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TANKA TAKE HOME - 7th Dec, 2022 | poet of the month - Tom Clausen

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Tom Clausen

Tom Clausen / Tanka

the wind in the trees reminds me that what once was so important just passes by Lynx v.9 no. 3


without fanfare I drag the dead branch to the brush pile- another day risen and fallen from my life Simply Haiku 2003 Sept. issue


We had the pleasure of asking Tom Clausen a few questions, and he graciously took the time to answer them.


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

TC: My parents were botanists and naturalists who both treasured books, reading and writing. My father taught at Cornell University and wrote scientific books and articles about sedum (aka succulents or stonecrops), which he spent his professional life studying. Both parents kept journals and encouraged me to read and to keep a journal beginning at a young age. At the beginning of each new year, I was given a new blank book to keep a diary-record of my daily experiences. I rarely missed a day of writing something in a routine that continued throughout college. When I revisit these journals, it is somewhat interesting but often too mundane to be interesting reading! There are occasional entries with tidbits of introspective, personally insightful, poetic or philosophical content but I am somewhat embarrassed at how uninteresting it mostly turned out to be! The positive practice and habit of writing about my day every night before going to bed did establish and prepare me for what would become my own home-made version of a 'writing life'. In my post college years, I turned to letter writing and trying to write poetry. I wrote lengthy letters to friends near and far often running on in the mind a stream of consciousness in what I hoped emulated and might possibly be similar to what some of the 'Beats' (Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder), who I much enjoyed in this era, were writing.

As a child I enjoyed books like 'The Little House' ("The little house first stood in the country, but gradually the city moved closer and closer...In 1942, Virginia Lee Burton created The Little House, and since then generations of readers have been enchanted by the story of this happy home and her journey from the pleasures of nature to the bustling city, and back again") and 'Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel' by Virginia Lee Burton, Blueberries for Sal, Tootle ("In this classic Little Golden Book from 1945, Tootle is a young locomotive who loves to chase butterflies through the meadow. But he must learn to stay on the tracks no matter what—if he ever hopes to achieve his dream of being a Flyer between New York and Chicago!") and Scuffy the Tugboat and His Adventures Down the River' (“Meant for "bigger things," Scuffy the Tugboat leaves the man with the polka-dot tie and his little boy and sets off to explore the world. But on his daring adventure down the river, Scuffy realizes that home is where he'd rather be, sailing in his bathtub. Generations of parents and children have cherished this classic Little Golden Book, originally published in 1946.") from the Little Golden Books series, Paddle to the Sea, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, The Tales of Peter Rabbit, Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland, and many others! It was a wealth of authors and titles that my mother introduced me to and that remained in heart and mind throughout my life and gave me joy to introduce to my own children as they were growing up.

My favorite childhood book that I read when I was ten was Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I have reread it more than any other book and easily a dozen times.

More About Tom:

Tom Clausen (Ithaca, NY) is a life-long Ithacan living in the same house he grew up in with his wife Berta. He became interested in haiku and related short forms of poetry in the late 1980's after reading an article about naturalist Ruth Yarrow, profiling her haiku. There was instant recognition that haiku was a form that might help with his tendency with wordiness, repetition, and overstatement. He has been reading and trying to write haiku, senryu, tanka and haibun since then. Tom is the curator of a daily haiku feature, online, at Mann Library, Cornell University where he worked for over 35 years before retiring in 2013.

In 2003 Tom was invited to join the Route 9 Haiku group that formed in 2001. The group publishes twice a year a journal, Dim Sum, featuring selected work by members John Stevenson, Hilary Tann, Mary Stevens, Yu Chang, Tom Clausen and a guest poet as well as haiga by Romanian artist and poet, Ion Codrescu. Tom enjoys walking, biking, photography and simply going about observing and documenting what is there to be found. He especially cares for cats and deer.


Links to his books:

a worn chest by Joy McCall & Tom Clausen (tanka pairs 2022) here

Interchange haiku, prose & photos by Tom Clausen and Michael Dudley(2022) here

My Own Heart, 25 Years of Tanka by Tom Clausen ( 2021) here

Growing Late (tanka - 2007) here

Challenge for this week:

Tom's tanka are not just simple and smooth but they run deep. Both are quite different but have a similar thread: Time. Let's write about 'Time' this week. We're either running out of it or have too much. Either way, it never stops; or is it us moving on and time is stationary? Interpret it as you like. Most of all, have fun! <> 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 this theme 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, tanka-prose (within 250 words), and tanka-art to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly magazine.

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