selected poems for haikuKATHA - issue #22 It goes LIVE on August 22

Keith Evetts
Keith Evetts
Aug 08, 2023
Replying to

Thank you Kala and team


mona bedi
mona bedi
Aug 07, 2023

Tp #1


My husband is busy watching a crime thriller while I am watching a romance on the laptop with AirPods on. I order a thin crust wheat pizza for dinner while he has butter chicken. He switches on the air conditioning and I turn on the fan.

Minutes later I look up to see he is not there in the room. It’s then I find him in the balcony just looking at the passersby and listening to old songs.

vapoury clouds

scud and whoosh

across the sky--

for a short while I leave you 

alone with your thoughts

Feedback appreciated:)

Replying to

Domestic life :). I like the prose and tanka, but I haven't heard the word vapoury. Is it needed in L1?


Unknown member
Aug 07, 2023


within the heart

of a seed - there is

hope of tomorrow

i observe in silence

these tinsel and fairy lights

Feedback most welcome :)

Replying to

Nice! Did you paint the picture, Amrutha? It is very beautiful.

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