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TANKA TAKE HOME: 5th July 2023 Chen-ou Liu - poet of the month

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Chen-ou Liu

Chen-ou, thanks a million for sharing your poetry and thoughts this month. This is going to be a rich experience for all our members.

Biography: Chen-ou Liu is currently the editor and translator of NeverEnding Story (, and the author of two award-winning books, Following the Moon to the Maple Land (First Prize, 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest) and A Life in Transition and Translation (Honorable Mention, 2014 Turtle Light Press Biennial Haiku Chapbook Competition). His tanka and haiku have been honored with many awards. Visit his blog, Poetry in the Moment (, to read more of his poetry.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ July 5, 2023

And now, Chen-ou's responses to our questions.

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

I don't come from a literary background. As a child, I enjoyed reading historical novels, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Guanzhong Luo, and wrote topic-related/focused articles, occasionally classical Chinese poems.

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?

After more than ten years of struggling towards a new life vision and preparing for a major change in my field of study (computer science to cultural studies), in the summer of 2002, I emigrated to Canada to pursue a PhD and settled in Ajax, a suburb of Toronto. After arriving in Canada, I was frustrated by the lack of in-depth and wide-ranging classroom discussions, and most importantly, I was stressed by the financial burden. I quit my studies and started to write essays in an adopted language, English.

After two years of striving, I published three essays but got little attention from scholars in those fields. Furthermore, I was disappointed by my inability to master English quickly. My pent-up emotions began spilling over onto pieces of scrap paper in the form of short poetry. The more I wrote, the more I thought about becoming a poet.

After a year of striving to write free verse poetry without much success, I came across three books of tanka poetry by Takuboku: Poems to Eat, A Handful of Sand, and Romaji Diary and Sad Toys. The emotional strength, socio-political sensibilities, and colloquial language of Takuboku’s tanka, a kind of poetry in the moment, appealed to me.

For Takuboku, writing tanka was more like the emotional outburst of a mind agonized by the inner struggle and external events that shaped his life and identity. Since encountering Takuboku’s heartfelt and poignant work, I came to view tanka as a poetic diary that could be employed to record the changes in my immigrant life, a newly-racialized life of struggle with transition and translation.

<> <> I look away

from his intense gaze …

this homeless man

speaks English

with an accent like mine

Honorable Mention, Tanka Section, 2017 British Haiku Society Awards

the dervish

of first snowflakes …

a Syrian

child refugee talking

to the foreign sky

Runner-Up, 2019 British Haiku Society Awards

mid-autumn night …

the wind whispers to me

Chinese words

that offer me a home

in the shape of a moon

Tanka First Place, 2011 San Francisco International Competition Haiku, Senryu, Tanka, and Rengay.

The challenge for this week:                                                       

Each poem showcased above rises from the depth of a troubled mind. What does it mean to be displaced? - to be away from 'home'. - face an unknown future and myriad insecurities that can keep one awake at night. Talk to us, through tanka and tanka prose, about what it means to be uprooted, pulled out and dislodged from one's home - a home that your heart has come to cherish.


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. <> <> Sharing Sonam's poignant message here, for our Tanka Take Home family. Dear Suraja,

When you first invited me for the Tanka Take Home feature earlier this year, l was humbled and uncertain given the backlog of commitments post-Covid. Connectivity was another issue. Thank you so much for the patience, kindness and understanding for allowing the unorthodox posting of my comments via emails to you. I felt whatever feedback l could give was owed to you and the poets.

My appreciation and gratitude to you. Please do convey my deep appreciation to each and every poet, who shared their own work for this feature.

A tanka for you and the poets:

 we part

even as we meet

taking leave

l hoard in my heart

the poems we have shared

Warm regards,


<> so many poems

still to be discussed

do not talk

about partings my friend

let's leave that for the ghazals Suraja Menon Roychowdhury <> Our poets join me in thanking you, dear Sonam.

Your beautiful poetry, brilliant feedback, and the sunshine you brought into our lives will stay with us for a long, long time.




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