Pamela A. Babusci 

John Barlow

Tony Beyer

Marianne Bluger

Jeanne M. Breden

Margaret Chula 

Kathy Lippard Cobb

paul conneally

Melissa Dixon

M.A. Fielden

Suzanne Finnegan 

Laura Maffei

Thelma Mariano x 2

 Sean McGlinchey 

Dorothy McLaughlin x 2

Keith McMahen

Sue Mill 

Joanne Morcom x 2

Matt Morden

K. Ramesh

Edward J. Rielly x 2

 Bruce Ross

David Steele

Linda Jeannette Ward x 2

Michael Dylan Welch x 2

Alison Williams

Jane E.  Wilson x 3



Marianne Bluger

Kathy Cobb

Melissa Dixon


Ruth Holzer

Kay Holzwordt

Joanne Klontz

Angela Leuck

 Laura Maffei

Thelma Mariano

Michael Meyerhofer

K. Ramesh

David Rice

Madelyn Schnautz

Guy Simser

David Steele

 Maria Steyn

Richard von Sturmer

Alison Williams

Jane Wilson    

With great pleasure AHA Books announces the poems picked as best by the participants of the contest for this year. There were a total of 243 single tanka and thirteen tanka sequences as accepted entries. These were written by 104 authors. Each author submitting with an e-mail address was sent a list of all the anonymous entries which they then judged by picking ten of the individual tanka and one sequence. In addition, each pick could be given a grade of A, B, or C. The grade then added to the one-point vote with either five, four or three points. From these totals, the 32 tanka with top scores and the three sequences with the most points were declared winners.

Judges were also invited to make comments and suggestions. Those regarding specific poems are placed by the poem and ideas for improving or changing the contest are gathered under topics at the conclusion. In a case of the first shall be last the poems are listed in order beginning with those receiving the least points, 22, and ending with the tanka given the highest number of points – 86.



between rocks
heron scraps
scattered by the wind
settle and become
birds again

    Tony Beyer


something missing
this warm autumn morning
a feeling
I've carried with me
all these years

    John Barlow


a long wait
in an out-patient's clinic
then an old woman
answers to
my mother's maiden name

    Matt Morden


back and forth
between her mother's seat
and the bus driver's
the toddler demonstrates
tiny shoes that light up

     Edward J. Rielly



job interview -
a fingernail clipping
at the edge
of the bathroom counter

        Michael Dylan Welch


This tanka suggests that the speaker has just left home for a job interview, leaving behind a fingernail clipping that "balances" of the edge of the bathroom counter.  The fingernail clipping cleverly suggests the nervousness of the speaker whose career or income depends on the outcome of the interview. From a larger perspective, the fingernail clipping also suggests what we all face as we struggle to balance our lives between the need for social acceptance and our need for individual freedom.  Jane Wilson


what if i let this cigarette
fall on the red sofa?

        Sean McGlinchey 


In this tanka, the speaker is enjoying a cigarette and is thinking about how his or her life should end.  Should death be a quiet affair necessarily - something we shield from others as much as possible?  Sitting on a red sofa with a glowing cigarette, the speaker in this tanka imagines a more colorful and dramatic way to die. Jane Wilson


approaching twilight -
as two old men discuss
hip replacements,
a brittle branch cracks
in the autumn wind

       Kathy Lippard Cobb


life would be simpler
if only the guide were clear
a magi's vision -
ah, but to follow a star
one must travel in the dark

       Jeanne M. Breden


I thought I alone
knew the loneliness of night solitary
the moans of winter wind
they touch not a single chime

      Linda Jeannette Ward


when I think
that your kind words
are really a prayer
how still the stars
in the autumn night

       Bruce Ross


our weekend guests gone,
white sheets float in the back yard
in Monday's sunshine,
ghosts reminding me of beds
that will be empty tonight

      Dorothy McLaughlin



after the storm
a double rainbow links
sky to shore
too late now for sorrow
and things I wish I’d said 

        Sue Mill 


I've never seen
the inside of their house
and don't know their names,
this family whose laundry
waves to me from their back yard

       Dorothy McLaughlin


busying ourselves
with these dates and plans
in the sudden quiet
we pretend not to hear it
the whisper of goodbye

