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TANKA TAKE HOME: 9th August 2023 Joy McCall - poet of the month

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

Introducing a new perspective to our Wednesday Feature!

poet of the month: Joy McCall

August 9, 2023

My own self

All my life, I have felt myself to be of known and also hidden parts. I have written poems down the decades about the male and female sides of my self.

I think we are all like this. That splitting at the dawn of time makes us long for wholeness, to search for our 'other half'.

All things have a dark side and a light side and we are no different. We too hold night and day within us.


he has dark skin

dark eyes

dark hair

even his nature

is dark

the poems he writes

are of passages

and pain

winding, curling


when we dance

there is space

between us

I will not let

him take my hand

I want

to be dark too

but I am light

from my skin

to my bones

the flames

which burn him black


and go out

when my pale tears fall


light on her feet

the anima dances

through my days

through my nights

through my dreams

she is a watcher

of bees and falling leaves

of people passing,

an observer

a pale-eyed bystander

she is

the candle-lighter

the web-spinner

the weaver of hope

the bringer of water

her white hand

on my shoulder

pushes me

into the hidden places

where honesty grows

she sings

the songs of the hills

of the great grey stones,

of the four wild winds

and the clear streams

she will not

listen to lies

and falsehoods

she holds the truth

in the palm of her hand

As Polonius said to his son Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet -

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Joy McCall thinks she knows who she is, having lived through enough life and pain. She is probably wrong.

(All the tanka-prose we'll be featuring have been published in Atlas Poetica down the years)

We are delighted to share Joy's poems and thank her for taking the time to answer our questions. Here're the next two:

Q 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.

Joy: I began writing tanka, and other forms about the age of nine. I didn’t like the poetry they taught us in school – mostly Shakespeare and Shelley and such. But one day I was wandering in the school library and found a book of Japanese poems – and I fell in love with tanka and tried to find out as much as I could about Japan. It wasn’t so easy in those days, with no internet, but my Swedish grandpa helped me. Ryokan was (and is) my favourite poet. Tanka became my habit, the way I found a way to write daily the meaning in my life. It still does that for me.

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

Joy: Who knows? I never think about what I write. I think there is some kind of inner muse that shapes poetry. I just sense when a poem needs to be written and I begin and it happens. If I think about poems, they are never any good.

Often it is something outside that begins the poem – something I see or hear or notice that touches something inside of me.

Joy McCall was born in Norwich, England at the end of World War II. Her father served as a chaplain in the British air force in India and Burma. After marrying a Canadian, Joy raised her two daughters in Canada. Later, she moved back to Norwich, where she worked as a nurse to be close to her parents until their passing. Life took a heartbreaking turn when Joy's younger daughter, Wendy, a psychologist, tragically succumbed to Multiple Sclerosis in 2021, leaving a profound void in her mother's heart.

Despite facing tremendous challenges, Joy remains resilient. She suffered a life-altering accident 21 years ago, leaving her paraplegic and amputated, confining her to a bed. Throughout it all, her devoted husband, Andy, has been her unwavering support and rock.

In the face of adversity, Joy finds solace in poetry and the beauty of nature. She has channeled her passion for writing and has authored several books of tanka, available on Amazon.

Joy began writing tanka when she was nine years old, after discovering Ryokan's poems in the school library. The sense of the outside world and how it relates to her inner world fascinates her. Poems just come to Joy; she doesn't actively "think" about them. Often, they arrive at night or after she observes something in nature that deeply moves her.

While Joy admires the works of old poets, she also believes that there are many wonderful tanka poets in the present age. She refrains from naming them, fearing she might inadvertently leave out someone who matters. Her knowledge of tanka expanded not just from studying Ryokan, Shiki, and Saigyo, but also from the teachings of modern poets like Sandy Goldstein, Denis Garrison, M. Kei, and numerous others.

The challenge for this week:

What an unusual and simply stunning tanka-prose. If you google animus and anima, it will throw up some interesting theories by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist. Joy has taken that and made it something so beautiful. What do you think? Where does your mind go? Wander into the depths of the world within you. What do you find? Write about it. That is your challenge for this week. But like always, you're free to write outside this challenge. 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 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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187 ความคิดเห็น

tanka anya
tanka anya
15 ส.ค. 2566

I think this may be in the wrong place, but I revised this one, thanks to great input by Firdaus. love ya, an'ya


15 ส.ค. 2566

Beautiful tanka by Joy and the theme is so unusual saying things that are left unsaid .


Barbara  Olmtak
Barbara Olmtak
15 ส.ค. 2566

ivy's tight grip the tree trunk so heavy these ups and downs I put up with barbara olmtak, August 15 th, 2023 Thank you Firdaus 🌹 ivy's grip the tree trunk heavy ups and downs I put up with barbara olmtak, August, 2023 Feedback most welcome 🙏

Firdaus Parvez
Firdaus Parvez
16 ส.ค. 2566



Keith Evetts
Keith Evetts
15 ส.ค. 2566

#2 15 Aug

step by step

a solitary walk

among the pines

I quite forget

the questions

comments welcome

Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
15 ส.ค. 2566

Simple but effective!


Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
14 ส.ค. 2566

watching him

drag his hind legs

as he walks

I begin to lose

the spring in my step

Feedback is welcome.

Priti Aisola
Priti Aisola
15 ส.ค. 2566

What can one say?

Happy that the tanka works for you.