David Rice, Editor of Ribbons, the journal of the American Tanka Society, asked readers to send him their thoughts on how they write tanka. "Flight Feathers" is my response: It begins with a flicker of wings across the landscape, inner or outer—the translucent wing of memory, the distant drumming of a thought, a blind sparrow. I have to be paying attention or I will miss it altogether. If the impulse arises from within, I search the outer landscape for images to give it voice. If it comes from without, I muse on why this moment caught my eye . . . where does it connect to my inner landscape?
the cry of a kingfisher— I seize from the blue lake of morning this nameless bounty
Sometimes words arrive like mayflies in the slipstream, but that is rare. More often, I need to free-write in prose just to discover what I mean. Then it takes days of tinkering for the poem to find its shape. I search for clarity and simplicity, metaphor and dreaming room, shapeliness and music. Walking or driving—especially if I am alone—may set the words flowing. The poem simmers in the back of my mind while I peel potatoes or wash dishes. I grab the grocery list and scribble five lines down. No, it doesn’t work. I throw the whole thing out and go to bed grumpy, only to wake long before dawn . . .
nursing a baby not my own in a dream she signs to me the words of a poem
Finally I push the fledgling tanka out of the nest for the kind and critical scrutiny of friends, without whom far fewer of my poems would ever find their wings.
a gathering of swallows’ voices on the wire . . . how five lines bind friends who’ve never met
Apparently my Feedburner email subscriptions are no longer working, so if you subscribe to this blog via email you probably have not received any notifications recently. This seems to be a problem common to many blogs, but I have not been able to find out how to fix it. However, I can suggest a possible work-around. Go to www.feedspot.com , create an account if you don't have one, and enter the URLs for sites you want to follow. They will send you an email notification of new posts.