Poems of tanka form but not tanka.



So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.



The truth of longing

Has nothing of nice logic.

A matter of hearts

So uneven, exciting!

But most painful, nonetheless.



The moon floats on wisps

Of clouds extending outward

Tendrils of white fire

Blanketing the universe

Gauzy ghosts of nothingness.


When nature is known
Reason for awe can be found
In familiar sights.
Intimacy at the core—
Astounding revelation!



Human frailties

wounds that bleed such heated blood

leave a dry vessel.

Without the moisture of love

the clay reverts to the ground.

I can no longer
tell my dreams from fantasy.
Which world shall I wake?
Will it be within your arms,
bewildered by last night’s lust?

The act of writing
is a powerful gesture.
Women who write poems
weave tapestries of wisdom
and form up lives that endure.

This is the problem!
Never give your precious life
into a man’s hand.
Plant your roots in deep water.
Don’t let sweet whispers seduce.

In the beginning
I offered my heart to you.
You held it lightly.
Unseen, it fell in the dirt,
made bitter by its journey.


In my heart’s black depth

I kept our secret smothered

although today I suffered

the usual pangs

needing to hear it aloud.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017




Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016

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7 Responses to “Poems of tanka form but not tanka.”

  1. kanzensakura Says:

    I like how you distinguish between tanka and poems that use the tanka form. Most people do not even know the difference. The one that begins “the act of writing…” such a wise little poem! And so very true.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Well, I knew YOU would know the difference! LOL! And it took me years to learn this. Actually Jane Hirshfield was sent a collection of my early tanka (by a lawyer who can’t write shit…) and she replied: “Good start but not tanka yet.”

    LOL! Live and learn, but the point is Learn. And this is what most people, especially who write haiku …don’t. Anything goes with them. I don’t think dverse has had a tanka or haiku challenge? You would know better than I, but so it goes.

    I’ve written lots of ‘proper’ tanka, but right now I am starting to read (again) “The Ink Dark Moon”. There is a world of wealth on this literature in there.

    Thanks, Toni for reading and your comment.


  3. kanzensakura Says:

    Yeppers. We had, back in the day when we had such things a discussion about haiku vs. not haiku and another on tanka, written by moi. And the thing is just as Basho said when he said learn the rules then forget about them. My interpretation is to learn them so well, you do them automatically without thinking – not just forget the rules and write any old thing.


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Yes, I thought that a strange interpretation of Basho’s statement. Of course, people DON”T learn the rules.

    And yes, they should be so automatic that they are second nature. I remember when I was learning tanka, I would walk (this was in the fall, not the summer and mosquitoes (a kigo word indeed for summer…lol) and I would count off on my fingers, 5/7/5…etc….and form tanka around that . LOL! I didn’t know about kigo, etc…pivot line, top or bottom….I was just determined to get the word structure in there. LOL! There is so much more…the aesthetics….aware, wabi sabi, etc…and my favorite: yugen. LOL!

    People don’t learn the rules or the aesthetics behind them, the Japanese part of the verse…and yes, just write any old thing. It’s a shame because there is so much beauty in doing it properly. you accomplish something that is a treasure when you do it right.


  5. ladynyo Says:

    I posted that chapter 31 for you….because you would know of kappa…or is it kappi?? LOL! Interesting little yokai….nasty things indeed.


  6. kanzensakura Says:

    Wow. Thank you for those encouraging words. I work and try so hard!


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Yes, you do. I wish we could spend some time together and talk about Japanese literature. I’ve only studied it for 10 years and you 40, but it’s really a life time project. I am reading “The Ink Dark Moon” right now, for the second time….marvelous book. this should be required reading for anyone interested in this literature. Thanks, Toni. Always.

    Figured you would know of kappa. LOL! interesting little buggers, neh?


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