Snipe Rising from a Marsh

Edited and with an Introduction by Rodney Williams

even someone
free of passion as myself
feels sorrow:
snipe rising from a marsh
at evening in autumn


(my own rendering)

As a priest, the Japanese master poet Saigyo—having vowed to forsake emotion—still could not help but feel melancholic at the sight of waterbirds departing from a wetland, with the cold and dark of night-time, and then winter, both approaching . . .

As readers of Snipe Rising from a Marsh, hopefully you will be compelled by further encounters between acute human observers, and particular species of birds, in specific environments.

A sense of location has been incorporated into some tanka more explicitly than others. Certain birds featured might be rare; others, commonplace. Several will be birds of lake and beach and sea, compared to those of garden or field or forest—some will be birds of night, not day.

An early submission predicted that I would receive many poems about herons, crows and sparrows—this proved correct on all three counts. While keeping poetic merit at the forefront, I have considered other on-balance factors during selection, including a wish to represent as broad a variety of birds as possible. A range of worthy pieces ending up with no roost here depicted the chickadee, the hummingbird, the loon, and the cedar waxwing, plus various forms of jays, cardinals, and woodpeckers, all from North America, along with pelicans and eagles worldwide, not to forget Australian parrots, especially the rainbow lorikeet and the crimson rosella.

I readily acknowledge that one poem included below does focus upon goosanders, while another portrays a merganser, whereas these are simply different titles given to the same species of duck in Europe and North America respectively. Those tanka—by Matthew Paul and Susan Constable—each resonates for me so strongly that neither could be excluded. In this context, I was intrigued to learn that the Nutmeg Pigeon (as addressed by Australian poet David Terelinck) goes by various names, both in common form and even zoologically. While some correspondents questioned the need for scientific names, this approach was vindicated when a bird was misidentified as representing a species which had become extinct a century ago!

One contributor—Zofia Barisis—embodies the international spirit of this project. Raised in Canada, by Lithuanian parents, she now lives in Mexico. While her tanka still conveys warmth and humour in acknowledging that wild birds can be treated as prey by humans, other poets cannot overlook the fact that birds are often predators and scavengers themselves.

In evoking specific birds in particular places, various contributors re-assessed themselves or their relationships. Some writers have not only felt stirred musically or emotionally by the songs produced by birds—they have even been prompted to question their own sense of voice as poets.

My appreciation goes out to all who have supported this endeavour, starting—most of all—with M. Kei for giving me this opportunity. As you will see, his own poem here regards the song of the American wood thrush wistfully, as a symbol of freedom. By chance, another contributor—Carol Raisfeld—endorsed such a view, offering a quotation from Henry David Thoreau that also celebrates this bird as an embodiment of liberty:

Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.

By contrast, Rosa Clement portrays another thrush—the sabiá (Brazil’s national bird)—as singing in a cage. The capacity of birds to fly free has prompted further poets to reflect on war.

Perhaps it is this sense of dialogue between birds and places, people and moods, symbols and conflicts, which has come to form the wing-beat of this sequence.

Beverley George—a great mentor to tanka poets in my home country of Australia, as well as abroad—has actively encouraged those in her network to make submissions here. Just as Beverley’s own poem opens proceedings by referring to a field-guide, so have others made astute use of well-thumbed authorities on bird-spotting, along with binoculars and telephoto lenses.

I am grateful to Amelia Fielden, Patricia Prime, Cynthia Rowe, and Miriam Sagan for also promoting this Special Feature, as well as to John Barlow and Sanford Goldstein, each for his spirit of affirmation. My wife Meg Long and friend Jo McInerney have both given valuable feedback, yet any editorial failings are mine alone . . .

My deepest gratitude goes to the 65 poets, from 10 countries, across 5 continents, who submitted over 250 tanka to Snipe Rising from a Marsh. With only 25 places available—according to Atlas Poetica guidelines—the need to omit some very fine poems has been challenging . . . at times, heart-breaking.

In joining in “searching a map of the globe” (along with our final poet, Oprica Padeanu from Romania), may fellow lovers of birds and tanka be engaged and provoked. Like Saigyo himself, may you even feel unexpectedly moved . . .

