The tanka is a short lyrical poem that originated in Japan over a thousand years ago and was a popular pastime among the nobility, including women and men engaged in affairs of the heart. It’s traditionally written in a five line, 5-7-5-7-7 syllable count form, although many English language tanka contain less than thirty one syllables, yet adhere closely to the spirit of the form. Here’s a tanka that appears in Joanne’s tanka book titled Like Ocean Waves. She wrote the poem after touring the beautiful Greek island of Santorini. Contact her to purchase a copy.
island cats curl up in doorways if only I could sleep half as soundly
Many of Joanne’s tanka appear in GUSTS: Contemporary Tanka, a biannual publication of Tanka Canada. Joanne also assists with tanka selections, book reviews and proof-reading for GUSTS. This is Canada’s first tanka journal and an excellent resource for learning about the form.
Joanne would also like to give a shout-out to a tanka anthology titled Countless Leaves, which grew out of submissions to the North American Tanka Contest in 2001. Joanne’s tanka was the first prize winner in the modern category. (“feeling cranky / the palm reader / tells him / she’s never a life line / as short as his”) The anthology was edited by Edmonton tanka poet Gerald St. Maur, and includes his insightful introduction. Sadly, the book is out of print and inkling press, the publisher, is no longer active. It’s a true collector’s item!