25 Canadian Tanka Poets in French and English

Introduction by Aurora Antonovic

Tanka was introduced to Canada by Japanese-born poets, such as Takeo Nakano who immigrated to Canada in 1920. His work, along with other first-generation Japanese Canadians, appeared in English-translated anthologies, such as Colombo’s The Poets of Canada, 1978, and Maple, 1975. (Tamara J. Palmer and Beverly J. Rasporich, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historical Foundation of Canada.)

Tanka became more popular among Canadian poets in the 1990’s, but it wasn’t until 2005 that Gusts, Canada’s first journal devoted solely to tanka, was formed by Kozue Uzawa.

One of the hallmarks of Canadian tanka is diversity. Just as there is no single type of Canadian, there is not one limited form of Canadian tanka. Free verse tanka, tanka that follows a short/long/short format, tanka that covers a wide range of topics, all find their place in Canadian poetry. We have poets who write tanka solely in French, others who write solely in English, and those who alternate between both languages. We have poets who, in choosing to make Canada their home, bring a richness and personal touch to the form and our culture, such as Takeo Nakano did decades ago. We have “secretly Canadian” poets who maintain their citizenship while writing verse from other lands.

Out of respect to both national languages, the tanka in this feature appear first in the language in which they were written, followed by a translation. All English-to-French translations were graciously supplied by Mike Montreuil and Huguette Ducharme, with the exception of Monika Thoma-Petit’s and Janick Belleau’s poems, which were translated by the authors themselves. All French-to-English translations were translated solely by Mike Montreuil.

On the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill is a quote by award-winning author Gabrielle Roy: « Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts ? » (“Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?”) Indeed, may the reader get a little glimpse into the thoughts of Canadian poets, and Canada itself, through these tanka.


1) Janick Belleau

Feuilles vert tendres
dans l’érable un cardinal
apparait
ta main dans mes cheveaux
chassant mes tristes pensées

leaves of tender green
in the maple a cardinal
appears
your hand in my hair
chasing away my sad thoughts

Revue du Tanka francophone, issue 7, May 2009


2) Claire Bergeron

Le nid du fleuve
appelle les glaces des rives
cri inaudible
le langage des oiseaux
me questionne chaque jour

the river’s nest
calls the ice from the shorelines
inaudible call
the language of birds
questions me every day

Revue du Tanka francophone, issue 7, May 2009


3) Terry Ann Carter

another trip
to the second hand shop
I try not to love
the things
my mother loved

une autre visite
au magasin d’articles d’occasion
j’essaie de ne pas aimer
les choses
que ma mère aimait

Moonbathing Autumn 2009/Winter 2010


4) Susan Constable

all-night solitude
not even the sound of waves
coming in . . .
a memory of footsteps
that never returned

nuit de solitude
pas même le bruit des vagues
me rejoint . . .
le souvenir de ces pas
qui ne sont jamais revenus

Notes from the Gean, issue 3, December 2009


5) Melissa Dixon

shimmering shapes
above the dark hills
northern lights
imagining I feel
magnetic fingers

les formes chatoyantes
de l’aurore boréale
au-dessus des collines sombres
j’imagine sentir
ses doigts magnétiques

Lynx XV:3


6) Jean Dorval

Le temps d’un regard
l’espace qui s’arrondit
mi-soleil mi-lune
deux enfants à la marelle
crayonnent le jour la nuit

with only time for a glance
space rounds itself
half-sun half-moon
two kids at hopscotch
colour the day or the night

Revue du Tanka francophone, issue 7, May 2009


7) Huguette Ducharme

en ce jour d’hiver
mon amour ne parle plus
soins palliatifs
des fumeurs à la sortie
envie de les engueuler

this winter day
my love is silent
palliative care
smokers at the exit
the urge to tell them off

Revue du Tanka francophone, issue 7, May 2009


8) Marje A Dyck

along this street
in early evening darkness
people move
in lit rooms
unaware

noirceur
de cette rue—
les gens se déplacent
dans leurs pièces illuminées
indifférents