Rodney Williams, Editor

1) Beverley George, Pearl Beach, New South Wales, Australia

he perches behind me
on my deck chair and peers . . .
his head tilt confirms
the grey butcherbird I’ve found
in my field guide, is he

Grey Butcherbird: Cracticus Torquatus
Pearl Beach, New South Wales, Australia

2) Carol Raisfeld, Atlantic Beach, New York, USA

in a field, so close
to the bobolink
I’m taken beyond the lens
beyond words, beyond myself

Bobolink: Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Somerset, New Jersey, USA

3) M. Kei, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA

wood thrush
outside this prison window,
stay a bit longer
so that my soul
may know freedom

Wood Thrush: Hylocichla mustelina
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, USA

4) Rosa Clement, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil

the sabiá
sings in its cage
I wonder
if it used words
what its song would say?

Sabiá (Rufous-bellied Thrush): Turdus rufiventris
Neighbor’s house, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil

5) Jenny Ward Angyal, Windy Knoll Farm, Gibsonville, North Carolina, USA

listening all night
to the mockingbird sing
borrowed tunes
I wonder which
voice is mine

Northern Mockingbird: Mimus polyglottos
Windy Knoll Farm, Gibsonville, North Carolina, USA

6) Gary Severance, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA

jazz brush on cymbals
warm rain splashing palmettos
the great horned owl croons
a short blue note rising
a long bass note falling

Great Horned Owl: Bubo virginanus
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA

7) Patricia Prime, Te Atatu South, Auckland, New Zealand

far from light
the unseen faces
in sleeping bags
and the comical kea
sliding down the tent’s roof

Kea: Nestor notabilis
Southern Alps, South Island, New Zealand

8) Sanford Goldstein, Itayama Village, Shibata City, Japan

over the golden
fields of rice in the early
September morning,
the rise of two white egrets,
their long legs slanted diagonal

Great White Egret: Egretta alba
Itayama Village, Shibata City, Japan

9) Matthew Paul, London, England

the sunlit chalkstream
slaps around the arches
of the old stone bridge
all afternoon I watch
goosanders at their work

Goosander: Mergus merganser
River Mole, Leatherhead, Surrey, England

10) Kirsty Karkow, Maine, USA

almost hidden
in tall swamp grasses
a heron
solitary, grand,
watching the world of fish

Great Blue Heron: Ardea herodias
The Geele Swamp, Waldoboro, Maine, USA

11) Owen Bullock, Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

a juvenile
black-backed gull
pecks at
a dead blue penguin—
the ocean roars

Black-backed Gull [Karoro]: Larus dominicanus
Waihi Beach, North Island, New Zealand

12) André Surridge, Hamilton, North Island, New Zealand

a New Zealand falcon
at arm’s length
on a gloved hand
its eyes dark as death

New Zealand Falcon [Karearea]: Falco novaeseelandiae
Wingspan: Birds of Prey Trust, Paradise Valley Road, Ngongotaha, Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand

13) Zofia Barisas, Jocotepec, Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico

dinner at the farm
a gun leans against the kitchen wall—
pigeons baked with apples
aunts, uncles, cousins chew slowly
feeling for pellets

Mourning Dove: Zenaida macroura
Saint-Paul de Joliette, Quebec, Canada

14) Gerry Jacobson, Canberra, ACT, Australia

dry country
heat shimmers
wind whispers . . .
faint croak of ravens
faint smell of smoke

Australian Raven: Corvus coronoides
Yass, New South Wales, Australia

15) Kate King, Canberra, ACT, Australia

a shakuhachi
guides our brush-strokes
in the garden
wrens flit from bamboo
to chrysanthemum

Superb Fairy-wren: Malurus cyaneus
Brush painting master’s garden, Lyons, ACT, Australia

16) David Terelinck, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

north of the Daintree
summer mists hang thickly
on the mountains . . .
a scudding cloud is suddenly
a flock of nutmeg pigeons

Nutmeg Pigeon (Torres Strait Pigeon/Torresian Imperial Pigeon): Ducula (Myristicivora) bicolor spilorrhoa
Tropical Far North Queensland, Australia

