Salvatore Amico M. Buttaci
Kathy Lippard Cobb x 2
Cherie Hunter Day x 2
Michael L. Evans
David Lee Kirkland
Thelma Mariano x 2
Norman Wm. Muise
Carol Purington x 2
Claudia Coutu Radmore
K. Ramesh x 2
Tim W. Younce
This edition of Tanka Splendor 2005 is dedicated to the life and work of
Marianne Sasha Bluger Neily
AHA Books is proud to announce the winners in the Tanka Splendor 2005 Awards. The 32 individual tanka arranged according to the number of points the poems received. The range was from 37 points to 15 due to a different system of voting. In cases of ties, the poems are set according to the alphabetical sequence of the author's last name.
Tim W. Younce
Kathy Lippard Cobb
the animal I see
David Lee Kirkland
Norman Wm. Muise
Behind your white face
All you said was
in shadowed lanes
in the shaded pavilion
by the restaurant at the corner
statue of a little prince
what can be more frail7
willows like dancers’ arms
1 Lui Yu His 772 842 "to the tune of ‘Glittering Sword Hilts’"
2 Wen I-to 1899 1946 "Wonder"
3 Pao Ling-hui, 5th century , younger sister of the poet Pao Chao
4 Pao Chao 414 466 "Red Hills"
5 The Emperor Wu-ti, 464 549, "The Liberator"
6 Wang Wei 701 761 "Twilight Comes"
7 The Poetess Li Chi’ng 1084 1142, "To the tune of ‘Drunk Under Flower Shadows’"
8 Po Chu-I 772 846 "The Two Red Towers"
a foot of ice
back and forth
the click of oars
a scuba diver
day after day
I called your number
In what world are you?
"I found that most poets seemed to be trying too hard (and I include myself in this) in that they tried to be profound and used overblown language. I thought the best poems were simple, well-observed and sincere. I also found that sincerity of emotion is not enough--you also need technique and in the direction of restraint rather than excess.
I also like the way we voted this year by just picking 31 poems without adding extra points for our favorite selections. I think it's fairer to everyone.
Thanks again for this incredible learning opportunity and all you do in so many ways for the development of tanka!" Angela Leuck
"#N (WHITE RAILINGS by Claudia Coutu Radmore) was very special. I now appreciate how difficult is the job of editor/judge." Peggy Heinrich
"What I found most interesting is the sharply different reasons certain of these works appealed--as different and as wonderful as the taste of crisp bacon, fresh mango, and premium ice cream. Number 69 (the abused dog / stops quietly by my chair / with careful eyes / he allows me / to stroke his neck /by Melissa Dixon) stood out for the abused dog spoke to me of both hurt and hope, and all by inference. 139 (tossing a lid / into the cabinet / full of plastic /I long to hear / a plate shatter /by Susan Antolin) also offers contrast, rage and impotence, again with the poet being deeply evocative instead of merely descriptive. 42 (summer thunder / behind the U-Haul / chain sparks /a couple arguing / their way south / by Darrell Lindsey) brings back memories of days when chains indeed dangled, and so summons forgotten images and casts them as a ferocious metaphor." David Lee Kirkland
"Thank you, Jane, for once again giving poets the chance to participate in this contest. I was struck once more by how many poems lacked the basic structure of tanka - the rhythm, the sounds and a sense of the poet behind the poem, no matter how subtle. The "true tanka" poems seemed to shine like pearls in their midst. Yet I felt that all poets made a sincere effort, and with a little more understanding of the form, they can certainly improve." Thelma Mariano
'I found it very hard to find suitable poems in the required numbers and truth be known stretched myself to select most of what I did. I found only eight tanka which I selected very quickly as the best represented and only a couple of those were "strong" tanka. The remaining fell off from that level pretty quickly. I am surprised and disappointed to see this. It's no reflection of course on you. Your work with Tanka Splendor through the years is to be encouraged and a lot of good work has come out of it, but this year to me seems a real loss. I don't know if you received a lot of beginner work this year as there are no names attached, or if the writers were lazy or simply naive regarding tanka. A lot of what I read reminded me of "beginner's haiku" stretched to five lines. I'd like to think that a lot of that lesser quality stuff would have been left in practice notebooks or on writer workshop floors rather than sent in to a quality organization like yours.
