25 Science Fiction Tanka and Kyoka

Edited by Julie Bloss Kelsey and Susan Burch
Short-form science fiction poetry is largely uncharted space. Even in the universe of short poems, science fiction haiku — known as scifaiku — have received more attention than science fiction tanka. To even the playing field, we have selected 25 tanka and kyoka that explore the combination of science fiction and tanka. Some of these are more sci-fi than others, and others are more tanka-like. We selected what we think is an interesting mix of this hybrid form with some thought-provoking ideas. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did.

1) Mel Goldberg

I move toward
new galaxies
shedding old words
like pieces of clothing
that I no longer need

2) Patricia Prime

a flying saucer
crash-landed in a field
in America
somewhere in a locked vault
the remains of aliens

3) Marilyn Humbert

my every night
haunted by dreams
of Mars . . .
the boatman’s solo song
as he steers the dry canal

4) Lisa Timpf

on the ship from Earth
a parcel from her parents —
such charming baby clothes . . .
too bad their daughter
just turned three

5) Michael H. Lester

gigantic moths
from an unknown exoplanet
invade the Earth . . .
immune to the smell of cedar
they devour all human clothing

6) Joy McCall

at the farm gate
the slaughterhouse truck
comes to a halt
a dozen pink piglets
take to the sky

7) Randy Brooks

folds of skin
a whale’s eye
I have no names
for these constellations

8) Patricia Larash

blue-fingered dawn
reaches over biodome park —
nanobot pollinators
flit, harvest, dance
in one-third g

9) Carol Raisfeld

meeting again
on the morning shuttle
to Mars . . .
I feel his telepathy
pushing for entrance

10) Norman Darlington

spring deepens —
within its swollen belly
a planet rumbles,
ready to cut
the third moon’s birth cord

11) Tracy Davidson

through the black hole
another Earth
another me
how it is possible
to screw oneself

12) F. J. Bergmann

fifty years later
revisiting our honeymoon
on Enceladus
the exploded fragments
of her ice sled still glitter

13) Samantha Sirimanne Hyde

espionage . . .
breaking galactic laws
I’m teleported
to a hostile colony
of giant blow flies

14) Aalix Roake

10 times
I slipped a timeline —
each change
a drastically different life
with a brand new wife

15) Joanne Morcom
I’m at ease
in a clever disguise . . .
no one suspects
a quiet librarian
of being the invader

16) Autumn Noelle Hall

that spark of recognition
when we hook up
for the first time
a synching feeling
it’s just our implants

17) Joe Witt

the old space cowboy
grabs the comet by the tail
whirling it, he writes
I love you to his wife
then flings it to the stars

18) Charles Harmon

face the bitter truth
a robot will do your job
better than you can
as this android-written poem
so clearly demonstrates

19) Joshua Gage

diet nanobots
eating away her fat
and muscle —
her papery skin
taut between her ribs

20) D.A. Xiaolin Spires

hive minds —
déjà vu
twelve times
a second

21) Marietta McGregor

holiday mood
at the clone lab
bits and pieces
for the party

22) Jennifer Hambrick

the little girl stopped
drawing circles all over
the dry-erase board
then erased the board
then erased herself

23) Lorne Henry

a tickle
in my bamboo socks
I feel
a baby panda
licking my toes

24) Elizabeth Moura

our kid asks
are we there yet
my wife turns
one of her heads
and eats him

25) LeRoy Gorman

as if
we didn’t know
this day would come
no Earth
on the departures screen


Mel Goldberg taught literature and writing in California, Illinois, Arizona and as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher in Cambridgeshire, England. He and his wife sold most of their possessions and traveled in a small motor home for seven years throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. They live in Mexico.

Patricia Prime writes poetry, reviews, articles and Japanese forms of poetry from her home in Auckland, New Zealand. She has self-published several collections of poetry and a book of collaborative tanka sequences and haibun, Shizuka, with French poet, Giselle Maya. Patricia co-edits Kokako and is reviews/interviews editor of Haibun Today, is on the editorial staff of Gusts, and is a reviewer for Atlas Poetica, Takahe, Metverse Muse, and Poets International.

Marilyn Humbert lives in the Northern suburbs of Sydney NSW Australia. Her pastimes include writing free verse, tanka, and haiku. Her tanka and haiku appear in international and Australian journals, anthologies and online. Some of her free verse poems have been awarded prizes in competitions and some have been published.

Lisa Timpf is a freelance writer who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in Star*Line, Eye to the Telescope, Liquid Imagination, Grievous Angel, and Scifaikuest.

Michael H. Lester is a CPA and attorney practicing business management for the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, California. His haiku, tanka, cherita, haibun, and tanka prose have appeared in numerous journals. Michael received an honorable mention in TSA’s 2017 Sanford Goldstein Tanka Contest, is the author of a book of poetry, Notes from a Commode – Volume I, and is a co-founder of the cherita: your storybook journal.

Joy McCall is a paraplegic amputee following a motorcycle crash. Her kinfolk, friends, nature, love, and poetry keep her sane. She spent much of her life in the States and Canada but now lives in Norwich, England, where she was born a year before the last bombs fell. Many books of her tanka are published, probably too many.

Dr. Randy M. Brooks is the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Professor of English at Millikin University. He teaches courses on haiku and tanka at Millikin. He and his wife, Shirley Brooks, are co-editors and publishers of Brooks Books, and edit Mayfly haiku magazine.

Patricia Larash teaches classics in and around Boston and writes short prose and verse pieces. She lives in Roslindale, Massachusetts, USA.

