More Tanka In The Morning….

"White Cranes of Heaven" book cover, painting, wc, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2010

I believe in writing from immediate observation; that is to say, Sunday, while doing yard work on the first warm day we have had all winter, I heard the Sandhill cranes high in the sky, and saw them in formation heading towards a surprisingly early rising moon.  One of our cats, Chessie, who is getting old and slow, was sitting on a bench, and refused to attend to a barking dog, nor to me who was trying to get him to move over.

Tanka is  a snapshot of the moment.  It can be sharply in focus, or blurred, and is sometimes memorable. Seeing these Sandhills against the moon is fixed in my mind.  Seeing Chessie sitting in the sun reminds me that life isn’t forever.

A few of these tanka will be included in the soon-to-be published, “White Cranes of Heaven”.

Lady Nyo


Cranes wheeled in the sky

Their chiding cries fell to hard earth

Warm mid winter day

A pale half moon calls the birds

To stroke her face with soft wings.

A cat sits dozing

Beneath a thorny rosebush

No foot can reach him

His paws retract the sharp claws

A deep purr closes his eyes.


Human frailties

wounds that bleed such heated blood

leave a dry vessel.

Without the moisture of love

the clay reverts to the ground.

Glimpse of a white wrist

Feel the pulse of blood beneath-

This is seduction!

But catch a wry, cunning smile

One learns all is artifice.


Overhead, the cranes,

Sandhills– swirl in broad circles.

Broken GPS?

No matter, their cries fall down

Celestial scolding rain.

The fire of life

Is love. No exact measure.

A whirling dervish

Hands in opposite display

Gathers in the miracle.

The full moon above
Floats on blackened velvet seas
Poet’s perfection!
But who does not yearn for a
Crescent in lavender sky?

In this single branch
Of a wintry holly,
A hundred words hide.
A thousand blushes appear.
Do not overlook the thorns.


Lithe-bodied, she climbs-
She has now mounted my soul!
Clinging with strong legs
Her breast pressed against me
Shapes an intangible thing.



So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2008, 2011

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34 Responses to “More Tanka In The Morning….”

  1. Padmavani Says:

    Hello Lady Nyo
    Loved your Tanka, especially the first one. Thank you so much for spending time to critique my Tanka yesterday. I have made some changes and I am much happier now. Do let me know if I did anything to improve on the older version.
    Looking forward to read you. Do you have a Twitter ID, it would be great if I could in touch with your work.
    Thank you


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Padmavani,

    I’ll look at your site and poem today and see what changes you have made. It was pretty good as I remember, though.

    I really don’t know if I have a Twitter ID. I don’t have much time for facebook or twitter, and use those parts rarely. I think Twitter is rather invasive, and who wants to know what others are doing minute by minute? They should be creating poems, not communicating so much! LOL!

    I rely on email, an occasional letter, phone calls and the blog.

    Thanks for reading, Padmavani.

    Lady Nyo


  3. alee9 Says:

    Exquisite! All of it demonstrates your understanding of the form and essence of tanka. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and your heart. I need to imbibe all that.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Alee….

    well, thank you! I am fumbling around with tanka ,….and wrote much of it two years ago when I didn’t really understand much about the structure and pivot line, etc.

    Now? Well, I have a little bit better understanding and hope I can apply it. I struggle with it so much because freeverse is so instilled in me as it is in many poets….and freeverse can ‘seem’ like tanka where it isn’t. Still a struggle here.

    Thank you so much for reading and leaving such a kind comment. It really encourages me.

    Lady Nyo


  5. moondustwriter Says:

    A myriad of sound and sentiment in these delightful tanka. Thanks for sharing them and for your wonderful words of wisdom about tanka on Monday. Can’t wait until next week

    Thanks from One Stop and me 🙂


  6. Louise Says:

    Wow…The thing I love is the way you make them ‘flow’ something I find quite difficult to achieve. As people have said before me, thank you for sharing your work. 🙂


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Leslie, but you were the one who asked me, and I am thankful back.

    Next week’s posting will be more fun, I think.

    And thank you for reading and leaving such a kind comment!

    Lady Nyo


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Louise!

    Well, thank you, but it is a product of a lot of trial and error when and IF they work.

