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

106 thoughts on “Another Poetry First: Tanka

  1. I could have pictured it just from the poem! A beautiful place.

    I love the spareness of syllabic poetry, too. I wound up taking a whole year of poetry by accident in college (couldn’t get into other classes and they met a requirement…) I think it helped prepare me for my newspaper days, when writing tightly really mattered. Now, all my journalism is electronic . It’s more about multiple layers, which is also akin to poetry. Who knew?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, Liz, this is stunning! You already had me with the poem itself: I was holding my breath by the end. Then the photo, with the grey skies hovering low, the dark green below the lighthouse, with here and there a little splash of yellow and white, and then there it was – the bright splash of pink – and I exhaled as I breathed out, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” over and over. Just brilliant! Thank you for the dance between memories and the now. If you never again write another tanka, you have already achieved its perfection!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Liz, I agree, there are moments when a poem is the only form of writing that will do. Your tanka is beautiful and captures the emotions beautifully. Colleen is inspiring and helpful on all forms of poetry and through her I discovered the delights of etherees.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done. (I agree one of the benefits of blogging is opening up to new visions or perspectives.)
    I don’t do poetry. (I feel I suck at it. Gimme prose any day) 😉 But I like the metrics. Think of it as metrics = rhythm. Rhythm = balance. You can’t dance without rhythm. Can’t sing. Can’t walk… Metrics are good.
    And thanks for the Haiku. Like it.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed, I am! We moved to southern Maine in 1974 as back-to-the-landers. Have been in central Maine since the 1990s with the exception of working away in California and Virginia for a decade. There’s no place to me like that green, green state I call home and I love to return to my favorite coastal getaways when I can. 🙂 Have a great week!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey Liz, how are you?

    Memorable moments, past and present, finely crafted in a colourful weave of woven words. A fine Tanka, and another string to your artful bow Liz.

    Those halcyon days of gold, pink and blue, fleet-footed as they are, linger still within our quill, fill its reservoir.

    Roiling is a great word.

    DN

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI, Dewin. I’m fine; thank you for asking! I hope you’re well. I’m glad that you appreciated the tanka. I consider myself very fortunate to have had a childhood that was a series of halcyon days, very fortunate indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s a great tanka, Liz! It’s good to push your personal boundaries as a writer, no matter what your “home” genre may be. I haven’t ventured far into fiction (well at least not since sixth grade), but it must be done!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never been and will never be a poet; but I have writer friends who are, and I love learning something about their craft. I also appreciate having my own reading choices stretched—and, in the case of your creative expression, Liz, positively elevated. Delightful. Thank you! And now I’m off to forward this post to one of those poetry-writing friends . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So beautifully written Liz. I loved the story of the poem as well. There was a great deal of inspiration in it from the actual form to memories and now present day. Very inspiring all the way round! 😊

    Like

  9. Now I understand Tanka, and I really like it. Your poem is beautiful. I can see where Haiku would not work for what you wanted to say. I’m glad you were able to return to your childhood memories and climb the lighthouse. Wonderful, Liz!

    Like

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