25 Tanka Poets in Croatian and English

Edited and with an Introduction by Đ. V. Rožić
Although a great ancestor of haiku with a history of over thirteen centuries and giving so much more area to the poet than haiku itself, tanka seems to be in the shadow of haiku (in English) which has gone globally, even before the era of Internet. Tanka never stopped on being typically Japanese poem, and as the centuries pass by, modern themes have been brought into its verses. Until today, tanka remains elegant, beautiful and “soft” feminine poem, very difficult to translate. It is a “closed”, entirely ended poem, for the difference of haiku that remains “open” (masculine) poem. Tanka (doka) can moralize, and tanka can be written as an unforgettable love poem. It may carry variation of sounds . . . And of course, we have kyoka bursting with satire. But still, it appears to me, Western poets are a bit afraid of its deep sensuality and Zen within it.

Concerning the beginnings of haiku poetry in Croatia, academician, dr. sci. Vladimir Devidé (1925—2010) published an essay in haiku magazine Vrabac/Sparrow No. 51-62, Samobor, 2008, under the title of The Beginning of the Original Japanese Poetical Forms in Croatian Literature. There he had written about the first published tanka in Croatia by Radovan Ivšić, in Krugovi (The Circles) in 1953, No. 9, pages 750-752, titled “From the collection TANKE”. Devidé says:

Despite being published in Croatia a full decade before haiku, tanka was widely accepted by the poets two decades after haiku. It was during 1961 that Tonči Petrasov Marović (1934–1991) published his haiku poetry in the journal Mogućnosti (Possibilities), 1961 No. 6, in the city of Split. Next to him is Dubravko Ivančan (1931–1982), born in Krapina near Zagreb, who published his first book of haiku poetry under the title Leptirova krila (Butterfly Wings) in Zagreb in 1964.

In haiku magazine IRIS No. 2, Ivanić Grad, 2008, Dubravko Korbus, haiku and tanka poet and the Kloštar Ivanić selector (haiku and tanka in Croatian), wrote an essay on tanka where he says:

To the Westerners, tanka is the one we should understand more easily out of all other Japanese literature forms. It is longer than haiku and there is enough room for a poet to get playful and paint his verses in many more shades. Its length is good enough for one and sometimes even two turns within the five verses, giving it multilayeredness which is close to our (Westerner’s) understanding of poetry.

All the magazines for Japanese literature forms that were published in Croatia over more than four decades published a number of tanka, (often translated into English). There were Haiku (1977—1981) published in Varaždin, Sparrow/Vrabac, (Croatian Haiku Association, Samobor); Haiku (Society of Croatian Haiku Poets, Zagreb); and so did magazine IRIS, (The “Three Rivers” Haiku Association, Ivanić Grad) with translations to English. In year 2012, the latter as the organizer of the annual Kloštar Ivanić Haiku meetings with the contests, both domestic and international in English, opened a contest for tanka, for the first time in Croatia.

Also, the authors from the territory of ex-Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) may join the haiku and tanka contests in their own languages at Diogen pro cultura magazine (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) at four yearly contests, since spring 2012.


1) Maša Bambić

Večeras misli
predu oko moje
prve lutke–
kristalno čisto rađa se
to davno božićno veče.

Tonight thoughts
spinning around
my first doll—
crystal clear is being born
that ancient Christmas Eve.

Translated by the author.
Haiku No. 21/22. Zagreb, 2004.


2) Jagoda Bešlić

sporo i umorno
teku proljetne vode
iz zimskog sna
ledene i hladne halje
skidaju do kraja

slowly and wearily
flow the spring waters
from their winter dream
their cold and icy gowns
taken off all the way

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić
3rd Prize Diogen pro cultura magazine, spring contest, 2013.
Theme: spring waters


3) Marijan Čekolj

Dugo sam šetao:
do posljednje zvijezde
zimskog neba.
Dugo sam te volio
do posljednje riječi . . .

I walked for a long time:
p to the last star
of the winter sky.
I loved you for a long time
until the last word . . .

