Tanka Kukai 3 Favorites - Tanka Roundtable - Fall 2009

into mud puddles
after the storm
I have half a mind
to never marry

Aubrie Cox (6)

The way in which the storm represents hard times and then the person reflecting on themselves while looking into the after effects of these hard times is great. It also kind of reminds me of the myth of Narcissus in a sense. Perhaps this person is like Narcissus? I severely doubt it, seeing as how when they ponder they think of the possibility of marrying others. But it was still an interesting idea for an allusion. Gordon

The surprising conclusion of this tanca is what pulled me in (as usual). I like the significance of the decision the poet is considering making. The phrase “after the storm” is also interesting, because it makes you wonder if the poet has also recently had a fight, a symbolic storm, or if this thought is simply sparked by the storm in nature. The fact that the poet is staring into mud puddles, which are not reflective, is also an interesting notion; it implies that, right now, the poet cannot see him or herself clearly, which makes the context of the final consideration even more interesting. Joe


my name
above the hook
i know
right where
to hang my hat

Carmella Braniger

I love the simplicity of this tanka. It’s simple but at the same time it has a deeper meaning behind it. I feel that it is a tanka about identity. It lets us know that everyone has a place in this world. I love how the author got this message across with just a few words. Lauren


Fire drill.
We scatter like maple leaves
in the wind,
Then, regather on the lawn
to talk about tanka.

Carmella Braniger (5)


paper lanterns
in the margins
i forget
the kanji for light

Aubrie Cox (2)


drinking hot tea
with honey
I inhale
a small piece
of heaven

Lainie Pahos (2)

This poem is sweet. I feel that there is an innocence about this tanka that is rare to find. All the tanka on the kukai were wonderful, but this one stood out for me simply because of its innocence. I can see the imagery and feel a sense of relaxation when I read this tanka. I can picture myself sitting there with tea. I can taste it, smell it. This is definitely a tanka that evokes the senses. I really enjoyed it. Lauren

Right now I have been fighting a sinus infection for over a month and a half. The smell and taste of hot tea with honey sounds amazing! It gave me a visual of what it would look like, and a sense of how it is going to taste. Heather


calloused hand
guides the brush
what a shame
for a literary child
to be born of a farmer

Joseph Bein (5)

I like the way in which you can feel the years of hard labor from the idea of the callouses alone. Then the thought of those callouses on the brush is an interesting idea. Also the use of a brush instead of a pen or a pencil to write the tanka. This tanka comes with experience. Gordon


my eyes
fly to the moon
and back—
they still can’t see
that old man up there

Don Gorjuan (6)

What interests me in this tanka is the perspective of the narrator and the "they." I assume "they" are the Japanese, who see a rabbit in the moon. The idea of eyes flying to the moon intrigues me--it implies looking from the moon, to something else, but I also feel it means a bit more (a mental journey perhaps). The reader can follow the narrator's thoughts as he/she looks from the moon, to maybe who is talking, and the compare and contrast of the two traditions. Perhaps the narrator cannot see the rabbit, and is certain that their view is the "right" or the "preferred." Although I myself could never really see the man in the moon, I had difficulty seeing the rabbit as well until the night of the moon-viewing. Aubrie

This reminds me of the Savage Garden song. I'll fly to the moon and back. But it also reminds me of the young child tales parents tell children about the old man that is oh so wise that lives on the moon. Heather

late at night
a full moon
parts the clouds
to guide me home

Jackson Lewis (2)


your hair between my fingers
as you sleep
for the first time
in arms that are not his

Joseph Bein (5)

I think that I liked this tanka because I made up a whole back story for it. I saw it as the guy that she is with tonight is either a really good friend or has feelings for her and she has just broken up with her boyfriend who didn’t treat her well. She’s all upset so she calls the guy up and she falls asleep in his arms while watching a movie or something and he’s simply happy to be the one she turned to. It seemed very sweet and innocent and I really enjoyed it. Lainie


dry pages
between my curious fingers
I remember
a Japanese baker’s daughter
locked in her bedroom

Joseph Bein (2)


a weed
born in the month
of rice-planting
the girl who grows
her hair long


as the candle
the room begins to
fade to

Lauren Modlin (2)


once more
before the loom
she waits for her hero
to come home from his war

Carmella Braniger (6)

What first drew my attention to this tanka was the shape of it. It is pretty even like steps going down and I thought that was pleasant to look at. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but I thought it was interesting. I also enjoyed the last line. The author didn’t write “the war” but “his war”. Maybe this means that the man isn’t really fighting in a war right now, he could just have a personal war whether it be at work or an affair. It is very open ended and I like that. Also, starting with the solitary word “alone” gives the sense that she doesn’t want to be alone again. Lainie

I like the juxtaposition of “her” and “his” in this poem. The fact that he is “Her hero” evokes feelings of tenderness and affection, but the fact that it is “his” war creates a sort of distance. This distance is emphasized with the word “alone”, which I think is a great way to start this poem. The image of a lonely woman working at her loom is also interesting, and timeless in a way. Joe

Once again, I’m such a sucker for this structure. It’s very hard to pull off and this poem does it wonderfully. I’m also a sucker for fantasy, and this immediately brought the image of a peasant woman waiting for her husband who was forced to fight, forced to tear himself away from his family so that he could kill. Yeah it’s a little corny, but it pulls it off very nicely. Jackson


bright light
I pull my hood over
my eyes
I feel like a junkie
in the cold


my brother's bad
I switch
on his porch

Michelle Dixson (4)

The minimalism in this poem is wonderful. It simultaneously tells the reader a lot and very little all at once. Yes, the brother has a habit of switching porch chairs, and yes the writer has picked up that habit. But why? Is it out of love? Hate? Is the writer trying to stifle feelings for the brother? So many questions are raised and go unanswered, and the mystery entices me. Jackson

I read this tanka several times, and each time had a different idea as to what the brother's "bad habit" might be. Perhaps the most obvious one could/would be that the brother is a smoker, and thus the narrator is moving his/her chair so that they won't be downwind of the smoke. Overall, the tanka exhibits a sort of routineness. Every time the author visits his/her brother, they have to switch the chairs (either actually moving the actual chair or simply switching seats). They may have even given up in trying to tell his/her brother that smoking is harmful to his help. Aubrie


© 2009, Randy Brooks • Millikin University
All rights returned to authors upon publication.