Please don't misunderstand my comments, I'm not sticking my nose up here Jane, I'm really surprised at what I have seen and I would be interested to hear how you felt generally about this year's submissions (when you get time, as I know your first concern is to sort out the results). So many of the submissions (in my view) lack the elegance of language and balancing of meaningful images. Many also have little depth of expressed emotion. . . they imply things like how much I miss your presence, etc., but there's no word punch, no image that hits the reader with an "oh!" or an "ah!" and feeling of empathy.
I understand that one cannot restrict entries for this type of competition, but I would like to see aspiring writers being more disciplined, more capable of throwing away incomplete work over and over until they get it right even at the risk of not showing in print for another year or two. Time means nothing, perfection means a lot! It is a craft after all. Having said that, I do hope that your slimming down of entries will give you something you feel good about when you publish the book and wish you the best in the task at hand." Guy Simser
Notes on judging: I believe that in tanka each line should have a meaning on its own & not be continued to the next line. This is an ideal, of course. In this way, each image with its associations builds upon the last to culminate in some sublime feeling or revelation.
Therefore, I voted for tanka that contained fewer lines that were incomplete, vague, or lacked imagery.
Many poets attempted to set the scene in the first line with some kind of introduction like "in the autumn" or "at the doorway," but I believe the poem should set its own scene, that the scene should be revealed through imagery & association, so I voted more for poems that
had that strength.
Since each word needs to carry its weight in a syllabic form, I also rejected tanka filled with adverbs, unnecessary prepositional phrases, and excessive articles.
I rejected tanka that contained prose-like lines that described generic actions (e.g., "I moved forward") or used abstractions rather than imagery. I also rejected Yoda-like sentence construction, in which words or phrases are out of their contemporary order, as
in "forward, I was moving." I feel that contemporary poetry should use contemporary sentence construction.
Straightforward statements like "I am powerful" don't belong because they contain no imagery and tell rather than appealing to the reader's senses in a way that allows them to experience the poem directly.
One common problem I found in these tanka was that the first three lines were simply a build-up to the last two, in which the poet attempted to be clever. Often those tanka ended with a straightforward statement that amounts to "the moral of the story." But I believe that the reader should be allowed to reach their own conclusions.
I read a lot of clichés in these poems; there is no room for them in any poetic form. Some of the tanka contained far too much punctuation; it's natural for a tanka reader to expect a pause or even a full stop between lines, so I think that very little punctuation
should be required.
All that said, two of the poems matched all my criteria for a good tanka: #41 and #84 (both poems were not winners). Those two poems followed the traditional syllabic scheme for a tanka, which was not a requirement to get one of my votes, certainly, but which displays a mastery of this form, or at least an attempt at mastery. Every line contained some imagery or compelling association, each built on the next, each was complete, and each was a pleasure to read over and over.
I was also struck by the vast range of themes and approaches to this form--some were reflecting its ancient heritage, some were thrusting the tanka into modern times. Either way, the sturdy structure of tanka
holds its own, and its ability to move us remains as powerful as ever.
This competition has been a pleasure to write for, and to be a part of. Thanks so much for your hard work in making it happen." Leisha Wharfield
"As I would like to be fair to all the poets in the competition, I decided to write a general comment for all the poems. Otherwise, I would have liked to write few comments for each of the poems. That would have been too much, I guess.
I would like first of all to thank you for making possible poetry to exist. I would like to thank all the poets in the competition for contributing to the poetry of this world. I am happy to find that there still exist a need for poetry in this at times too scientifically oriented societies from all over the globe. I believe as everybody secretly believes, poetry is essential for our human nature. And poetry is as powerful force of nations progress as all the other human mind and soul endeavors. Testimony of my belief, your believes, all people believes, is this wonderful competition in which we all contributed, in a way or another, to make this world, our world, a much more beautiful place to be.
