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TANKA TAKE HOME – 7 June 2023. Featured Poet of the Month: Sonam Chhoki

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

It is our pleasure to feature well known haijin and poet Sonam Chokki this month. Welcome Sonam! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! We hope you will visit us and share your comments and insights on the poems that will be posted.

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

SC: The earliest introduction to a literary background was the oral traditions in Bhutan. Tales about the historical Buddha, Phajo Drukgom Shig-po (1184-1251), the founder of the Druk-pa Kagyug school, from which Bhutan gets its name: “Druk Yul” (“Land of the Druk-pa teachings”), Milarepa, the cave-dwelling hermit-sage (1028 - 1053), Machig-Labdrön, the woman ascetic (1055- 1149), Druk-pa Kunley, the Divine Madman (1455- 1529), the mythical Gesar of Ling with his magical, flying stead. The local oracle accounts of the guardian deities of the valleys, the mountains, rivers and forests were another source of literary tradition.

I didn’t write as a child.

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.

SC: It was in The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, that I first read waka, a precursor of the tanka. Murasaki interlaces some 800-waka poem into the narrative. The prose passages are mostly descriptions of the palace, the elaborate court ceremonials, the clothes worn by the protagonists, the gardens and courtyards, temples and festivals. But it is in the waka that the principal protagonists come alive as individuals as they express excitement and anticipation of meeting, sorrow at parting, longing, disappointment, doubt, rebuke or pleas. This 11th century novel is the defining literary work that underpins the sensibility of the tanka for me.

We have moved away from the courtly love-poetry of the waka-era. But the basic element of the tanka as a song encompasses rhythm, wordplay and the inclusion of deeply-felt emotions. All this in mere five lines, is an inspiration to articulate our deepest thoughts and our individual experiences. Undoubtedly challenging but also hugely rewarding and addictive.

The major tanka journals are print but for those of us who can’t afford subscriptions in foreign currencies, the internet is a blessing. The many online publications continue to inspire me to use the tanka form.

I am presenting a tanka and a tanka sequence written by Sonam for your reading pleasure


long drive –

as I unload my car

a raven watches

how far has it flown

how lightly it has travelled

Simply Haiku Winter 2010 Issue

This tanka shows a lovely comparison between the poet's 'stuff' that she has loaded in her car, as well as perhaps the 'stuff' that she's carrying emotionally, with the freely flying raven. It carries nothing, it soars, comes and goes as it pleases. A touch of the classic, a touch of the modern, and yet the issue is ageless...


Long trek to silence


their occupied homeland

Tibetan children

carry fear and grief

in their numbed hearts

the earth

gathers their wounds,

soaks their torment

and germinates


Skylark 3:1, Summer 2015

What a powerful sequence! Imagine, if you will, the sight of Tibetan children refugees fleeing, perhaps on foot, over the mighty Himalaya mountains through all that snow and ice and altitude. Perhaps carrying a small bag over their shoulders. Separated from their parents. If they survive they make their way to India or other neighboring countries that give them asylum. The Dalai Lama, who lives in India after having undergone this long trek himself, is an outspoken advocate for Tibetan freedom from China. The world is silent, as in many cases, despite the horrors that these people endure.

This week's challenge: Think of burdens that people carry. Write a tanka or a tanka prose or a tanka art. Tanka off-prompt are welcome too.

An essay on how to write tanka:


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, too.

3. Share your best-polished pieces. 4. We are not looking at SEQUENCES NOW, of any length.

5. Please do not post something in a hurry or something you have just written. Let it simmer for a while.

6. Post your final edited version on top of your original verse.

7. 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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241 comentarios

So great to see you featured as the Tanka Take Home Poet in a major magazine like Tiveni, Sonam. Your work is as usual outstanding and both these pieces deeply poignant and thought-provoking. I see that the Buddhist tradition also has the concept of The Divine Madman, Druk-pa Kunley, which I plan to research and learn more about. I have also been using images and about the Holy Fool or the Holy Madman or woman found in a number of traditions and cultures. I wonder if I will find a parallel here? Again, great to read your work.

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Mallika Chari
Mallika Chari
13 jun 2023

silent night

she rests with

a lullaby

of past thoughts

heard by none

Feedbacks are welcome

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Mallika Chari
Mallika Chari
13 jun 2023
Contestando a

Thank you Lakshmi , that you like this thought.

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Miembro desconocido
13 jun 2023

#tanka prose 4

In my room ...

I lie, almost into a nap. Suddenly a snap, snap outside graps my attention. I open the door to face the darkness, and more darkness, nothing more. I stand there long, long enough knowing nothing. The wind shuts the door. I again hear a snap, snap louder than before. I open the door and see nothing. I stand there guessing, guessing with all that I know, but invain. I feel as if in grave, until a dew drop suddenly bursts on the door and I open my eyes.


the silence of a sea

this tune

naked and white


Feedback most welcome ☺

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lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
13 jun 2023
Contestando a

Nice prose and tanka!!

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Susan Beth Furst
Susan Beth Furst
13 jun 2023

I love these tanka by Sonam. Thank you for this post. She is a wonderful poet and editor.

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Firdaus Parvez
Firdaus Parvez
12 jun 2023

Beautiful post Suraja. Thank you! Sonam has a distinct and lovely style of writing. Very inspiring.

I am trying to comment on the lovely poems posted but my comments seem to get stuck or disappear. I will comment on all eventually. Great writing!

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Contestando a

Thanks Firdaus. The gremlin that is swallowing our comments comes on and off. Hopefully you catch the site at a time that it isn't here :). I am seeing some of your comments.

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