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TANKA TAKE HOME - 4th January, 2023 | poet of the month - Debbie Strange

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Debbie Strange

4th January

Debbie Strange/Tanka

dried cattails

delicately spun with frost


sweetening the bitterness

of winter without you

2nd Place, 2022 Fleeting Words Tanka Competition


rain's unkept promise

crops wither

in the dust of dreams

passed down to me

1st Place, 2022 Drifting Sands Monuments No. 1 Contest

Thank you so much, Debbie, for taking time off to answer our questions.

Q 1:

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

DB: My literary background revolves around my father’s Scottish heritage. Poetry and Scotland seem to go hand in hand! As a child, I loved listening while my father recited his own poetry, as well as his favourite classical poetry. It was a comforting way to pass long winter’s nights in our little farmhouse on the Canadian prairie. I can still hear his deep bass voice rendering an impeccable performance of Sir Walter Scott’s “Lochinvar” from memory. He exposed me to the works of Scottish writers Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson, among many others. I began writing poems and songs when I was a young girl, as a direct response to this early immersion into poetry.

Q 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.

DB: Though I had been writing since childhood, I did not share my work publicly until the late 1990s. At that time, I was focused on songwriting, free-verse poetry, and short stories.

When I discovered the work and essays of M. Kei, and his journal, Atlas Poetica, I was completely seduced and consumed by tanka! I had suffered an injury that led to chronic illness, and I was searching for creative distractions. M. Kei published my first two collections of tanka, and I am beyond thankful for his staunch support.

Reading and writing tanka has become a daily practice, and its meditative quality offers me a measure of solace and healing.

Bio: Debbie Strange (Manitoba, Canada) is a chronically ill poet/artist whose creative passions connect her more closely to others, to the world, and to herself. Thousands of her poems and artworks can be accessed via her publication archive at:

Challenge for this week:

With its significant, opening word ‘awaiting’ in L 1, the second tanka creates anticipation in the reader; then it speaks of belied hopes through a strong image of withered crops as the rain fails to keep its promise. This is followed by a shift to a personal moment and experience from the speaker’s own life. One is also struck by the skillful use of personification and metaphor in this well-crafted tanka.

1. We invite you to write tanka about absence or a promise not kept.

2. Or, drawing inspiration from the first tanka, can you write about a difficult period in life with the help of a ‘delicately spun’ image.


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


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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