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TANKA TAKE HOME - 8 June, 2022 | poet of the month - Ken Slaughter

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Ken Slaughter



on the snow

lives I have touched

without even knowing

Ribbons Fall 2018

We had the pleasure of asking Ken a few questions, and he graciously took the time to answer them. The first two are in the previous post, here's the third.

Q3. TTH: How do you develop a tanka? Please guide us through the stages of a poem.

Ken: I can only do this with an example, so here’s one from Gusts 19:

a least tern

flies over the waves

in a stiff wind…

the effort it takes

to just keep going

On a windy day at the beach, I saw a bird flying, and it looked like a struggle. I identified with the bird, and a tanka was born. Most of my poems begin with something I observe that I can identify with personally.

In my first draft, I used ‘a bird’ for line 1. I thought I could strengthen the poem by identifying the bird. A least tern might not be what I saw, but it could have been. The name of this bird fit with the emotional feeling I had, so I used it. In line 2 I wanted a simple description with a good line length. I like a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 7 syllables for lines 2.4 and 5. In line 3 I chose ‘stiff’ instead of a word like ‘heavy’ because the single syllables ‘stiff wind’, when read aloud, reinforce the feeling of resistance that I wanted.

The last two lines form a connection between my emotional life and the observation I made. In this poem lines 4 and 5 came easily. I was feeling tired and overwhelmed at the time. I didn’t have a ‘pivot’ line, so I used ellipses. Ellipses work best for me when there is a clear shift to the emotional side in line 4, as there is here.

More about Ken:

Ken Slaughter is a tanka poet who also likes to write senryu. He was vice president of the Tanka Society of America for a couple of years. He won the annual TSA contest in 2015. He submits primarily to Ribbons, Gusts, Prune Juice and Failed Haiku. You will see some of Ken’s tanka here in the excellent publication haikuKATHA. He lives in Worcester, Massachusetts with his wife, and is the proud servant of two one-eyed cats.

Are you inspired?

Challenge for this week: Go outside and observe your surroundings, find something unusual or interesting, and now look within. How do you feel? Does it remind you of anything? Link and shift, then see what happens.

Give this idea 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.


1. Post only one poem at a time.

2. Only two 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 300 words) to be considered for inclusion in the haikuKATHA monthly magazine.

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