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TANKA TAKE HOME – 8th February 2023 | poet of the month – David Terelinck

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: David Terelinck

8th February

David Terelinck/Tanka

blue plums

over-ripe and tasting

of dusk—

we never discussed

organ donation

[GUSTS 17, 2013]

the empty husk

of a milkweed pod—

how I wish

you’d never asked

how much I love you

[red lights 9:2, 2013]

We thank David Terelinck very warmly for taking time off to answer our questions.

Q 3: TTH: How do you develop a tanka? Please guide us through the stages of a poem.

DT: As short as a tanka is, sometimes it can be even more difficult and time-consuming to craft than a 50-line free verse poem. Each word matters and must carry weight. Often my tanka will start with a single word, idea, or image/scene that inspires me. And I will start then to ponder how best to work this into a tanka. Even though I write contemporary English tanka, I am mindful of the rich history of this form and try to be true to its origins and musicality as a short song.

I very rarely write tanka that does not require editing. This has only happened infrequently since I have been writing tanka. As I say, I weigh every word and ask myself if it is a value-add. I also consider the metaphors and take care to avoid slipping into cliché. If I am writing a tanka sequence, I pay attention to link and shift to progressive the narrative of the poem. And I have always been a believer in reading my work aloud before I send it out into the world. Tanka should be heard and reading it out loud helps ensure it sounds lyrical to the ear.

Q 4:

TTH: Who are your favourite tanka poets? In addition to tanka what other genres of poetry do you write or read? Tell us about some of the books you've enjoyed.

DT: I have so many tanka poets that I enjoy reading it would be difficult to narrow the list to just a handful of favourites. I enjoy tanka by a lot of the Australian poets for their local nuances and references. Tanka by Michelle Brock, Michael Thorley, and Kent Robinson, Carol Harrison and Hazel Hall inspire me. I have always been a fan of tanka from other poets such as Margaret Chula, Jenny Ward Angyal, Carole MacRury to name a few. But as I say, the poets I do love to read are too numerous to list them all.

Apart from tanka, I very much enjoy reading and writing free verse poetry. I have been writing quite a bit in this genre and have been enjoying some success with placing well in competitions or having my work published in journals or anthologies.

One book that I have always loved, and return to frequently, is “The Ink Dark Moon” translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani. This collection of tanka from women of the ancient court of Japan speaks to my soul on many levels. On the free verse front, I am enjoying various collections by Ted Kooser. I am also immersed in the wonderful writing of Connie Wanek in “Rival Gardens” and the work of Jane Kenyon found in “Let Evening Come.” These poets are masters at weaving simple language into extraordinary imagery and metaphors.

Biography: David Terelinck is nefarious for holding words hostage on a page until they agree to become a poem. On rare occasions, a ransom is paid in prize money.

He has published two tanka collections (Casting Shadows, 2011 and Slow growing Ivy, 2014), co-authored A Shared Umbrella with Beverley George in 2016, and has judged tanka competitions and co-edited on journals and anthologies. David’s tanka have won awards and many have been published in various journals and anthologies around the world. Currently, David is writing a lot of free verse poetry and has won an award or two, and has been published here and there, for his free verse efforts.

David loves gin & tonic and long beach and rainforest walks. David feels we need more poetry less politics, and firmly believes dolphins should be running the planet.

Challenge for this week:

Both of these tanka move one deeply, stir one’s heartstrings quietly. Each word is in its rightful place and carries its own significance and resonance. The choice of images and the cadence is perfect, allowing the reader to pause and connect with the poem in his/her own singular way.

We invite you to write tanka about the twilight period of one’s life, or about questions that cannot be answered.

Or, about the time of the day we call ‘dusk’.


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


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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