hosts: Firdaus Parvez, Kala Ramesh, Priti Aisola & Suraja Menon Roychowdhury Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!
poet of the month: Jenny Ward Angyal
the gold flash
of a flicker’s wing
in gray rain
I glimpse another world
inside this one
~red lights 9:1, Jan. 2013
Jenny has been a very close friend of mine for the last several years. She is an exceptional poet, mentor and editor. We'll be showcasing and focusing on her tanka this month and I'm sure we'll learn a lot if we study the way she uses words and images to craft her poems.
We had the pleasure of asking Jenny a few questions, and she graciously took the time to answer them. Here are the first two:
1. TTH: Do you come from a literary background? What writers did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you write as a child?
No, I don’t come from a literary background, although I think the impulse to create things is in my family. My father was a skilled craftsman working in wood; my grandfather was a professional artist and illustrator; my aunt was an amateur painter; and my mother loved books and poetry. She recited poems and read to me from the time I was very young.
my mother’s voice
reciting The Highwayman
the gleam of a dark red love-knot,
the clatter of galloping years
~Moonlight on Water, 2016
As a child I read pretty much anything I could lay my hands on, from Lewis Carroll to Thomas Hardy. James Stephens’ The Crock of Gold was an all-time favorite. Poetry included Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dylan Thomas, W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings . . .
I composed my own first poem before I learned to print, so I dictated it to my older brother. I still have it somewhere, penciled on brown paper.
at age five
my first poem, an ode
trying ever since to grasp
the nuances of light
~A Hundred Gourds 3:2, March 2014
2. 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?
I continued to write poetry, or try to, throughout high school and college. But after that, family and careers intervened and I wrote only sporadically until I retired. Then I returned to writing poetry, mostly free verse, but I also experimented with forms--sestina, sonnet, villanelle, ghazal, even a few haiku. I published a handful of poems and won a couple of awards from my state poetry society. Although I intuitively understood the benefits of having a flexible form to push against, I did not discover ‘my’ form until I stumbled upon tanka. For that, I thank Jane Reichhold. I had never heard of tanka until I read her little book, Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-on Guide. Immediately I thought, I could do that.
Five lines give the poet just enough room to explore how the subjective inner landscape of human feeling is connected to the external world of objects and events, and yet tanka’s compression forces one to focus on essentials. And I find that simple, concrete images laid down side-by-side transmogrify into metaphor as if by magic, like an image coming clear in the rippled surface of a pool.
into a world new-made
for the shape of my face
in a pool of dreams
~from ‘Lost,’ a tanka sequence
Only the Dance, 2021
I continue to write tanka because it is my way of exploring the world I live in and trying to make sense of it. It also provides me with an irreplaceable sense of community through my connections with poets across the planet.
More about Jenny:
Jenny Ward Angyal spent her childhood wandering the woods and fields of rural Connecticut, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse. She spent a number of years studying and writing about biology, and many more teaching nonverbal children how to communicate.
She now lives with her husband and one Abyssinian cat on a small organic farm in central North Carolina. She has two sons and three grandchildren. She composed her first poem at the age of five and has written tanka since 2008. Her tanka (and occasionally haiku) have appeared widely in journals and anthologies. She is the author of two tanka collections, Moonlight on Water and Only the Dance, and co-author of Beetles & Stars: Tanka Triptychs. She co-edited the Tanka Society of America’s 2016 Members’ Anthology, Ripples in the Sand, and served for over five years as Reviews and Features Editor of Skylark: A Tanka Journal. She currently serves as Tanka Editor of Under the Bashō and Global Moderator of Inkstone Poetry Forum.
Are you inspired?
Challenge for this week: If you've noticed, Jenny (in 'the gold flash') has written the tanka without punctuation, (yes, we can say it's with a pivot on L3) but when reading aloud it flows smoothly from the start to end. Try to write one like this!
We are delighted to open the comment thread for you to share your unpublished tanka and tanka-prose (within 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in haikuKATHA monthly magazine.