A collection of Tanka
by Joseph Bein
Four months ago, I had never heard of tanka. To label myself a neophyte would be a grave understatement. But perhaps that is the unique beauty of tanka – and part of the reason I have fallen so fiercely in love with this form of poetry. I did not have to be a master of the art form; these powerful, concise poems spoke to me all the same.
It is astonishing to me how so much can be packed into so few syllables; in just five lines, I have seen tanka convey a full spectrum of emotions and experiences. As a writer, it delights me to read, and create, these poems in which no word can be taken for granted, no sound crafted accidentally. But as a living, feeling human being, I love them even more.
They speak to every facet of the human experience – the feeling, and the knowing, the abstract and the absolutely real. I feel something like the father choosing his favorite children in selecting poems for this collection, and have been forced to settle for only those images and ideas that are most dear to me. In the end, this is a collection of poems about the physical and the emotional as two inseparable entities: feathers and fatigue, polka-dot umbrellas and undying affection, glass doors and gut-wrenching longing. It is but a taste of what tanka means to me, and perhaps will not mean so much to another. But I can only hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.