Translated by the author.
Vrabac/Sparrow Haiku Magazine, No. 51:2, Samobor, 2008.


4) Božena Filipan

Nebo pahulja
predivom tankim spaja
oblak i zemlju.
Tiho sjedaju pahulje
na opustjele grane.

the heavens full of snowflakes
fine yarns connecting
the clouds and the ground
snowflakes sitting quietly
on the barren boughs

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić & M. Kei.
Haiku, No. 17/18, Zagreb, 2003.


5) Dina Franin

Veliki snijeg
zaleđeno jezero
tužni labudi
hoće li naći nešto
da ubace u kljun?

Very heavy snow
the lake is covered with ice
several sad swans
will they be able to find
something to throw in the bill?

Translated by the author.
Haiku, No. 21/22, Zagreb, 2004.


6) Željko Funda

tu i tamo
malo i veliko kamenje
uz gorski potok
mnogo manja od svih
prazna puževa kućica

here and there
small and big stones
along the mountain brook
smaller than all of them
an empty snail shell

Translated by the author.
Kloštar Ivanić Joint Haiku collection, 2013.


7) Smiljka Gagić

Neprestano kiši:
gdjekad s prozora
jedne kuće
proviri vedro lice
djevojčice . . .

It is raining incessantly:
sometimes from the window
of a house
peeps out a cheerful
girl’s face . . .

Translated by the author
Vrabac/Spaarrow Haiku Magazine, No. 51:62, Samobor, 2008.


8) Ana Habazin

Prosuo si nježnost
satkanu od smiješka
na putu sunčevu.
Obzorom oblaci crni
iz daljine putuju.

You spilled tenderness
adorned with a smile
like the sun.
Black clouds
drift away from the horizon.

Translated by Miroslav Burić & M. Kei.
Vrabac/Sparrow Haiku Magazine, No. 27:30, Samobor, 1999.


9) Radovan Ivšić (1921—2009)

Niz sve potoke
niz vode kroz slapove
niz sve brzice
utekla bi od mene
da znaš koliko te želim!

Down all the brooks
down waters through the waterfalls
down all the streams
you’d run away from me if you knew
how much I long for you

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić.
Krugovi (The Circles), 1953.
Radovan Ivišić: Tanke (collection of poems), 1954.


10) Dubravko Korbus

brzo pada mrak
ledeni vjetar donosi
graktanje vrana
goli prsti jablana
grebu rubove neba

darkness falls quickly
a cold wind brings
crows’ cawing
naked fingers of the poplar
scratching the edges of the sky

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić.
Dubravko Korbus: Chronicles of the Old Scarecrow, 2011. (haiku, senryu, waka in Croatian and English)


11) Ljiljana Lukačević, Croatia

zaleđen trstik
zaleđeno jezero
zaleđen čamac
tragovi u snijegu
nestaju u maglama

frozen reeds
frozen lake
frozen boat
tracks in the snow
disappear in the fogs

Translated by the author.
IRIS haiku magazine, No. 2, Ivanić Grad, 2008.


12) Tomislav Maretić

Ostavivši na
pijesku mnoge tragove,
nekamo odu.
Ljubavnici u ljetnoj
noći nekog doba.

After leaving many
traces in the sand, they
have gone away.
The lovers at some time
of a summer night.

Translated by the author.
Vrabac/Sparrow Haiku magazine, No 5/6, Samobor, 1994.


13) Zlatko Martinko

sušim jabuke
oko toplog dimnjaka
pucketa drvo
na jelovniku mog psa
samo oglodana kost

I’m drying apples
around a warm chimney
crackling logs
on my dog’s menu
only a gnawed bone

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić.
Diogen pro cultura magazine haiku contest, 3rd Prize, Winter 2012


14) Tonči Petrasov Marović (1934—1991)

Sjene vrabaca
sa mnom razgovaraju
krilca, klunovi
čiste pod od mrvica
svakog suvišnog slova.