MET 12 Summer 2009


9) Laryalee Fraser

mother’s words
click into my sixth decade . . .
so many past sins
curled inside the deepening
colors of autumn

même à soixante ans
les mots de ma mère en tête . . .
tant d’anciens péchés
roulés en boule dans les sombres
couleurs d’automne

Ribbons Volume 1 Number 3 Autumn 2005


10) Angela Leuck

returning to the city
after a two month
retreat—
I rush to embrace
strangers in the subway

de retour en ville
après une retraite
de deux mois
je me précipite pour embrasser
les étrangers dans le métro

red lights, v 6 no 1, January 2010


11) Chen-ou Liu

the same moon
Li Po drank to
the same autumn
Tu Fu wrote of—
I alone change

la même lune
dont Li Po s’abreuvait
le même automne
que décrivait Tu Fu—
moi seul je change

Gusts # 10


12) Carole MacRury

on the gull’s beak
a blood-red spot . . .
my guilt
so long concealed
has become nameless

sur le bec du goéland
une tache rouge—
ma culpabilité
si longtemps cachée
est devenue inexprimable

SIXTY SUNFLOWERS: Tanka Society of America Members’ Anthology for 2006-2007


13) Thelma Mariano

surely too little
in common for things to last—
yet on the river
both big and small chunks of ice
merge in the rush downstream

sûrement pas assez
en commun pour que les choses durent—
mais dans la rivière
les morceaux de glaces petits et gros
descendent ensemble dans le courant

Ribbons volume 2 Number 4


14) Joanne Morcom

crash, bang, boom
goes the midnight thunder
I snuggle closer to you
and then remember
you don’t live here anymore

un coup, bang, boom
le tonnerre de minuit
je me serre contre toi
ayant oublié
que tu ne vis plus ici

Tanka Splendor Awards, 2004


15) Mike Montreuil

August morning—
even the summer rains
cannot stop
the sugar maples
from changing colors

matin d’aout—
même les pluies d’été
ne peuvent empêcher
les érables à sucre
de changer de couleur

MET 11 Spring 2009


16) Patrick Pilarski

shelterbelts
before the storm—
bent
stalks of wheat
in the farmer’s gnarled palm

les brise-vents
avant la tempête—
des tiges de blé
tordues
dans la paume noueuse du fermier

MET 11 Spring 2009


17) Claudia Coutu Radmore

toute la nuit
les huards de l’autre côté du lac
chantent
des choses de ce monde
que nous ne connaîtrons jamais

all night long
loons across the lake
sing of things
we will never know
about the world

Revue du Tanka francophone, issue 7, May 2009


18) Grant D. Savage

a memory—
canoeing on Sharbot lake
the lines
of the skimming swallows
equally on water

un souvenir—
en canot sur le lac Sharbot
les volées
d’hirondelles glissent
également sur l’eau

MET 8 Summer 2008


19) John Soules

amongst
the evening lilacs
a humming bird
hangs suspended
on the fragrance

parmi
les lilas ce soir
un colibri
suspendu
au parfum

Ribbons Volume 5 Number 3 Fall 2009


20) Gerald St Maur

Just out of earshot,
the periodic blinking
of a night airplane,
not quite far enough away
to be as close as the stars

hors de portée de voix,
le clignotement périodique
d’un avion dans la nuit,
pas assez loin
pour être proche comme les étoiles

A well-tempered tellurion, Inkling Press, 2004


21) George Swede

Minus a few photos
all of mother’s albums
went to recycling—
crematorium smoke
rises into rain

sauf quelques photos
tous les albums de ma mère
sont au recyclage—
la fumée du crématorium
monte sous la pluie

Magnapoets issue 4, July 2009


22) Monika Thoma-Petit

women’s retreat
deep down in the woods
arriving at our site
we take off
our watches

retraite de femmes
au fin fond des bois
en arrivant à notre site
nous enlevons
nos montres

