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TANKA TAKE HOME: 3rd April, 2024 Andrew Riutta - poet of the month

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


Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!


April 3, 2024


poet of the month: Andrew Riutta

Andrew Riutta was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA. He is a father, chef, and Catholic school custodian. His essay, "The Myths of Manhood," from the collection, This I BelieveOn Fatherhood (Jossey-Bass) was featured on Public Radio International's Bob Edwards Show in 2012. His latest book, Blessed: Modern Haibun on Almost Every Despair (Red Moon Press, 2022), was shortlisted for the Touchstone Distinguished Book Award and won the Haiku Society of America’s Merit Book Award for best haibun collection. 



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

AR: I do no in any way come from a literary background. Neither my parents nor my grandfolks were committed readers or literary adventurers. However, there was a brief time I became somewhat engaged in The Hardy Boys series. But it didn't last. And after that, for years, I hardly picked up a book for personal interest. And I suppose the same could be said about writing. 


TTH: How did you get started as a poet? What was it about tanka that inspired you to embrace this ancient form of poetry? In short, why do you keep writing tanka. 

AR: My first deep dive into poetry was after a coworker introduced me to Jim Harrison, his New and Selected Poems. It was then, because of his raw earthiness and honesty---juxtaposed with his tender measurements of time and her creatures---that I wanted to express my life on poetic levels. In the nineties, Harrison released a book titled After Ikkyu. In my quest to learn more about Ikkyu, I encountered Japanese haiku and its masters. And then the modern English varieties (I even had a few published myself). But after some incredible examples of modern English tanka made themselves known to me, haiku seemed to fade some and was replaced by a desire to write tanka. And today, it remains for me a wonderful expression. I actually still marvel at how much can be said in just five short lines. 


With the same kind of gun   

he used in Vietnam

my father

shoots the burn barrel

so the fire can breathe.

Cigarette Butts and Lilacs


it's what he would've done

for me

I light the cigarette 

someone left on his grave

second place - T.S.A. international tanka contest - 2007



Some thoughts on Andrew’s poems:

There's a certain grittiness in these tanka by Andrew that brings Charles Bukowski's poetry to mind. The juxtaposition of thought in the first tanka is amazing- the gun, used in Vietnam most likely killed people, set a land ablaze. But the second half of the poem reveals a surprising twist - there's still fire, but this is nourishment of a protective fire. (I had to look up burn barrel and got this definition from the Internet: A burn barrel is a metal drum that has been transformed and modified to dispose of combustible trash, waste, and other materials by incineration).

Or is it a metaphor for the war...

The second tanka is gentle. We don't know who the grave belongs to, but it's someone the poet knows, possibly shared a friendship with.

The acrid scent of cigarette smoke perfuses through these poems.

Prompt for the week: Write a tanka/tanka prose that uses smell- pleasant or unpleasant... Try showing, not telling.


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.

7. haikuKATHA will only consider haiga that showcase original artwork or photos. Post details re: the source of the visual image. If you team up with an artist or photographer, make sure that it’s their original work and that they are not restricted by other publications to share it. We won't be responsible for any copyright issues.

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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487 comentarios

Post 2

Inspired by you, your tanka, Suraja, I wanted to use 'eclipses' in L 3. :)

Ugadi chutney

the bitterness of neem flowers


the tangy taste of raw mango ...

a flavour of things to come?

Priti Aisola, India

Note: Ugadi is New Year. A special chutney is prepared on this day with five ingredients, each signifying the different flavours of life and life experiences.

Is this tanka accessible even without the explanatory note?

Feedback is welcome

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Contestando a

Haha glad you are inspired, Priti. I think eclipses will work great in L3 :). I agree with Sumitra- people can look up Ugadi so I think this tanka can stand alone.

I wonder if this helps or become clearer:

the bitterness

of neem flowers overwhelms

the tang of raw mango

does this Ugadi chutney

foretell of things to come?

Yours to keep or toss:)

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mona bedi
mona bedi
09 abr

Tanka art


deep winter

we kiss and make up

in a forest cabin

the smell of mothballs

lingers in his kiss

Feedback appreciated:)

Mona Bedi


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Contestando a

Beautiful picture and words Mona!! Loved it.

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red summer fruits

with darker autumn berries

all uncorked

in the last bottle

from the year we met

Keith Evetts Thames Ditton UK

comments always welcome

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Contestando a

Thanks for the positive feedback, all! It helps if you have the nose of a wine-drinker.... 🙂

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feedback welcome

the recipe calls

for a dusting of sunlight

and a chunk of moon...

but nothing could eclipse

our togetherness today

tanka and photo by Suraja Menon Roychowdhury

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Contestando a

This owns a tenderness that is delightfully innovative. Thanks for sharing.

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#2 9/4/24

1st revision: thanks Kanji!


greet me and slip away

into the coral reefs

how i overcame fears

snorkelling a new world

Sumitra Kumar


Feedback welcome

#2. 8/4/24


smell me and slip away

underwater world

what fun it is to snorkel

over these coral reefs

Sumitra Kumar


Feedback welcome

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Contestando a

Thanks Priti! They come close to you in swarms and quickly scatter. Hence I chose plural form.

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