    I am still mindful of all the tanka I wrote three years ago when I didn’t have a clue as to the formal structure. This pivot line (third line) still bothers me. I have just recently gotten a clue as to what it means to the total poem.

    As for flow, well, that I believe is engendered in that all important third line. Maybe that is what is meant by pivot?

    Thank you for reading and your helpful comment.

    Lady Nyo


  9. Gerry/Strummed Words Says:

    Your poems are soothing and full of peaceful imagery.


  10. poemblaze Says:

    Lovely poems. Your work is a joy.


  11. bkmackenzie Says:

    These are all so delicate like fine china cups each filled with a different fragrant tea…wanting to be sipped and savored….lovely…bkm


  12. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, bkmackenzie,

    That is a lovely imagery you have written. A secret of tanka is it’s ability to be delicate. LOL!

    Thank you for reading and your lovely comment.

    Lady Nyo


  13. ladynyo Says:

    How kind of you, Poemblaze!

    Thank you for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo


  14. marousia Says:

    I love Tanka – these are truly beautiful.


  15. brian miller Says:

    wow each of these is lovely…the cat one made me smile…the next to last one as well, and a little excited smiles…each of these transmits a little different emtion…nicely done.


  16. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Brian. Tanka is such a personal vehicle…and working within the boundaries does make one look for the essence of a poem. It’s an amazing poetry form. I am most interested in what others come up with, because that is the fancy of tanka: it is so broad, and so individual.

    Thank you for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo


  17. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Marousia.

    I am off the read what others have written as tanka. I am already amazed at how fast people are embracing this form…even people who are new to it.

    It’s much better than therapy!

    Lady Nyo


  18. hedgewitch Says:

    Any one of these would be an excellent meal of thought and symbol, together they are a striking yet subtle parade. I enjoyed every one, but i have to say I like the one about your cat and the rose bush best.

    Your piece Monday at One Stop on the history of tanka was extremely interesting and well-presented. I’m working on one for next week, but this is a form that’s very deceptive. Seems simple, but far from it.

    Beautiful work here.


  19. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Hedgewitch!

    I’m so glad to hear from you. And thank you for reading and your thoughtful comment.

    The problem for me with Japanese cultural issues and especially tanka is that I can write forever, and totally lose my audience! It’s that excitement you feel that perhaps goes on and on and isn’t shared by everyone.

    There was so much more detail and depth that I wanted to go into Saigyo, Ono no Komachi, etc. in that presentation, and there just wasn’t room or purpose to do so. But I hope other people will be pushed to do the research for themselves and perhaps this will light a fire under butts. I know it’s a deep rabbit hole this tanka research.

    I know what you mean about something seemingly simple but far from it. That is tanka to a tee!

    I can’t wait to read what you are researching and presenting….I know we will all learn from your hard work. But the reward is in the spreading with enthusiasm!

    my best!

    Lady Nyo


  20. Eric Says:

    Wonderful! There’s nothing quite like capturing the moments when they’re fresh in our minds and hearts. Well done, every one!


  21. kolembo Says:

    I’m enjoying this…so very new to me. I liked ‘Human frailties’ and ‘the moon’ a lot.


  22. Gay Says:

    So far I’ve only written one. Your class was most instructive and I feel drawn to writing this. I love the subtlety of the erotic, the hidden allusions that have breathtaking force. That is what I felt from yours. They seemingly flow so easily from your pen as though you exhaled them onto the page. That I believe is a mark of true accomplished art. I stand in awe. Thank you, Gay @beachanny


  23. ladynyo Says:

    LOL!…Well, Gay, in all modesty, I thank you! However, as you well know yourself through the proficiency of your own art….that it’s a long time coming with a lot of reading and research.

    I wish there was a magic pill that we could drop and our work was ….sublime. But then we would be learning absolutely nothing!

    I am most interested in what other poets are writing as to tanka. Already I have seen tanka I WISH I had written. LOL! That is pure envy.

    And there is this issue…of a distancing of ourselves from something…this nuance, this touching tanka with a feather brush. They are, after all, delicate stuff. Or can be.

    Exhaling them onto the page? I wish, but I love your imagery here.

    Thank you, Gay, for reading and your very instructive comment.