GUSTS #5, Spring/Summer 2007


23) dylan tweney

one petal
from the princess tree
clings to the windshield—
I drive away
looking in the mirror

un pétale
de l’arbre impérial
s’accroche au pare-brise
je démarre
en regardant dans le rétroviseur

tiny words


24) Kozue Uzawa
I will buy
a single blue rose
to celebrate
my humble dream
when it comes true

j’achèterai
une seule rose bleue
pour célébrer
mon humble rêve
quand il se réalisera

red lights, v.1, no.2, 2005


25) Michael Dylan Welch

jingle of the dog’s collar
out in the hall—
we pause
in our lovemaking,
Christmas Eve

dans le corridor
e cliquetis du collier du chien
notre pause
en faisant l’amour—
veille de Noël

American Tanka issue 11


Author Bios

Janick Belleau has edited, to date, four collections including Regards de femmes (haiku); L’Érotique poème court/haiku (codirection). Is the author of three Sapphic collections including D’âmes et d’ailes/of souls and wings (French & English tanka); Humeur . . ./Sensibility . . ./Alma . . . (haiku & tanka). Her articles and presentations deal with how women poets have contributed to the advancement of tanka and haiku. Her work appears in Haiku Canada Review; Gusts; GONG; HI.

Claire Bergeron was born in Causapscal, (vallée de la Matapédia ) and has lived in Québec since adolescence. She has been interested in various forms of poetic writings, including tanka, for two years. Her publications include the 2010 Anthologie du Tanka francophone (the 2010 Francophone Tanka Anthology), «Ecris-moi un jardin» (recueil collectif de haïkus), 2009 ( Write Me A Garden, a collection of haiku), 2008-2010 Revue du tanka francophone (Francophone Tanka Review, 2008-2010), and «Mon jardin d’hiver» recueil (poésie brève et haïkus) (My Winter Garden, brief poems and haiku), 2005.

Terry Ann Carter has published tanka in Gusts: The Canadian Journal of Tanka, Modern English Tanka, and Moonbathing: A Tanka Journal for Women. Her haiku have appeared in Frogpond, Heron’s Nest, The Basho Festival Anthology, Simply Haiku, and Bottle Rockets. Terry Ann has participated in international renku at the Basho Festival in Ueno, Japan, and the Tenri Cultural Center in NYC. She is presently working on a Haiku and Related Forms Guide Book for Teens.

Susan Constable has recently added tanka to her publication credits. Her haiku appeared in A New Resonance 6 as well as in the 2008 and 2009 Red Moon Anthologies. She receives much of her inspiration from living on the west coast of Canada.

Melissa Dixon was born a long time ago on the bleak Canadian prairies. For forty years she enjoyed a career as an actor in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto–starting with voice work in radio in the 1940’s, then later moving into stage and television. In between performing ‘gigs’, she wrote articles for newspapers. Now she writes the occasional poem while cherishing her retirement near the ocean on Vancouver Island.

Jean Dorval lives in Quebec City, where he leads writing workshops including the haiku workshop La promenade du regard. Jean is a writer of both lyric and Japanese form poems. In 2009, Entre deux instants, his first tanka collection, was published by les Éditions du Tanka francophone.

Huguette Ducharme’s long time love affair with Japanese poetry forms was made public five years ago. Her poems (haiku and tanka) have been published in French and English. She is the founder and leader of the Groupe Haïku de Saint-Hyacinthe (Quebec).

Marje A. Dyck is a writer and artist from Saskatchewan. She has had her work published in many Canadian and American journals such as Modern English Tanka, Frogpond, Grain, Freefall, Atlas Poetica, and Prairie Fire. Her books include Rectangle of Light and A Piece of the Moon.

Laryalee Fraser lives in the Shuswap region of the BC Interior. Along with poetry, she enjoys gardening, photography and playing with her grandchildren. She has compiled an online haiku anthology: a procession of ripples.

An award-winning Montreal haiku and tanka poet, Angela Leuck has been published in journals and anthologies around the world. She is the author of haiku white and haiku noir (carve, 2007) and Flower Heart (Blue Ginkgo Press, 2006). She also edited Rose Haiku for Flower Lovers and Gardeners (Price-Patterson, 2005), Tulip Haiku (Shoreline, 2004), and, with Maxianne Berger, Sun Through the Blinds: Montreal Haiku Today (Shoreline, 2003). She is the Vice President of Haiku Canada.