Then, what seems obviously for all of us, the publisher and the writers a as well as judges alike, poetry is hard to be judged, despite its genuine existence in the universe. I never chase to be enchanted by the unique coexistence of similarity and diversity in our human nature. From this perspective, writing as well as judging poetry, and you will all agree, are not easy tasks. Both require equally to be our very selves and to be everybody else. Both are transformation processes. Yet, at the end of the journeys, be it that of writing poetry or that of judging it, we found ourselves enriched.
That is way once again I want to thank all the participants in the competitions. For during my days and nights of reading, thinking, feeling, living with the poems to be judged I found this simple truth with which I am sure you will all agree: there are no bad poems. There are only better ones that marvelously succeed to rich our uniqueness and communes at once. Again, there is not such a think as bad poetry. For we all added in a way or another a piece of inner light to the beauty of this world. But in the mean time, let as all bow to those from whom we learnt during these competitions: the winners. They are the winners of our hearts." , Nicoleta Ungureano
" So many of the poems were quite nice as five-lined poems but reflected little or no relationship to the tanka form.
Many followed the 5,7,5,7,7 syllables-to-line rule, but their content was lacking in metaphor usage in the last two lines, or they didn't shift subjects for those lines, or the pivot line wouldn't work with both the upper and lower lines, or the haiku section would be merely an introductory phrase.
In other cases, the tanka content was evident, but the syllable count and shape would be haphazard.
So I relaxed the tanka rules for twenty of the twenty-seven poems I've listed--not to the point where they are lounging around in their pajamas, but if they came close to following the tanka form and still spoke to me, I listed them. However, I'd prefer to see the form's rules more respected. Otherwise, it's really just free verse.
I enjoyed participating in this fun contest again this year. Thank you for having it." Ellaraine Lockie
"Thanks so much for organizing this contest. Judging the entries has been an educational experience for me. It has really helped me to clarify my own definitions of what makes a tanka good, and what makes one great." Becky DeVito
#190 (squares /in a crossword / left undone / contemplate the gaps / in my life /by Kathy Lippard Cobb) Beautifully expressed! Kala Ramesh
"This has been a delightful day of reading and voting. My first Tanka Splendor event! Number 35 (bent into beauty / with a copper wire snake / bonsai in training / – striving to become the man / that has been hidden inside / by Norman Wm. Muise) is excellent! Bette Wappner
It is another year that I have had the privilege of watching so many poems, so many words, so many feelings, so many ideas of what a tanka is, flow under my fingers. It is always so tremendously humbling to find such a wealth of talent, desires, and opportunities for discovering something new in your poems, in your comments, and in your choices. It is also amazing that each of us knows within our hearts what a perfect, or the very best tanka, should be like, and yet what a surprise! when other people feel differently. Maybe the miracle is that so many of you did agree on certain poems – enough to make them stand above the rest.
There was a different method of voting this year. Instead of giving grades of A, B, C & D, to the ten chosen poems, judges were asked to pick 31 individual winners and three sequences, but to not give any grades. It seemed that this method spread the votes out so that instead of the winner getting 74 points, as last year, the highest number accrued this year was 37. This year there were only nine poems out of the 263 that got no votes at all. This was a drastic change from other years.
Due to my scheduling, the judging period was extended from ten days to almost a month and this seemed to bring in more votes. Out of the 115 authors submitting poems, 79 people voted – almost a 25% increase over other years. We will definitely be doing this again.
Due to ties, several tanka received 15 points, so there were 32 individual winners instead of 31 (the traditional number of sound units in Japanese) and five winners (for the five lines) from the sequences. Kathy Lippard Cobb, Cherie Hunter Day, Thelma Mariano, Carol Purington, (note: all are women) and K. Ramesh, the lone male, had the honor of having two of their three submitted tanka picked as winners. A congratulations to each and every one of you. Thank you for lending your poems and your expertise to this contest.
