Saturday, May 17, 2008

May Poetry Prompt 1 - Image and Statement

Some of you will know that I am the new haibun* editor at Simply Haiku, an online Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry, and in honour of the latest issue this prompt will ask you to work with a minimum amount of words, and a limited amount of poetic tools.

The following poem is a tanka by Dave Bacharach**:

empty flower pots
stacked upside down
inside each other
we wonder why
the kids don’t call

Tanka traditionally have five lines with some kind of ‘break’ in the poem, often around the middle. They don’t have titles, and adopt a similar approach in their construction to haiku, in that the economy of the form demands that every word counts.

What I admire about this tanka is how the image in the first three lines, sets us up for the statement in the last two. The relationship between empty flower pots and wondering ‘why the kids don’t call’ is not explicit, but the poem immediately feels right to me. When I go back and unpick the image to find out why, I note:

1. the flower pots that presumably once held flowers make me think of the home and the children who used to live there
2. 'upside down’ is not the way a flower pot is meant to function, so something isn’t quite right here, or maybe it’s not the season for flowers now
3. there’s both a sadness and an intimacy suggested by the pots being ‘empty’ and stacked ‘inside each other’

I’m sure there are other observations to be extracted from this short poem too, and feel free to post your responses in the comments box.

While I‘m not going to ask you to write a tanka, as there’s far more that needs to be said about the particularities and possibilities of the form, I am going to challenge you to write a five line poem, some of which might end up being tanka:

Write an untitled, five line poem with each line being no longer than 5 words:
The first three lines should contain an expanded image.
The last two lines should contain a statement.
And it goes without saying that each part needs to inform the other.

Bon courage… as people keep saying to us here when they see how much work we have to do on the house!

*Haibun is a form that combines prose and haiku, with each part being autonomous, yet informing each other at the same time.

**Dave Bacharach is editor of Ribbons, a quarterly journal and the official publication of the Tanka Society of America


John Kenny said...

Lilac lifted,
sweetly scenting
the breath of spring.
Can a heart
be more heavy?

Lynne Rees said...

Hello John - great to see you here. And I really like the juxtaposition in this.

Best wishes

John Kenny said...

Hi Lynne, was looking to see if you were still doing classes and came across this blog. It is excellent.

Beth said...

Paintings on my wall. Seagulls

rising, falling, wheeling. Finding Freedom

in Mother natures’ streamlined plan.

The artists’ hand gracefully gives

what can only be dreamed.

Leila said...

evening scented stocks
the air is stilled, love rises
city and country
skyscraper over treetop
stars mingle with each in breath

Sharra said...

a gold locket
is unearthed
with my potatoes
the evening breeze
kisses my neck.

Anonymous said...

at the playground
that long black feather
raven or crow?
I take it along with me
for our adult games

Monika Thoma-Petit

Mary Rose said...

she mews is allowed in
jumps on her chair
my sometime visitor
asks only company not food
lives wild disappears for days.

An attempt at a tanka
Mary Rose

Lynne Rees said...

Thanks for posting, everyone. It's amazing what can be packed into 5 short lines, isn't it?

charlotte segaller said...

a roofless house half-built
viewed from here above
inside and outside at once
i wonder if I’ll
ever feel safe again

Lynne Rees said...

Hello Charlotte, and thanks for posting on AppleHouse. I look forward to reading more of your work.

charlotte segaller said...

Thanks Lynne. I'm a complete beginner at poetry writing. Are there any books you can recommend to get me started?

Lynne Rees said...

Yes, of course. There's a small list of 'Books for Poets' in the sidebar on the right hand side of the blog. I've just moved it further up to the top. Have a look at them on Amazon and see what you think - a mix of practical, inspirational and anthology. If you're after anything specific then let me know. You can email me at

Jen K said...

In a city park
a baby reaches for
a purple balloon.
His grandmother captures
her new screensaver.