17) John Barlow, Ormskirk, Lancashire, England

steels the fen . . .
a water rail skulks
between one world
and the next

Water Rail: Rallus aquaticus
Lakenheath Fen, Suffolk, England

18) Christina Nguyen, Hugo, Minnesota, USA

Canadian geese
hiss at each passerby
guns are fired
at a border crossing

Canada Goose: Branta canadensis
Como Lake, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

19) Gary LeBel, Maine, USA

with soundless grace
over the spartina grass
a lone tern
incites the Dixie fort
to cries and muskets

Least Tern: Sternula antillarum
Tybee Island, Georgia, USA

20) Pravat Kumar Padhy, Orissa, India

the sparrow
leaves its message
coming home
the old man still awaits
his son’s return from battle

Indian Sparrow: Passer indicus bactrianus
Berhampur, Orissa, India

21) Michael Thorley, Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia

must you choose
her funeral day
to scratch among the leaves
scattering her plants?

Blackbird: Turdus merula
Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia

22) Susan Constable, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

a lone merganser
skims the swirling river
in winter rain
we watch Nana’s ashes
settle in the shallows

Common Merganser: Mergus merganser
Englishman River, Parksville, British Columbia, Canada

23) Jo McInerney, Boolarra, Victoria, Australia

fat cockatoos
waddle through the grass
a third good season
softens the memory
of your departure

Sulphur-crested White Cockatoo: Cacatua galerita
Gippsland, Victoria, Australia

24) Amelia Fielden, Canberra, ACT, Australia

in the reeds
a red-winged blackbird sings
for its mate . . .
so little response
from you, to my e-mails

Red-winged Blackbird: Agelaius phoeniceus
Green Lake, Seattle, Washington, USA

25) Oprica Padeanu, Bucharest, Romania

the water’s silence
broken by a seagull
diving from willows . . .
searching a map of the globe
for a place without loneliness

Seagull: Larus marinus
The Black Sea Coast, Romania

Biographical Sketches

Jenny Ward Angyal lives with her husband and one Abyssinian cat on a small organic farm in Gibsonville, NC, where she enjoys observing the many lives going on around her. She has written poetry since the age of five, but since retiring has had more time to devote to writing and has become enchanted with tanka. Her poems have appeared in various journals and may also be found online at

Zofia Barisas was born in Montreal and now lives in Mexico. She has travelled through Central America, Europe, and part of North Africa. Her haiku and tanka have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Haiku News, Moonbathing, Atlas Poetica and Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka. She has written articles for the online magazines Mexico Insights and Mexconnect and her stories appear in the Lakeside Writers anthology Agave Marias. She has three sons living in Canada.

John Barlow edited Tangled Hair, the first English-language tanka journal to be published outside the United States, from 1999–2006, and was an editorial advisor for The Tanka Anthology (2003). A lifelong naturalist, he has given talks on birds and poetry at a range of conferences and venues, including Haiku North America and Oxford University. His books include the tanka collection Snow About To Fall (2006) and Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (2008).

Owen Bullock’s tanka have appeared widely since 2000. He has published a collection of haiku, wild camomile (Post Pressed, Australia). He is perhaps as well-known as a writer of longer poems and has published the collection, sometimes the sky isn’t big enough (Steele Roberts, New Zealand, 2010), and several chapbooks of poetry and haiku. He also has a novella to his credit, A Cornish Story (Palores, UK, 2010).

Rosa Clement’s poems have appeared in several Internet sites in both English and Portuguese. She studies and writes haiku, as well as other forms. She is the author of a children’s poetry book and a cook book about Amazonian cuisine. She graduated in Languages (English/Portuguese). Today she’s a housewife, retired from administrative work at a local research institution, and lives in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil, a city surrounded by the Amazonian Forest, which is a sanctuary for numerous bird species.