Shadows of sparrows
talking with me
the wings and the beaks
cleaning the floor of the crumbs
of every needless letter.

Translated by Višnja McMaster.
Vrabac/Sparrow Haiku magazine, No 5/6, Samobor, 1994.


15) Višnja McMaster

U vrtu na brdu
sva bića vode ljubav:
čak se oblaci
nespretno pare, te zatim
bace potomstvo na grad.

In our hill garden
all creatures mate—why, even
the clouds couple
clumsily, and then drop their
issue onto the city.

Translated by the author.
Vrabac/Sparrow Haiku magazine, No 5/6, Samobor, 1994.


16) Marija Pogorilić

cvijet na stolu
po suzama miriše
zgužvani papir
i tek dvije, tri riječi
olovkom napisane

a flower in the vase
with the scent of tears
a crumpled paper
and two, three words
written by a pencil

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić
Kloštar Ivanić Joint Haiku collection, 2013.


17) Ljubomir Radovančević

na pučini
pojave se brodovi
pa nestanu
ja na žalu čekam
za slučaj da se vratiš

open sea
the ships appear and
disappear
I’m waiting on the shore
in case you come back

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić & M. Kei.
Kloštar Ivanić Joint Haiku collection, 2013.


18) Nada Sabadi

Val mi briše
prašinu s imena.
S valovima se igram skrivača
na “kukao” I na “vatalo”
i radosno nestajem.

A wave is wiping
the dust from my name.
Playing a hiding game
with the waves
I joyfully disappear.

Translated by the author.
Vrabac/Sparrow Haiku Magazine, No. 51:62, Samobor, 2008.


19) Robi Selan

kiša sa snijegom
usporedno sa zemljom
cijeli dan
spokojno lice mjeseca
nad nepromijenjenim krajolikom

clouds with snow
the same as the ground
all day
the peaceful face of the Moon
above an unchanged landscape

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić & M. Kei.


20) Sonja Smolec

Život je igra
nadolazećih valova
ovdje je oseka.
Pijesak čuva otiske stopala
zalutalog šetača

life is a game
of oncoming waves
here is the ebb tide
the sand remembers the traces
of a wandering walker

Translated by the author.
IRIS haiku magazine, No. 2. Ivanić Grad, 2008.


21) Zrinka Supek Andrijević

leptir na zidu
krila mu raširena
ticala tanka
nepomična ljepota
kčerkin crtež za mene

a butterfly on the wall
its wings spread
antennas thin
immovable beauty of
my daughter’s drawing for me

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić.
Kloštar Ivanić Joint Haiku collection, 2013.


22) Marinko Španović

Vjetrovi s mora
njišu krošnje platana.
Bolnički park.
U neozdravljeno jutro
ulijeće šareno lišće . . .

Winds from the sea
swinging the crowns of plane-trees.
The hospital park.
Some colorful leaves flying
into the convalescent morning.

Translated by the Marinko Španović & M. Kei.
Vrabac/Sparrow Haiku magazine, No 5/6. Samobor, 1994.


23) Željko Špoljar

u tihi beskraj
jutros se u očima
proteže more
borovi uz obalu
streme dotaći nebo

to infinity
this morning the sea stretches
in my eyes
pines on the shore
strive to touch the sky

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić.
Kloštar Ivanić Joint Haiku collection, 2013.


24) Đermano Vitasović

Diljem sobice
rasprostire darnosti
mala pećica
vani zimotresna stud
nasrće na kapute

a little room,
and spreading its warmth,
a small stove
outside, a shaking cold
attacks the overcoats

Translated by Đ. V. Rožić & M. Kei.
Kloštar Ivanić Joint Haiku collection, 2013.


25) Đurđa Vukelić Rožić

i ove noći
miris crvene ruže
zavodi Mjesec
moje misli žure k tebi
u umirućem snu

this night too
a red rose’s fragrance
seducing the Moon
my thoughts rushing towards you
in my dying dreams

Translated by the author.
IRIS haiku magazine, No. 3, Ivanić Grad, 2008.


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