Carol Raisfeld lives in Atlantic Beach, New York, US. Her poetry, art and photography appear worldwide in print, online journals and anthologies. Website: www.Haikubuds.com. Twitter: @carol_red.

Hooked on haikai since reading Nobuyuki Yuasa on Basho’s “Old pond” hokku in the 1980s, Norman Darlington has gravitated towards Basho’s favoured form, collaborative linked verse (renku), and spent several years as renku editor at various publications, including Simply Haiku, Moonset, and The Journal of Renga & Renku. He lives between the mountains and the sea in Ireland’s rural southeast.

Tracy Davidson lives in Warwickshire, England, and enjoys writing poetry and flash fiction. Her work has appeared in various publications and anthologies, including: Poet’s Market, Mslexia, Atlas Poetica, Writing Magazine, Modern Haiku, The Binnacle, A Hundred Gourds, Shooter, Journey to Crone, The Great Gatsby Anthology, WAR, and In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights.

F. J. Bergmann, of Madison, Wisconsin, edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com) and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. Work appears irregularly in Analog, Asimov’s, Polu Texni, Pulp Literature, Silver Blade, and elsewhere. A Catalogue of the Further Suns, a collection of dystopian first-contact reports, won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest. Drop in for a visit at fibitz.com.

Samantha Sirimanne Hyde was born in Sri Lanka and now lives in Australia. She is grateful to have crossed paths with the exquisite world of haiku, tanka and other Japanese poetry forms.

Aalix Roake was born in America, but has made her home in New Zealand for 16 years, now in Christchurch, Canterbury where she creates and communicates pictures and feelings, mostly in words, sometimes in paint. Her work is influenced in both spheres by the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. Her passion is Japanese short forms which have been published widely in journals such as Modern Haiku, The Heron’s Nest and many others and have placed in numerous contests.

Joanne Morcom is a social worker and poet in Calgary, Alberta. She’s published four haiku and tanka collections, and contributes to haiku and tanka journals and anthologies. She was a recent guest editor for an Atlas Poetica special feature.

If our attempts to communicate with fellow earthlings are any indication, we humans may not be quite ready for First Contact. Still, it’s fun to dream —and even more creatively delicious to imagine and write —about such possibilities. Autumn Noelle Hall, who hails from Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, approaches poetry with the same attitude she does food, “I’ll try anything once.” Even if it’s fermented ten-tentacled squidorpians from the planet Q’u.

Joe Witt resides in Altadena, California, with his wife, Roz, and their two cats, ShadieLadie and Mouse. They have one son, two grandsons and two step grandchildren, who keep them busy. Retired from JPL in 2002, he is currently learning to kiteboard. He is in Mira Mataric’s creative writing class at the Pasadena Sr. Center and has had a tanka, a haiku and three free verse poems published.

Charles Harmon, science teacher, lives and works in Los Angeles, California, USA, and enjoys cooking for his wife and three children. Charles has spent more than five years overseas in over sixty countries traveling, travailing, learning, and loving . . .

Joshua Gage is an ornery curmudgeon from Cleveland. He is the author of five collections of poetry. His newest chapbook, Necromancy, is available on Locofo Chaps from Moria Press. He is a graduate of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He has a penchant for Pendleton shirts and any poem strong enough to yank the breath out of his lungs.

D. A. Xiaolin Spires counts stars and sand, currently residing in Hawai’i. You can find her embarking on olfactorial odysseys as she inhales plumeria blossoms. Her work appears or is forthcoming in publications such as Atlas Poetica, Clarkesworld, Analog, Grievous Angel, Retro Future, Reckoning, LONTAR, Star*Line, Eye to the Telescope, Liminality, Gathering Storm Magazine, and Story Seed Vault; as well as various anthologies. She can be found on her website daxiaolinspires.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @spireswriter.

Marietta McGregor is a Tasmanian botanist and journalist who lives with her family in Canberra, Australia. Her haiku, haibun and tanka appear in international journals and anthologies, and her haiga have featured on Japanese television. She has gained awards in Japan, Britain, Ireland, Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. She belongs to the Australian and British Haiku Societies and the Haiku Society of America.

A Pushcart Prize nominee, Jennifer Hambrick is the author of Unscathed (NightBallet Press), nominated for the Ohioana Book Award. She has received numerous awards for her work, which has appeared in the Santa Clara Review, The American Journal of Poetry, The Main Street Rag, Modern Haiku, The Asahi Shimbun, The Mainichi, on NHK World TV, and elsewhere. Jennifer Hambrick is a classical musician and broadcaster in Columbus, Ohio, USA. Blog: Inner Voices, at jenniferhambrick.com.

Lorne Henry has been writing haiku since 1992 and tanka from early 2000s. She also writes tanka prose and haibun. She lives in New South Wales Australia.

Elizabeth Moura lives in a converted factory in East Taunton, Massachusetts, and works with elders in a small town. She has had poetry, flash fiction or photographs published in several publications including The Heron’s Nest, Chrysanthemum, Atlas Poetica, Ardea, Presence, Shamrock, Paragraph Planet, and Flash Fiction Magazine.

LeRoy Gorman lives in Napanee, Ontario. His poetry, much of it minimalist and visual, has appeared in publications and exhibitions worldwide. He is the author of two dozen poetry books and chapbooks. He is also the winner of the 2017 Dwarf Stars Award.

Julie Bloss Kelsey and Susan Burch met at a regional Haiku Society of America meeting in 2014 and bonded over their love of short-form poetry. Their friendship led them to drive from Maryland to New York to attend Haiku North America in 2015. Since Julie loves scifaiku and Susan loves tanka, this collaboration was inevitable.

© 2018