Chen-ou Liu is a freelance writer. He lives in Ajax, Ontario, where he has been struggling with a life in transition and translation. Chen-ou has published in numerous journals, and some of his tanka won HM and third place in international tanka contests.

Carole MacRury is a Canadian poet and photographer residing in Point Roberts, Washington. She is affiliated with poetry organizations on both sides of the border and is a board member of the Tanka Society of America. She has been widely published in North American and International journals, and her first book, In the Company of Crows: Haiku and Tanka Between the Tides, was released by Black Cat Press in 2009. Her photographs have been published on the cover of Ribbons and Modern Haiku.

Thelma Mariano lives in Montreal and has published her tanka in literary journals as well as in various anthologies including Fire Pearls (Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart) and Take Five (Best Contemporary Tanka). She is currently working on a novel.

Joanne Morcom is a poet, social worker and certified laughter yoga leader in Calgary, Alberta. Her latest poetry book About the Blue Moon is available from magpie productions in Edmonton, Alberta. Visit her online at www.joannemorcom.com

Mike Montreuil lives in Ottawa, Ontario. Now retired from managing his son’s hockey teams, he is looking for other means of inspiration.

Patrick Pilarski is the author of Huge Blue (Leaf Press, 2009) and the chapbook Five Weeks (2007). His work has appeared in journals and anthologies across North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan, recently including Modern Haiku, Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka (MET Press 2009), and contemporary haibun, vol. 10 (Red Moon Press). He is the co-editor of DailyHaiku, and poetry editor for its new sister publication, DailyHaiga.

Claudia Coutu Radmore is a Montrealer transplanted to Carleton Place, Ontario.Her collection of tanka, Your Hands Discover Me/ Tes mains me découvrent, will be published in May 2010 by Éditions du tanka francophone, Montreal.

Grant D. Savage is a poet, nature photographer and naturalist from Ottawa, Ontario. Published books, Their White with Them, Bondi Studios 2006, The Swan’s Wings 1994, renku with Ruby Spriggs, Groundhog Press, Finding a Breeze 2009, haiku, King’s Road Press.

John Soules lives in Wingham, Ontario where he works, writes and gardens. His haiku and tanka have been published in Canada, USA, England. Austria, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. He recently won first prize in The 5th Kokako Haiku and Senryu Competition.

For over three decades Gerald St. Maur has written extensively in Japanese forms, most notably haiku and tanka. His most recent books are A well-tempered tellurion (tanka) and Seasonings (haiga) both by Inkling Press.

George Swede has published 32 collections of poetry and edited six anthologies. His tanka collection, First Light, First Shadows, won a Snapshot Press Tanka Manuscript Competition and was published in 2006. He is the editor of Frogpond: The Journal of the Haiku Society of America.

Monika Thoma-Petit was born in Neuß, Germany and lives now in Montréal, (Québec, Canada), where she raised her two children and worked as a classroom teacher, translator, freelance writer and educational consultant. She began writing haiku, renku and tanka in 2005, mostly in French and occasionally in German and English. Her poems have appeared in several journals and anthologies, on paper and online. She served as co-editor for the senryu anthology “Le mendiant . . . bronzé“. On her weblog, she experiments with various haiku-related forms.

d. f. tweney was born in Port Arthur, Ontario; raised in Bowling Green, Ohio; and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, two children, and dog. He publishes tinywords, a haiku and micropoetry journal.

Kozue Uzawa is a retired professor, editor of Gusts, and translator of Ferris Wheel & Kaleidoscope: Selected Tanka of Shuji Terayama. She writes tanka in Japanese and English. Ferris Wheel received a translation award from Columbia University (2007).

Michael Dylan Welch came to tanka around 1989 through haiku, and actively included tanka in Woodnotes, which he edited from 1989 to 1997. In 2000, he founded the Tanka Society of America [http://tankasocietyofamerica.com/], serving as its president for five years. In 1996, he also cofounded the American Haiku Archives [http://americanhaikuarchives.org/] at the California State Library in Sacramento, which welcomes tanka books.

© 2010