Dream Alchemy

Edited by Sonam Chhoki
The large number of responses to this special feature has amazed me. My grateful thanks to all the poets who shared their dream-inspired poems. I hope that you will enjoy this selection of tanka, which covers a wide gamut of interpretations of the theme.

1) Jenny Ward Angyal, Gibsonville, North Carolina, USA

a leather-bound book
embossed with the word
thick with the dust of dreams
its pages yet uncut

2) Gavin Austin, Sydney, Australia

she appeared
in a field of tall grass . . .
to prove my love
I let her turn and walk
beyond the horizon

3) Randy Brooks, USA

one by one
library lights off . . .
gently waking the lady
asleep with her face
in a dream

4) Dawn Bruce, Australia

in a dream
I leave the door ajar
you might enter. . .
awake, I find it shut

5) Susan Burch, USA

as a teenager
I dreamt
of running away
as an adult I wonder
why I stayed

6) Matthew Caretti, Malawi

the curve
of the words
on the page
how my dream warps
and fades away

7) Tracy Davidson, Warwickshire, England

broken dreams
I barely recall his face
as it was
before the blast came
and took his smile away

8) Peggy Lin Duthie, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

in a house
she never lived in
my mother scolds me
for failing
to scrub the stove her way

9) Margaret Van Every, Mexico

for years we dreamed
of being old enough
to date, drive and marry
and then we did
now we dream no more

10) Peter Fiore, Mahopac, New York, USA

inside a dream
you return
your hair completely white
I stir the coals
and serve tea

11) LeRoy Gorman, Napanee, Ontario, Canada

a face beaten
beyond recognition
I am thankful
it is only a dream
until I answer the door

12) Autumn Noelle Hall, Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, USA

log cabin stacked
that fire of burning scrolls
glowing green
symbols I only later learn
are alchemical

13) Elizabeth Howard, Arlington, Tennessee, USA

I dream a dream
a quail whistling: “bobwhite, bobwhite”
the covey huddled in the cold
and awake to the scent
of wheat rolls in the morning sheen

14) Vijay Joshi, Monroe Twp., New Jersey, USA

school finals
unable to find
the exams room
always the same dream
always the same dread

15) Julie Bloss Kelsey, Germantown, Maryland, USA

I met him in dreams
of a stone mansion
filled with books —
the little brother
I never had

16) Chen-ou Liu, Ajax, Ontario, Canada

the chill
on the empty side
of my bed . . .
I curl into a dream,
a pair of swans on the lake

17) Martha Magenta, Bristol, UK

long shadows
swallow the light
I walk the Milky Way
in search
of the last firefly

18) Don Miller, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

recurring tornadoes
once twisted through the darkness
of my dreams
in the west it is lions
stalking through an open door

19) Mike Montreuil, Ottawa, Canada

he was here again
the vagrant
inhabiting my dreams
this time he laughed
his face mine

20) Genie Nakano, Gardena, California, USA

bits of memory
become dust in morning light
I awake
from a dream
soon forgotten

21) Patricia Prime, New Zealand

early morning
dream takes me back
to the war years . . .
nightly hordes on the tube platform
or in the air-raid shelters

22) John Quinnett, USA

waking slow
from my dream of you
all morning
I sit by the river
lost in the mist

23) Sylvia Forges-Ryan, USA

First generation
even in my dreams
the ocean’s undertow
pulling me toward
another shore

24) Elizabeth Spencer Spragins, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA

a lone piper dreams
upon the hush that hovers
between earth and sky
ancient stones hold castle keep
against the weight of darkness

~Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

25) Debbie Strange, Canada

we hold hands
as we fall into sleep,
shared dreams
at the confluence
of our fingertips

I thought you might be interested in knowing the background of this tanka. Over the course of 42 years of marriage, my husband and I have shared several instances of what we call “mind melds” while we sleep!


Jenny Ward Angyal has written poetry since the age of five and tanka for about ten years. Her poems have appeared in many journals and may also be found on her blog, The Grass Minstrel. Her tanka collection, moonlight on water (Skylark Publishing), appeared in 2016.

Gavin Austin lives in Sydney, Australia and writes mostly short fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in many Australian and international publications and has been successful in numerous writing competitions. Gavin was the Featured Poet for the January 2016 edition of cattails.

Dr. Randy Brooks is Dean of Arts & Sciences at Milliken University where he teaches courses on publishing, haikai traditions, and tanka writing. He is co-editor of Mayfly magazine and publisher of Brooks Books. He was introduced to modern tanka in 1976 by Dr. Sanford Goldstein and has been writing haiku and tanka ever since. His tanka have been published in several journals and anthologies such as the Ash Moon Anthology, and the Take Five Best Contemporary Tanka for 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Dawn Bruce is an internationally published poet who has had three books published, Stinging the Silence, Tangible Shadows, and Sketching Light. She leads a haiku and tanka group, Ozku, and is a member of a Sydney-based haiku group Red Dragonflies.

Susan Burch is a good egg.

Matthew Caretti began composing short poems in 2009. His work has since appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, vol. 4, Atlas Poetica: Geography and the Creative Imagination, and Atlas Poetica: Urban Tanka. His poems have also garnered a few awards here and there. Matthew now lives in Lesotho, the Kingdom in the Sky.