      Thelma Mariano

I like this one, but it should have a comma behind quiet. Of course, this is my own personal opinion. I have been in this place, where no one wants to be the first person to say "good-bye."  Sometimes good-bye comes with a whisper
and not a shout. It can be over for years, before either of the couple realizes it. Kathy Cobb



our grocery cart full
for a family dinner,
I remember when we
used to buy just
two potatoes at a time

     Edward J. Rielly


Excellent tanka, I grew up poor so I know the feeling of not looking at price tags now - because I don't always have to.  I do care about not spending too much, (after all, I am not rich), but usually if I like something, I buy it. It wasn't always the case. This tanka is an excellent reminder of where I came from. It is eloquently stated, without being too sentimental, yet it also doesn't come off as sterile - the perfect balance. Kathy Cobb


in the back
of the closet
the little blue dress
for when I need
to become myself again

      Laura Maffei



the dental patient's
iridescent eyelids close
as he leans over
   and all the tropical fish
   look on with open mouths

      David Steele


I find this tanka interesting and amusing because the fish inside the tank are portrayed as witnesses to whatever procedure the patient in the dentist chair is about to go through.  The open mouths of the fish suggest the open mouth of the patient, yet they also  suggest the unexpressed fears of the patient. Jane Wilson



Pamela A. Babusci  

in between
the sleeves of grass
last night's rain
& plum petals
the color of spring

perennial garden
a myriad of hues
once our love was
as deep as a
flower's taproot

lifeless breeze
everything still
within the garden walls
just for a moment
I think of you

torrid red tulips
expired in the vase
as if to let me know
your passion
has died

First, I don't usually like sequences, they tend to sound scattered, and go on forever. That is not the case here. Each tanka has it's own "flavor," yet works well together as a whole. My only small criticism is that I don't like seeing the ampersand, I usually like the word "and" spelled out. It usually distracts me, but that is my own little pet peeve. Yet, it was only used once here, so it does no harm. I can almost see the redness and the sadness. The death of love or watching it die, is very much like the death of a person - it is the death of something you will never have with this person again; or at least not on the same level. Kathy Cobb


slow down, I whisper -
will there not always be
tea in my cup
and a half-written poem
when I leave this body?

      Melissa Dixon 


at a basket full
of lemons
after one more

     Alison Williams


summer evening-
no train to catch,
two old men chat
sitting on the bench
of this small station

      K. Ramesh 

This poem is wonderful, though I see it at "dusk." Though I guess "summer evening" can be the same thing. I would suggest a comma behind "chat." I like the fact that the two old men are not in a hurry to go anywhere. They are just sitting and talking with the relaxed manner of the elderly. I guess the closer you get to the end, the less in a hurry you are to get there. (I hope that doesn't sound like a pun). It also makes me wonder how many people on the train, noticed these two men. I am sure we have all had similar experiences with strangers; those people who are in our lives for seconds, yet for some reason, we remember them. Kathy Cobb



Margaret Chula 

refrigerated for days
my father waits for me
to lay him to rest
in the cemetery
of the Sorrowful Mother

my strong father
helpless now in his new suit
and perfectly knotted tie
hands clenched round a white rose
coffin filled with regrets

so many mourners
for such a silent man
two ladies from Bingo
come over and tell me
what a card he was!

I bury him
on the winter solstice
when shadows move toward light
how bright the red poinsettia
how black the crows 

forty nine days
after my father’s death
the ground hog
comes up, sees his shadow
and returns underground

those wildflower seeds
embedded in the paper
of a sympathy card
I tear them into strips
and plant them in the shadows



summer breeze
lifts a corner
of our picnic blanket -
I place a grape
on your outstretched tongue

     Michael Dylan Welch

This tanka is playfully erotic.  Just as the speaker in the poem is enjoying the sensuality of placing a grape on a lover’s outstretched tongue, the picnic basket appears to be enjoying the sensual play of the summer wind. Jane Wilson


passion play
I can't help but notice
the actor
portraying Jesus
is gorgeous

     Joanne Morcom


unable to express
the strength of my feelings
for you
I ladle more and more
coffee into the pot

     M.A. Fielden



Marianne Bluger

eyes widening
in the dark - my spine
in agony I touch
the root of madness

veils of white rain
sweep down on this heaving
ocean pain
& gently oblivion
morphine takes my being

these naked legs
these arms - so thin now
seem to be recovering
the awkward angular
grace of a girl...