    Lady Nyo


  24. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Kolembo,

    Thanks for reading and your comment. I don’t know about human frailties, except the reference in some of Saigyo’s poems, but the moon is a constant theme in tanka across the ages.

    Lady Nyo


  25. ladynyo Says:

    thank you, Eric.

    Tanka is a great vehicle for immediate reactions to nature, etc.

    thank you for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo


  26. Laura Hegfield Says:

    Jane this one really caught my heart!
    “Human frailties

    wounds that bleed such heated blood

    leave a dry vessel.

    Without the moisture of love

    the clay reverts to the ground.”


  27. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Laura.

    I’m glad you emphasized with that one. It was written at a point in my life where I was in real emotional and physical pain. I got over the physical pain, but the emotional pain was more enduring.

    Tanka, poetry in general, but tanka in particular, can pave the way to recovery.

    Thank you for reading and your comment.



  28. Kavita Says:

    Each tanka was like a deep story in itself… and even when woven together in the masterful way as you have, it makes perfect sense… the tale of sadness, of life, or cyclicity of things… very beautiful indeed..

    Really liked the 3rd tanka a lot!!! It was so full of deep and felt emotion… beautifully conveyed via those few words…


  29. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Kavita….

    You aren’t the first to mention this ‘weave’ of tanka and that was my mistake! LOL!

    Each tanka, though some would relate, were individual poems. I think the problem for many of us is this: in our freeverse, we are used to reading poems with stanzas. Tanka generally stands alone, unless it doesn’t…like a chain tanka, etc.

    So, thank you very much for reading and your lovely comment. I need to make it clearer to readers that THESE tanka are not connected though. However, I do like very much the way you have perceived them.

    Perhaps you (and others) are seeing something in these that I haven’t seen: you see the organic connection, interconnection where I don’t. And perhaps I should.

    Thank you again, Kavita. I learn more about my poetry from others than I do writing it many times!

    Lady Nyo


  30. Shashi Says:

    Dear Lady Nyo

    You are a true master… and your tanka’s are wonderful… I loved all of them but this one I could relate to so much…
    ‘The fire of life

    Is love. No exact measure.

    A whirling dervish

    Hands in opposite display

    Gathers in the miracle.’

    and then when I reached the last one, I could not help but smiling… that my guess of the above to be the best was so wrong.. I loved it very much..
    Some times the soul is not owned up by the wearer and its cast aside to flow just like the weed… and the body/vessel just becomes empty of it… and just like the weed… it too floats in the flow of time, cast aside by the soul… lovely.
    I am happy that you shared such beauties.

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    Twitter @VerseEveryDay


  31. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Shashi!

    I am so glad you stopped by, read these and left such a kind, encouraging comment.

    I am NO master. I think with tanka, and with everything else, it’s a life-time committment to some sort of growth….spiritual, experience, who knows? And tanka should be …or at least to me it seems it should be…a form that simplifies, extracts, refines the essence of our thoughts and practice?

    So many of these tanka came from a period (two years ago) when I was in physical and emotional pain. Perhaps that time simplifies things because you are fighting through your days for life as you knew it? But time and lessons don’t stop and you find yourself changed, whether you want the change or not. Your will is cast aside in these things.

    I like both of those tanka, too. Actually, that last one I composed as I posted those others…lol….it was formerly a haiku and I thought I would extend it. Here, I also gave up my will: I allowed myself to distance myself from the process and just really ‘feel’ what this tanka was saying to me. It had to relate to the top two lines….and then it did.

    Tanka has become two things for me in the forming. Direct observation as with the top two tanka, and then this ‘floating’ as you mention….allowing the innermost sentiments a chance to appear.

    Thank you so much, Shashi, along with everyone else who have read these and have been so kind to write here. I think tanka is actually a door into a deeper experience of poetry.

    Lady Nyo


  32. bluebee Says:

    The imagery in the 7th and the last of these is particularly evocative for me, as well as the deception expressed in the 4th. Wonderfully satisfying poetry, Lady Nyo. bb


  33. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you!

    That is the fun of tanka. They can be quite a varying vehicle for expression.

    Lady Nyo


  34. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Alee9

    Lady Nyo


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