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

Peggy Lin Duthie lives in Nashville, Tennessee, amid motorcycles, tomato plants, flashcards, and hymns.

Margaret Van Every lives in Mexico near Guadalajara and writes short fiction, traditional poetry, and tanka. She has authored two books of tanka, the bilingual A Pillow Stuffed with Diamonds (2011) and holding hands with a stranger (2014).

Peter Fiore lives and writes in Mahopac, New York, USA. His poems have been published in Atlas Poetica, Bright Stars, American Poetry Review, Rattle, Ribbons, Skylark, A Hundred Gourds, and others. In 2009, Peter published text messages, a book of tanka poetry and in 2015, Peter’s book of tanka prose, flowers to the torch, was published by Keibooks. In the spring of 2017, Peter’s first novella when angels speak of love was published by Loose Moose Press.

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.

For Autumn Noelle Hall, tanka holds memory, emotion, people and place. Like her cabin in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, it is home to husband, daughters, wildflowers and waterfalls, bears and mountain lions and their tracks through the snow. But tanka are also a form of vision quest, a way of holding imagery that allows us to truly see and feel and make sense of our dreaming and waking worlds and our unique place within them.

Elizabeth Howard lives in Arlington, Tennessee. Her tanka have been published in Eucalypt, red lights, Mariposa, Ribbons, Gusts, Atlas Poetica, Skylark, Moonbathing, and other journals.

Vijay Joshi has published poetry books. haibun, tanka, haiku, and free verses, have been published in Atlas Poetica, Haibun Today, US 1 worksheets, and Complementary Haibun.

Julie Bloss Kelsey lives and dreams in suburban Maryland. Her tanka have appeared in Atlas Poetica, Scryptic, Moonbathing, The Bamboo Hut, and hedgerow: a journal of small poems. One day, she hopes to write a children’s book inspired by her dreams.

Chen-ou Liu lives in Ajax, Ontario, Canada. He is the author of five books, including Following the Moon to the Maple Land (First Prize, 2011 Haiku Pix Chapbook Contest) and A Life in Transition and Translation (Honorable Mention, 2014 Turtle Light Press Biennial Haiku Chapbook Competition), His tanka and haiku have been honored with many awards.

Martha Magenta lives in Bristol, England, UK. Her poetry, haiku, haibun, senryu, and tanka have appeared in a number of journals, magazines, and anthologies. She was awarded Honourable Mentions for her haiku in The Fifth Annual Peggy Willis Lyles Haiku Awards, 2017, and in the 71st Basho Memorial English Haiku Contest, 2017, and an Honourable Mention for her tanka in UHTS “Fleeting Words” Tanka Contest 2017.

Don Miller lives in southern New Mexico, USA. He has been writing tanka since the early 1980s, and has had his tanka, tanka sequences, tanka prose, and other short-form poetry published on a somewhat regular basis in various print and online journals since the early 2000s.

Mike Montreuil lives part of the day in Ottawa, Canada, coffee shops.

Genie Nakano is from Gardena, California. She has a Masters in Dance, UCLA. She teaches Tanka and Yoga at Gardena Japanese Cultural Institute and has three books of tanka and haibun available on Amazon.com.

Patricia Prime is a retired early education teacher. She has been published in New Zealand literary magazines and in overseas publications. She is the editor of Kokako and reviews/interviews editor of Takahe. She also writes reviews for other journals. She has self-published several poetry collections and has published collaborative books with other poets.

Born and raised in Southern California John Quinnett has resided in the mountains of western North Carolina since the early 1970s. He was a social worker with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for 22 years. He has been writing short form Asian verse in English for the past 20 years. His work has been published in a variety of journals and anthologies both in the US and abroad.

Sylvia Forges-Ryan is a former editor of Frogpond and the author of two books, Take a Deep Breath (Kodansha, 2002), and What Light There Is, Haiku, Senryu, and Tanka (Red Moon Press, 2016). Both books have been selected for inclusion in the Beinecke Library at Yale University. What Light There Is received an Honorable Mention for Distinguished Books of 2016 from the Haiku Foundation.

Elizabeth Spencer Spragins is a poet and editor who taught in community colleges for more than a decade. Her tanka and bardic verse in the Celtic style have been published in England, Scotland, Canada, Indonesia, and the United States. Shades and Shadows, a collection of her bardic poetry, is scheduled for release in winter 2017. Publication updates are available on her website: www.authorsden.com/elizabethspragins. She lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA.

Debbie Strange (Winnipeg, Canada) is an award-winning short form poet, photographer and haiga artist. She is the author of Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads (Keibooks 2015) and the collection, Three-Part Harmony: Tanka Verses. Every tanka she writes brings her closer to the world and to herself. You are invited to visit a publication archive at http://www.debbiemstrange.blogspot.ca.

Sonam Chhoki finds the Japanese short form poetry resonates with her Tibetan Buddhist upbringing. She is inspired by her father, Sonam Gyamtsho, the architect of Bhutan’s non-monastic modern education and by her mother, Chhoden Jangmu, who taught her: “Being a girl doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.” She is the principal editor, and co-editor of haibun for the United Haiku and Tanka Society journal, cattails.

© 2018