that doctor
calling my case
doesn't know how I am:
basically curious

home from hospital
weak, weeping
I stare
into our sodden yard
& and am content

from our bed
how precious these rooftops
the spindly spruce
& my own
little plunge of sky

a dove
settles for night
in the spruce...
natural as death
comes darkness

& son too call now and then
for reassuring
arguments - just like old times
with their failing Mom

another Sunday
too fragile for church
I crawl back to bed
& curled here in misery
read how Shiki died

in the middle of reading
Sanford's Shiki I find:
"a tanka poet's poems
are a tanka poet's life"
& start to shake

should I
wipe the steamed mirror
& show them
these red-rimmed eyes
the scars in my chest


wretched today
but for three bliss bits:
a gulp of bean soup
these five lines down
& husband's kiss

                        autumn 2002


this photo
of my cousin's child
a surprise
seeing my nose
on one I've never met

     Suzanne Finnegan 


after dinner
father takes a short walk
without mother
smoke weaving its way
through the orchard

     paul conneally

This one didn't hit me at first. I was not sure if I liked it or not; but again, I found myself thinking of it later. I like the fact that maybe, just maybe, the husband was not supposed to be smoking, so he walked off to the orchard to sneak "one" in. I can almost smell the smoke. Again, when I keep thinking of something, it usually means, it works. Kathy Cobb


along each brushstroke
of bamboo
I trace her loving hand...
how she could not bear
to be touched at the end

     Linda Jeannette Ward

I am not really familiar with bamboo or how you brush on it. However, this one is perhaps my favorite because of the last two lines. This is from a person who is either "in pain" or is a genius. Reading this, it's hard to believe someone could make this up, it's resonates strongly with me. Either way, this one is both wonderful and sad. Kathy Cobb


deep winter
has drawn me outdoors
to wander alone,
content in the silence
of dormant things

      Jane E.  Wilson 

I like the simplicity of this. Many times, we are drawn to the flashy beauty of spring. Yet, in winter, many times, the beauty is understated. There is also beauty in the bareness and death of things - the things hidden beneath the purity of snow. Kathy Cobb


first snowfall
of the first winter without you
I find the shovel
and clear a path to our bird feeder
as you always did

     Joanne Morcom

This one is very sad. It is about moving on without someone, but taking a piece of them with you - their habits, their likes and dislikes. A wonderful way to pay homage to someone that the author loved. Kathy Cobb

The reflection in this poem is powerful with good images of loneliness and cold showing the human side of losing a loved one; broken lines indicate the poem may have been written first with the lines determined after the verse was written.  Structure (5,7,5,7,7) might be more closely followed for more depth of images. Kay Holzwordt


a large tree
uprooted in a windstorm
during the night -
walking on, I consider
the things I cling to

     Jane E.  Wilson  

I really liked this poem. I like the fact that the author misses the presence of the tree. Many times, we don't even really notice things, until they are gone. This poem is simply stated, and that is why it works. Kathy Cobb


the morning after
rinsing plates in the sink
I watch suds
slide off the porcelain
and remember your hands

     Thelma Mariano


balmy days
at the end of January
there are times
when I too
am unlike myself

     Jane E.  Wilson  

At first read, I thought this a bit obvious with the statement in the second half, explaining the first half. The author explained the correlation between part A and B, rather than let us find it ourselves. Yet, I couldn't stop thinking about it - that in itself, is reason to vote for this. It WORKS. Kathy Cobb


in one stroke
she divided everything
only then
did I notice
the half moon

     Keith McMahen

I like the juxtaposition of dividing up lives with the half moon.  I also like the use of stroke without the word "pen." I don't have any particular reason, some things just add to a poem, but you can't always vocalize the hows and whys. Kathy Cobb



Judge’s comments regarding:


I continue to be struck by the haiku/senryu difference when reading so many tanka.  It's hard for me compare "light" tanka with "weighty" tanka.  Two different categories when judging individual tanka? I also continue to believe it is hard to be a good reader.  Even though I read over the poems twice, I think I probably missed some good ones.  Having more than one judge is really important when rating poems.  So ... I look forward to the results of what poems the other judges picked. David Rice

Such a fascinating challenge both to enter and to help judge. Three poems seemed particularly powerful to me and I was tempted to vote for them several times rather than choosing ten different poems; but suppose you intended to preclude that option and so did not pursue it. Marianne Bluger

