Another Poetry First: Tanka

The View from the Top of the Lighthouse, Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine, 9/12/19

I have been blogging for three years, and one unexpected result from following other bloggers has been the inspiration (and the courage!) to try new forms of creative expression.

Here is what I have so far:

A Video First: “Cape Elizabeth: 1962” (Video Poetry)

A Fiction First: “Beware the Ides of September” (Ghost Story)

Finding Found Poetry (Found Poetry)

Remembering Etaples” (Ekphrastic Poetry)

Adelaide Authors: Angels of Stockholm (Book Review)

The inspiration for my latest foray into expanding my writing horizons comes from the blog of Colleen M. Chesebro (Novelist, Prose  & Word Witch). I have been following Colleen’s blog for a while now, with particular interest in her weekly syllabic poetry challenge, which could be any of the following:

•Haiku •Senryu •Haiga •Tanka •Haibun •Cinquain •Etheree •Nonet •Shadorma

Out of the nine forms listed, how many had I never heard of before? Six!

I’d never considered writing syllabic poetry because the thought of having to count syllables seemed restrictive, if not downright maddening. But each week, as I read the winning poems from the challenge, I grew more and more intrigued with the notion of trying my hand at one myself. These poems packed such an emotional punch. They were good!

It then became a matter of matching medium with message. The opportunity presented itself at the end of September when my husband and I took a ride over to Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine for Maine Open Lighthouse Day. My grandparents had a cottage in Cape Elizabeth when I was growing up, so I’d been to Portland Head many times. However, I never thought I would actually get the opportunity to go inside the lighthouse and climb to the top.

The day of our trip, the weather was cloudy and cold, with a stiff wind. Part of me was reluctant to go because in my memory, it had never rained in Cape Elizabeth, and both sky and water were always brilliant blue–which of course couldn’t be.

That swirling mix of conflicting emotions called for poetry. When we returned home, I tried a haiku first (3 lines 5, 7, 5 syllables), which wasn’t right because it was too short to capture the shift I wanted. Then I tried a tanka (5 lines, 5,7,5,7,7 syllables), and it seemed to work.

Portland Head Autumnal

gray waters roiling
under a lowering sky
childhood waves bright blue
gold autumnal perspective
a pink rose blooms still open

130 thoughts on “Another Poetry First: Tanka

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