“Autumn Tanka”…..Tanka for the morning.

 Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2007

Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2007

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

The fat mountain deer listen-

Add their bellowing sorrow.

"North Carolina Stream", watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

“North Carolina Stream”, watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

It is just the beginning of the Autumn season here in the South.  Only the temps would tell of this seasonal change, but there is something definitely different.  Just a few short weeks ago, we had full-on summer, but now?

The smell of wood smoke, the crackle of fallen leaves, but still little color  in Atlanta. The dogwoods are a blaze and some other trees, like sumac, but these huge oaks and pecans that surround our house and street are hanging on for dear life.  Our red maple is still green with only a few outside branches in red and rust display.

Tanka is my favorite poetry form of all.  It’s something I fell into about 8 years ago, and wrote a lot of it before I actually began a study of the inner guts of this ancient form. There are definite classical rules that one should learn before one dismisses these things. I need to go back to this study because I’ve forgotten a lot.  It is unfortunate that many poets think they are writing tanka but they are just writing freeverse and dare to call it tanka.  I did this, too, but am trying not to do this now.  I find tanka the best medium for observation, expression and sentiment.  Being  allowed only 31 syllables culls a lot of verbosity and that can be only to the good for poetry.

And…..tanka takes your mind to a very different level. It’s not just a simplification, a clarification in the verse but something that instills a sense of  peace and satisfaction.  Worth plumbing the depths of this ancient form.

Lady Nyo

Autumn Tanka


I look up at blue

Sky this morning, watch leaves fall-

Whirling, colored tears.

Clip my face like dull razors,

The stroking of memory.

Is the whistling

Of the wind- a train, a plane?

Nature plays fiddle

And our senses are confused.

We dwell in chicanery!

Shooting star crosses

Upended bowl of blue night


Fires up with excited gaze!

A moment– and all is gone.

This grim November,

The month of my father’s death

Always bittersweet.

My memories float, weak ghosts-

Haunting in the fog of life.


So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.


A late Summer moon

Floats above the conifers.

Autumn is coming.

Do pines know the season turns?

Their leaves don’t fall; do they care?


Come into my arms.

Bury under the warm quilt.

Your scent makes me drunk

Like the wine we gulped last night.

Too much lust and drink to think.

When Autumn enters

Inexplicable sadness.

Season fades to death.

Hunter’s moon sits in Heaven–

Garden spiders finish, die.

Out with the gold fish,

The bullfrogs croak their sorrow.

Summer is passing

Autumn brings sharp, brittle winds

But Winter is the cruelest.

Like the lithe bowing

Of a red maple sapling

My heart turns to you,

Yearns for those nights long ago

When pale skin challenged the moon.

Overhead, the cranes,

Sandhills, swirl in board circles.

Broken GPS?

No matter, their cries fall down

Celestial chiding rain.

To end this  with a simple poem, not a tanka.


Autumn night winds

Hiss over the land

Round corners

And pulse under eaves.

Clashing wind chimes add sharp discord

As bare branches answer with a grating groan.

Above all,

The moon casts a feeble light

Too thin to fatten the road. 

(this poem from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by Lulu.com, 2011)

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2014


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4 Responses to ““Autumn Tanka”…..Tanka for the morning.”

  1. TR Says:

    Beautiful, perfect for this time of year. I love reading and re-reading your poems. xxTR


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi TR! Am grateful for your reading and comments. Always.

    I am settling down right now with Ruth Benedict’s “Chrysanthemum and the Sword” , her incredible study of Japanese culture that she was asked to sum up for the US Govt. during WWII. It is an amazing document. It goes into the heritage caste system in Japan, very different from India and Europe…but something I had not been aware of in it’s depth and scope. It is packed with information on a culture that remains a mystery to the general public.

    I have come to believe through my short experience, that in able to understand the poetry forms, the literary forms of a culture, you must study that culture beyond it’s books. The Japanese culture is layered, complex and if I can say so….alien to most of us still. The ‘giri’ system is alien to our senses in the West.

    Hugs, Jane


  3. TR Says:

    That is so fascinating, I love how you bring this to your poetry. xx


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi TR….first, thank you for reading and commenting.

    I am just beginning to get back into tanka. I think it’s the change of weather and what you said: what might be around the corner. I don’t believe in muses, etc….but the change of seasons gives me a new kick on life and observations. Tanka seems to be the best medium for me….a directness, a concentration of thoughts and emotions, and it’s a very personal medium that can benefit so many writers and poets. I think it has helped clarify my own voice in poetry, and I am thankful for that. I have read lots poetic works, mostly English, Irish and some Hungarian, but nothing thrills my heart and head like tanka forms. So….

    I’m going to settle down once again, and read as much as I can about historical tanka…and then modern tanka, and apply my hand to this form. I have settled down to teach myself sumi-e painting, and this puts me into the mind of tanka. There are great parallels between this form of painting and tanka.

    Thank you, again!

    Hugs, Jane


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