For those of you who did not find your names among the winner’s list, please do not be discouraged. There are surely as many reasons as there are poems for why you did not win. Perhaps you are new to tanka writing and need only a bit more practice. It cannot be told how many years a new name comes up in the contest, and the author does not win, but the next year when a poem from the same person appears, then! it is a winner. For those of you with well-known names, is it a comfort to know that as one becomes more familiar with the form, the urge to experiment often takes over and pushes the work into new territory where most readers are not yet equipped to follow you? Check your work to see if you are trying new things or are simply grinding away at a tried and true method that is no longer useful and if either these are the reason you did not win.
It is worth a few moments of your time, if you were a contestant, to look at the voting results. You can, if you save a copy of your votes, compare your choices with those of the other judges. How often did you agree? How often did you pick a poem that got only a couple of votes? Perhaps your concept of tanka is not the same as that of the majority? I noticed while tallying the votes that some person’s votes would almost consistently be going to the poems with a collection of votes and others’ choices went to poems that got almost no other votes. As an exercise for myself, I always vote, but I do not tally my choices, instead I do go back after the voting is done to see how my opinions stack up with the rest of them. Only about ½ of my picks were in the final winners’ list. It does stand to reason that we will write poems that emulate the kind of poems we admire. This is also a good reason for reading all the winning poems and not just your winner.
As you read in the “Participants’ Comments,” many persons had strong views on what a ‘real’ tanka is, and several of those views were in direct conflict, yet often what they most admired in a tanka was not in the poems that won. Each year people ‘complain’ about having to read through “unworthy or non-tanka tanka” to find their picks. Yet, if I had winnowed out the poems that failed to meet my own criteria for a tanka, many of the winners never would have gotten a chance to be voted on. This reaffirms the idea that all the valid poems submitted (five lines and no more than 31 syllables) should be given up for judging. Also, there is the thought that though a poem may be seen as being too flawed to be picked, yet often there is a spark of inspiration in the poem or its idea that can set off a new poem in someone else – in this way, it gains value. No poem is “wasted” as each one is the stepping stone on which your next one is written.
There is also the idea that you may favor one of your poems for its personal subject matter or meaning, and yet it will not have a wider appeal. There is an art to choosing your poems for a contest and it is one that deserves some study.
It is also true that poems carrying common or well-know emotional packets will often win even when the form is flawed. Judges do votes with their hearts as well as their heads, and this, to me is a comforting thought. I would not be happy if one aspect overwhelmed the other.
I hope you will read these winning poems with your own intellect, hearts, and appreciation for poetry – all in equal portions. Thank you for all the kind comments and encouragement you included in your e-mails. Each one was greatly appreciated and I admit that on some of the days when there was more to do than I felt like doing, it was your faith and gratitude that enabled the job to be done.
Blessed be! \o/ Jane
____________________* * * * *___________________
This edition of Tanka Splendor 2005 is dedicated to the life and work of
MARIANNE SASHA BLUGER NEILY
Aug. 28, 1945 – Oct. 29, 2005
Marianne Bluger won many honors for her poetry including the Canada Council and the Archibald Lampman awards. She was well known in the USA and Japan for her lyrics and for her tanka and haiku. Her volumes of lyric poetry include: The Thumbless Man is at the Piano (Three Trees - 1981), On Nights Like This (Brick Books - 1984), Gathering Wild (Brick Books - 1987), Summer Grass (Brick Books - 1992), Scissor, Paper, Woman (Penumbra Press - 2000), and The Eternities (St. Thomas Poetry Series - 2005). A final manuscript, Nude with Scar, was completed only a month before her death. She wrote two books of haiku, Tamarack and Clearcut (Carleton University Press - 1997, with photos by Rudi Haas) and Early Evening Pieces (Buschek Books - 2003). Gusts (Penumbra Press - 1998) was the first book length collection of tanka published in Canada. She had a second book of tanka called Zen Mercies / Small Satoris (Penumbra Press - 2005). The journal of the Tanka Society of Canada is named Gusts in Marianne's honor. Marianne had winning poems in Tanka Splendor 2001 and 2002.
Check out the TANKA SPLENDOR Contest Rules so you can enter the next contest after June 1, 2006. The deadline for the new contest is September 30, 2006.
Read online the results of past contests
Purchase copies of Tanka Splendor from AHA Books Bookshelf.
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Tanka Splendor and this web page Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2005.