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TANKA TAKE HOME: 31st January 2024 Kirsten Cliff Elliot - poet of the month

Updated: Feb 5

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

January 31, 2024

poet of the month: Kirsten Cliff Elliot

thoughts upon visions

I’m in my hospital bed, in a room on my own, when I suddenly feel crowded. It’s an inexplicable sense that my personal space has been entered: the room is jam-packed with people, yet nobody is around.

sickbed window

night by night watching

the moon grow

still no escape from

my body’s slow death

My room is at the end of a long corridor, and the ward is winding down for the night; so different than the busy clutter of daytime. Family, friends, and all types of medical people have been in and out of my room from early morning to evening. But as night reaches me, everything is still.


for the new normal

first chrysalis

one year has passed

since my panic attack

I look towards the door to see a glow of white light shaped like an assembly of people. Similar to a silhouette: bodies of all shapes and sizes huddled together watching me, but it’s a powerful white light of connected auras instead of a dense black mass.


trapped in

trapped in my body

only the sweet release

of tears

I stare in wonder, and then confusion. Are these spirits? And are they guardian angels here to help me in my journey? Or have they been sent to haunt me: the ghosts of those who’ve died in my bed, in this room, on this ward . . .


of a water rat

through pond sludge

repetitive thoughts upon

visions of self-harming

The Blo͞o Outlier Journal Summer Issue 2021 (Issue #2)

We are deeply grateful to Kirsten for sharing her very beautiful work and thoughts with us.

It has been wonderful to experience her tanka and learn so much from it.


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?

Kirsten: I used to be involved in a writers group and then a poetry group; I learnt tanka initially through a workshop with the latter and took my early attempts there for feedback. I don’t currently show my work in progress to anyone. However, some of my best work has come from collaborations, tanka sequences, where the poet I’m working with may comment on my poem for revision at any stage throughout the writing process. So I do know how beneficial a critique partner or group can be or just engaging in the simple act of shared writing. I look forward to writing tanka sequences again in the future. If you’re reading this and are interested in collaborating, please reach out as I’d love to hear from you.

Bio note:

Kirsten Cliff Elliot describes herself as a reader, writer and librarian from New Zealand, now living in England. She also identifies as Queer and chronically ill/disabled. Kirsten has been writing and publishing haikai since 2007 and has taught poetry workshops in schools and online. She was formerly the editor of the haikai section of the New Zealand Poetry Society magazine, a fine line. She also judged the junior section of their International Haiku Competition in 2013. Kirsten published an e-chapbook of haiku and tanka in 2011, thinking of you: twenty poems of love, which she distributed as a free gift for Valentine’s Day. In 2019, her first full-length collection of haiku and tanka came out, Patient Property: a journey through leukaemia (Velvet Dusk Publishing), which was shortlisted in The Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Distinguished Books Award 2019. Copies are available for purchase HERE. Outside of writing, reading and exploring England with her husband, she is most involved with CILIP: The library and information association (UK) as: Digital Champion for the LGBTQ+ Network; an assessor on the Professional Registration Panel; and was recently named in the CILIP 125, a list of the next generation of professionals who will lead the sector into a new age of information.

Challenge for this week: Experience Kirsten's exquisitely crafted and deeply moving piece of tanka prose. We go through so many emotions as we read it; we experience this: a feeling of helplessness, desolateness, a feeling of being 'trapped' in a repetitive cycle of pain and despair, quivering hope, emotional respite in the form of tears, and so on.

Inspired by this well composed piece of tanka prose, please write tanka or tanka prose on any theme of your choice.

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!


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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