Susan Constable wrote her first tanka in 2009. Since then, she’s had over a hundred of them published in a dozen journals, as well as in several anthologies. She placed third in the 2010 Tanka Society of America Contest, and is currently the tanka editor for the on-line journal, A Hundred Gourds. Susan lives with her husband on the beautiful west coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Amelia Fielden is an award-winning, internationally published poet and a professional translator. A graduate of the Australian National University, she holds a Master’s degree in Japanese Literature. Amelia has had 6 volumes of original English tanka published, the most recent being Light On Water (2010). In addition she has collaborated with fellow Australian poet Kathy Kituai, and with Japanese poet Saeko Ogi, to produce 4 collections of responsive tanka, including the bilingual Word Flowers (2011). Amelia has also published 17 books of Japanese poetry in translation.

Beverley George is the editor of Eucalypt: and the past editor of Yellow Moon. She is a Writing Fellow of the Fellowship of Australian Writers and was President of the Australian Haiku Society 2006-10. In September 2009, Beverley convened the Fourth Haiku Pacific Rim Conference at Terrigal, Australia and was a speaker at the 6th International Tanka Festival in Tokyo in October 2009. Beverley won the Tanka Society of America’s International Competition 2006 and the Saigyo Awards in 2010.

Sanford Goldstein has been writing tanka for more than fifty years. In addition, he has co-translated many Japanese Writers—those in poetry, to cite a few, are Akiko Yosano, Mokichi Saito, and Takuboku Ishikawa. It is to Takuboku that Goldstein feels most indebted. Takuboku believed that tanka is a poem involving the emotional life of the poet. Sad Toys really affected Goldstein. Takuboku stressed his sad life in his three-line tanka. Goldstein’s poems focus on what he has experienced, suddenly seen, suddenly reflected on—they are not imagined. Even though he seldom writes on nature, his bird poem was the result of an image he saw during a morning walk.

Gerry Jacobson lives in Canberra, Australia. He has published two collections of tanka and contributed to journals including Eucalypt, Ribbons, Atlas Poetica, Gusts, and Simply Haiku.

Kirsty Karkow has been happily splashing around in the haiku/tanka pond since 2000, and quite successfully. She has met with many rewards and remarkable poets. Living on the coast of Maine, USA, with the sea on one side and swamps, ponds and rivers on the other, her poems tend to be watery. So, obviously she had to write about an aquatic bird!

M. Kei is the editor-in-chief of Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka, and the author of Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack (Recommend Reading by the Chesapeake Bay Project). He is the editor of Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Contemporary Tanka and compiler of the Bibliography of English-Language Tanka. He also wrote a gay Age of Sail series, Pirates of the Narrow Seas.

Kate King writes tanka and haiku as well as dabbling in fiction, essays and other poetry. She lives on the northern fringe of Australia’s capital city Canberra and is inspired by the bush she views from her desk, and her other obsessions, brush-painting and music. Kate’s tanka have been published in several issues of Eucalypt, online in 3Lights, and in the collections Grevillea & Wonga Vine: Australian Tanka of Place and Food for Thought.

Gary LeBel’s poetical and prose work has appeared in various anthologies, and in print and online journals of haiku, tanka, haibun, tanka prose and other genres in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Japan. In 2011 his work appeared in Atlas Poetica, Haibun Today, Lilliput Review, Magnapoets and Modern Haiku. Two of his poems were included in the recently published anthology Haiku 21 edited by Lee Gurga and Scott Metz. Also an artist, his haiga may be viewed at Reeds Contemporary Haiga. He lives in the Greater Atlanta, Georgia, area.

Jo McInerney moved to Gippsland from Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, thirty-five years ago. One unlooked-for joy was the birds. Cockatoos, galahs, parrots, ibises, blue wrens, and wattlebirds joined the sparrows and mynahs inhabiting her backyard. They were natural subjects for tanka, after a dear friend introduced her to the form. Jo is particularly grateful to Beverley George (Eucalypt) and Denis Garrison (Modern English Tanka) whose example, publishing venues, and sensitive editorship have encouraged her and many others to keep writing tanka.

Christina Nguyen is a writer, poet, and mother living in Hugo, Minnesota, USA. She plays with words and poetry on Twitter as @TinaNguyen. Her work has appeared in Ribbons, Gusts, red lights, American Tanka, Frogpond, Prune Juice, Moonbathing, tinywords, and other journals.

