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TANKA TAKE HOME: 6th March, 2024 Kathabela Wilson - poet of the month

Updated: Mar 11

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

March 6, 2024

poet of the month: Kathabela Wilson

inside the body

of a bird the song


in my life how can there be

a summer's end

tinywords 16.2

the crow

jumps on both feet

branch to branch

I wish for the courage

of unexplainable decisions

Skylark 2018

there are no words

that make this sound

the rusty hinge

of the door that opens

between worlds

Moongarlic; May, 2016

We are deeply grateful to Kathabela Wilson for sharing her beautiful work and thoughts with us.

Bio note: Kathabela Wilson was born into a poetic family. Her father a poet and writer, journalist, read her The Great Poems of the English Language as bedtime stories. Her Maltese mother, born in Cairo in an international community, spoke 5 languages was a creative artist. Her first poem at 5 years old is memorable, and carries her sense of wonder: 'Oh the moon, oh the sun oh the stars'. She found Asian poems in her childhood books, fell in love, and later traveled to Japan and other Asian countries about 10 times, with her mathematician flute player husband Rick Wilson, developing strong ties and inspiration. He continues to accompany her in all performances, in the spirit of tanka as a little song. She "realized" she was writing tanka in about 2010, and has been deeply in love ever since. She has published a tanka chapbook, and shared tanka over the years in many international journals. She traveled to Japan in 2018 to receive the First Place Fujisan Taisho award in person. She is Secretary for Tanka Society of America for 8 years, loving the community of poets. She founded and leads her own group of "Poets on Site" since 2008.


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

Kathabela: My father was a sensitive lyrical poet, who read me the classic poems of the English language before I could read! I still have the original book he read from — the big Norton edition of Great Poems of the English Language. I heard Keats, Shelly, Whitman, and Yeats and hundreds of others before I started school! My artistic mother gave him that book and encouraged him all along. I loved it all. He encouraged me and I felt the inheritance. I especially loved Keats and Yeats. I wrote my first poem at age 5. It is a moment I remember vividly as a personal experience. It did not mimic rhymes or what I read. It really was an original expression of wonder. I have written since then without interruption, as complex and tumultuous as life can be, poetry was always my strength, core identity and happiness.


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?

Kathabela: When I encountered and identified tanka as a form it felt natural. I loved the little song of it. Mariko Kitakubo came to our Asian museum in Pasadena where we live and performed. We became immediate friends and I started writing! I loved the freedom within a small space, the emotional quality, and lyrical, musical qualities. Fortunately traveling to Japan with my husband over the years about 10 times to mathematical conferences deepened my tanka experience in the Japanese world and inspired me further, developing more friendships and feeling at home there. Our last visit, when I received the Fujisan prize, I saw tanka performed by a singer in the most ancient ceremonial style. It was unforgettably powerful.

A few reflections:

Enjoy the simple beauty and gentle optimism of the first tanka.

In the second tanka, watching a crow jump with natural ease ‘from branch to branch’ ‘on both feet’, the poet-narrator wishes ‘for the courage / of unexplainable decisions’. To be able ‘jump’ into decisions that cannot be explained rationally, perhaps even to oneself, requires courage. The image of the crow followed by this inner reflection comes as a mild and interesting surprise for the reader.

Words have their limitations. They cannot describe certain kinds of experiences that cannot only be felt or understood intuitively. They cannot imitate or mimic certain sounds: ‘the rusty hinge / of the door that opens / between worlds’. The reader wonders about these worlds. What do they contain? What do they symbolize? And why has the hinge of the door been allowed to rust? Does ‘rust’ signify the infrequent use of one’s courage or imagination — both of which enable one to experience the extraordinary, the unique, in the midst of the commonplace or the ordinary. Or, does 'rust' signify that most people do not use the door that leads to an unfamiliar world where can either get lost/be bewildered, or experience something wonderful and transforming.

Prompt for this week:

Write tanka around the theme of quiet optimism. Or centered around a certain sound that triggers an inner reflection.

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.

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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389 ความคิดเห็น

Pradnya Joshi
Pradnya Joshi
12 มี.ค.

Post -2

Revised: Many thanks to @joannaashwell.

the spring breeze

as daffodils bloom -

a deep inhale

a slow exhale

moments dancing within



spring breeze

daffodils bloom

i inhale deeply

with a slow exhale

moments dance within

Pradnya Joshi


Feedback welcome!

Pradnya Joshi
Pradnya Joshi
13 มี.ค.

Thanks, Kanji. Yes, brilliant suggestion by Joanna.


Sumitra  Kumar
Sumitra Kumar
12 มี.ค.

#2 12/324

preferring my birthdays

to come and go unnoticed

i am often these birds

in my yard chirping

every morn as if reborn

Sumitra Kumar


Feedback welcome

Kanji Dev
Kanji Dev
13 มี.ค.

I can relate!


Jennifer Gurney
Jennifer Gurney
12 มี.ค.

#2 3-11-24

in silence

as the dawn breaks

I watch in awe--

my heart rising

with the day

Jennifer Gurney, US

Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
12 มี.ค.

Jennifer, a lovely scene in the upper verse. Possible to show the break of dawn? Also, 'I watch in awe --' is quite explanatory.


11 มี.ค.


11/3/2024 (posting a few hours early)

the tools

in a kit box

building me

into you - a dream


Amrutha V. Prabhu


Feedback most welcome :)


joanna ashwell
joanna ashwell
11 มี.ค.


how can this be

bell to bell

my own wings

becoming the sky

of a heart echo

Joanna Ashwell


Feedback welcome

Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
12 มี.ค.

Your poem sounds lovely but I am not able to understand in spite of several readings. What do the first two lines mean? Possible to shed some light there? Thank you.