Thank you for the opportunity of reading all the other entries. I have spent the past few days steeped in tanka. As this was my first time entering the Tanka Splendor contest, I feel I have gained much by reading the other entries. At first it looked quite a daunting task to eliminate enough for a list of ten individual entries.  (There were a great many more remaining on my list after the first reading.) One which I would have liked very much to have included unfortunately failed at the last because of a difficulty in the sound at one point, when read aloud.  Another one which I considered a very courageous deviation from the strict 5-7-5-7-7 unfortunately lost something in the musicality of the rhythm. Madelyn Schnautz

I worry a little that, as you say in the voting instructions, we are helping to determine the future of English tanka and the ABC gradings may give extra weight to those whose choices are perhaps a little less discerning.  For example if someone simply gives all their choices A's then their voting carries more weight overall than someone who judges a little more carefully and uses the full range of grades. Having said that of course no system is ever perfect and all have their drawbacks.  An individual judge has his or her particular point of view, a committee decision is rarely satisfactory to all and the popular vote can produce variable results depending on the population! Alison Williams



Reviewing each entry made me realize once again what an accomplishment it is to capture one's emotion in the beauty of the tanka form. Thanks for giving me this opportunity. And congratulations on your success at keeping the tanka spirit alive! Thelma Mariano

In the individual tanka I found that there is still often a basic lack of understanding of what tanka is and how it differs from haiku.  Sanford Goldstein once told me that he thought many haiku poets are actually writing tanka and many tanka poets are in fact writing haiku. Also, I find that using a Western poetry style and approach to writing tanka just doesn't work.  Tanka is a distinctive form and we need to know how to work within that form and bring out the amazing power that it is capable of.  It's wonderful to see the number of people seriously working in the tanka form. Angela Leuck

First off, on a positive vein, I was pleasantly surprised to find so many common emotions about common things expressed poetically. In that sense we are all poets, some just learn how to express themselves better poetically. This should not surprise, really, but one tends not to think much about it until one sees such a volume of writers all at once trying to hone their skill.  Next, I was surprised, maybe because this is the first time I have seen so many "competition entries", to see the number of submissions that were closer to haiku than tanka as I recognize the latter. That is, they described a perceived event/object, sometimes very effectively, but did not indicate a strong personal/emotional feeling essential in my eyes to tanka.
    Also, a common weakness, I believe, was a lack of "delicacy" and natural flow in language; a "clippedness" if such a word exists. I suspect this comes from non-traditional haiku writers who tend more to list objects/descriptions in order to stay within 17 syllables. This clipping of the language becomes very apparent when the poems are read aloud; and I think destroys a key element of natural poetic beauty that one should always strive for in tanka certainly, if not always in haiku. Guy Simser

I had a great, though difficult time, selecting the ones I thought outstanding.  Reading great poems is my idea of a good time.  I am proud to be a tanka poet among such fine poets.  Dave Bachelor

Compared to past years' competitions, it seems that many of these tanka are getting "wordier" and more explicitly emotional. Some might even be more successfully realized as longer poems, they carry such freight.  And many tell the reader what to think, negating (lack of trust?) the mental/emotional leap that makes reading poetry enjoyable. I think the ten I selected avoided these (to me) drawbacks, and used language with imagination and resonance. Ruth Holzer

I was amazed at the high percentage of sentimental verses, some bordering on the mawkish. Richard von Sturmer

In terms of the tanka sequences, the "Plunge of Sky" has established a standard for all sequences to  follow.  It was a real tour de force, and the first one in English that I feel could be labeled "great."  Several other of the sequences were also excellent, and I feel that the sequences on the whole were of much higher quality than last year's.  Really good progress being made here. Considering my own sequence entry, I have to say that I have been quite humbled, however I look forward to in future years somehow rising to the challenge of this remarkable and rich poetic form. Angela Leuck

I do not wish to vote for any of the sequences as, for me, they all seem to depend on some kind of a narrative thread which I find takes them into the realms of longer poetry.  What I most enjoy about both haiku and tanka is the effect of something enclosed within a small frame. Alison Williams

Some very enjoyable tanka here! - The decisions are not that easy. I found the final choice of sequence particularly difficult. I will be most interested to see how the other judges vote. David Steele