Pravat Kumar Padhy hails from Orissa, India. He holds a Masters in Science and a PhD from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad. His haiku and tanka have appeared in World Haiku Review, Lynx, Notes from the Gean, Ambrosia, Sketchbook, Atlas Poetica, Simply Haiku, Kokako, red lights, The Mainichi Daily News, Haiku Reality, The Heron’s Nest, The Asahi Shimbun, Chrysanthemum, Shamrock, AHG, Magnapoets, etc. His haiku was displayed in the HSA Haiku Wall, Bend, Oregon, USA.

Oprica Padeanu is a Romanian writer. She has published several books of prose and poetry (including haiku, senryu, and tanka), both in Romanian and English. Among her prizes for haiku: the Second Award at The Mainichi Daily News Haiku Contest and the First Award at the International Haiku Contest organized by the Romanian Society of Haiku (2011).

Matthew Paul’s first collection of haiku, The Regulars, was published by Snapshot Press in 2006 and his second, The Lammas Lands, will be published in 2012. He is associate editor for Presence haiku magazine and joint writer/editor (with John Barlow) of Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku (2008). He is the UK contributing editor for the annual Red Moon Anthology of haiku. Matthew maintains a blog at:

Patricia Prime is co-editor of Kokako (NZ), reviews and interviews editor of Haibun Today, reviews editor of Takahe, and has been a reader for the Take Five Anthologies since their inception. She writes the Japanese forms of haiku, tanka, haibun, and tanka prose and has had her poetry published worldwide. Her poems, interviews, and reviews have been published in the World Poetry Almanac (Mongolia) for the past four years.

Carol Raisfeld lives in Atlantic Beach, a small barrier island close to New York City, USA. She is Director of WHChaikumultimedia, has served as Multimedia Editor for World Haiku Review, moderator for WHClovehaiku, Associate Editor and Haiga Editor for Simply Haiku, and a member of the editorial board of Modern Haiga. Carol’s poetry, art and photography appear worldwide in print, online journals, and anthologies.

Gary Severance writes poetry, short stories, and book reviews. His poems have been published in Atlas Poetica.

André Surridge—Born in Hull, England, André lives in the city of Hamilton, New Zealand. André has won several awards for haiku and tanka and his work has been widely published, including Atlas Poetica, Modern English Tanka, Presence, Magnapoets, Tanka Splendor, Eucalypt, Bravado, Kokako, Simply Haiku, Prune Juice, The Heron’s Nest, paper wasp, A New Resonance 7, Sketchbook, and Take Five.

David Terelinck (Sydney, NSW, Australia) is widely published in international tanka journals. In 2011 he was on the editorial panel for Take Five Best Contemporary Tanka 2011, co-edited Grevillea & Wonga Vine : Australian Tanka of Place with Beverley George, and published his first tanka collection, Casting Shadows. David was awarded third place in the Spirit of Japan Tanka Contest 2011. In 2012 he will join the editorial panel of Gusts : Contemporary Tanka.

Michael Thorley is now retired from his work in the New South Wales Education Department (Australia), and spends his time writing poetry (including tanka), playing his piano, keeping fit, and enjoying coffee with his friends. He has published one book of poetry—Sleeping Alone (Ginninderra Press, Indigo imprint)—which includes individual tanka, sequences, and numerous other forms. His tanka are published regularly in Eucalypt – A Tanka Journal.

Rodney Williams’ tanka—often featuring birds—have been published in Australia (especially in Eucalypt); in America, New Zealand, Austria and Canada; and on international websites. Before editing Snipe Rising from a Marsh, he had tanka appear in other ATPO Special Features, plus Take Five and Catzilla! (USA), Grevillea and Wonga Vine, and Food for Thought (Australia). Rodney feels blessed that dairy-farms and eucalypt forests around him in Gippsland, Victoria, boast many Australian parrots and cockatoos.

© 2012 by Keibooks. All rights reserved. See Educational Use Notice for policy governing use in an educational context. Copyright for the individual poems and prose remains with the contributors.