To be honest, I was disappointed by the large number of tanka using clichés, sentimentality, and awkward construction. Among the tanka that were more well-crafted, there was a lack of innovation: the same old nature symbolism, the same general emotions, the same rhythmic constructions. In my votes, then, I chose tanka that tried to use language in a new way, tried to do something innovative with rhythm, tried to make an interesting allusion to contemporary English-speaking culture, and/or tried to make an interesting allusion to English-language literature. (Example: one poem echoes Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" in both language and meaning, while adding subjective personal narrative.) Laura Maffei

I am sending my vote at the proverbial "last minute" since I wanted a few days to expire before checking my final choices again.  I worked from a shortlist of 50 to 20 and eventually had to drop a few poems I liked in favor of my favorite 10.  Not an easy choice at all and a few worthy poems had to slip through.  I do hope my vote has done justice.  The process of judging was educational as it helped me form a clearer idea of what I value in modern tanka. Maria Steyn



I enjoyed the process! There were many poems which i liked but could not include because of the limitation - only 10 tanka and one sequence! K. Ramesh

Easy to get my short list down to thirty. Then, pretty much a toss-up. I really couldn't single out one that I felt was stronger than the others based on craft, so the final ten each got equal marks. (Ultimately I think we tend to choose our favorites based on what taps into our own experience; and our preferred style) Joanne Klontz



A system of the entrant judges picking 31 single tanka and three sequences would seem to simplify things considerably. I really had a hard time keeping to the ten picks, and reluctantly excluded poems I truly liked. But if we all chose our favorite 31, it would quickly become clear which poems were favored over others, and I believe the participants would feel very comfortable with that. I think you've hit on something here! I confess I am not sure about the grading system. Hmmm. That I think I will leave in your more experienced hands, if I may. Melissa Dixon



Contests will always have their fair amount of grumbling. My personal opinion is that once a tanka has passed a certain level of excellence, the final choice will be determined by what resonates with a particular person or judge. Tastes will necessarily differ. Contests judged by one or two individual judges will have a very different flavor from those judged by the contestants themselves. Each manner of judging will have problems and concerns of its own. Individual poets will have their own preferences as to which types of contest they enter. Contests are never perfect; neither is life. People who enter a particular contest should be aware of the manner of judging and will have shown their acceptance of this upon entering their work. It is my wish that poets and individual judges will always retain a sense of balance, good sportsmanship and will refrain from causing unnecessary distress. In the end we write in the service of poetry and art, not to impress, or collect "medals." Maria Steyn

Hopefully we can all collectively as writers realize the worth in improving our tanka, being harder on ourselves individually, widening rather than narrowing our horizons - and the opportunity to do these things that this contest offers. The collective celebration is far more important than any individual achievement, and any means that increase the quality of the collective whole are well-worth considering. Having said that, it's not me who has to do all the hard work! Whichever way the contest goes, I seriously hope you will continue it for years to come. John Barlow

Thanks for conducting this contest!  Evaluating the poetry was difficult, but reading it was a pleasure! Michael Meyerhofer

This was so hard! And so enjoyable. Cannot wait to compare with others. Heather

Lastly, you are to be commended for your continuing support through this competition, to introduce English tanka to those with an inclination to write but who need a stimulus; and a venue for existing writers of the genre. Good luck with the results. Guy Simser  

The way you have organized this contest is a tremendous opportunity for learning and as you pointed out, actually making choices about the direction of English tanka.  Thanks for your terrific work! Angela Leuck

This was the first Tanka Splendor Awards contest for me. I particularly appreciated the clear, firm and fair guidelines for voting. Tony Beyer

Thank you very much for organizing an enjoyable competition and for trying to find the fairest possible system of reaching a decision on the results. Alison Williams



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Check out the TANKA SPLENDOR Contest Rules so you can enter the next contest after January 1, 2003. The deadline for the new contest is September 30, 2003.

Read online the results of past contests
Tanka Splendor 2001

Tanka Splendor
Tanka Splendor 1996
Tanka Splendor 1994
Tanka Splendor 1990

Purchase copies of Tanka Splendor from AHA Books Bookshelf.



  Poems Copyright © Designated Authors 2002.
Tanka Splendor and this web page Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2002.

Because of the current practice of some harvesting addresses for spamming, the poems are listed by names only. If you wish to correspond with any of these persons, you can obtain the author’s address by e-mail.