Tanka of Flowing Tranquility

Edited and Introduced by Kira Lily Nash
Never before in our time has disintegration seemed so prominent. Never before in our time have so many felt so far from stability, grounding, the reassuring rhythms of earth and sky. It seems like such an overwhelming task to find our feet again — to remember how to flow and breathe — but the path is always there, always open to us.

I had the idea for a Special Feature devoted to tranquility in early summer of this year. It was in part self-indulgence, to help me find the peace that I so desperately needed, but more motivated by my certainty that I was not alone in feeling groundless and anything but tranquil. I had planned to publish it at the autumn equinox, to gently flow Northern Hemisphere readers into the darker, quieter months that encourage reflection and inner stillness. But, life being what it seems to be, this year we have had two unexpected international moves, four local moves, and are presently in temporary accommodation. Tranquility, in these times of uncertainty, change, inhumanity, and abstraction, can be extremely difficult to find.

Still, its subtlety doesn’t diminish its importance. If anything, it is the quiet humility of tranquility that may help to save us. While we absolutely must recognise and fight against the evils that multiply around us, it’s also essential that we give awareness and energy to the good.

as i fought shadows
my eyes adjusted
to the darkness
i’ve never seen
the sun rise since

As the world falls further into chaos, it’s ever more important that we focus not only on overcoming the darkness but also on encouraging the light. Find a place in your heart, your day, and your life for peace. Cultivate and nourish the tranquility that rests within all of of us. It may seem hard to find, but really it’s just lying dormant, like a spring that waits patiently for the rains to come. Take the time to breathe. Go outside and feel the earth spinning the changing seasons to your door. Unplug, go to bed early, do something that brings you joy every day.

For the most part, the tanka that I’ve chosen here reflect my own happy places. They celebrate the wisdom of nature, the grace of smallness. The flowing stillness of falling snow, the perfect contentment of a sleeping cat, the joyous simplicity of blackberries under moon: these are the things that we so often overlook but which can transform our lives. We have allowed ourselves to be carried away on a current of chaos but if we slow down, we may find that the little things we forget are the ones that matter most.

stepping softly
over sparkling dew
i hear the river
from heaven to earth

My deep gratitude to M. Kei for supporting my idea and giving me permission to edit this Special Feature of Flowing Tranquility. To everyone who contributed, I offer my most sincere thanks. I had many difficult choices to make and there are a few poems in particular that I’m very disappointed not to be including. To those who have been waiting patiently for this very late Special Feature, I ask you to accept my humble apologies.

(Contrary to convention, there are 26 tanka included here. I apologise! I was so scattered whilst choosing that I realised, only too late, that I had replied positively to 26 poets. As I couldn’t then reject someone whose tanka I had already accepted, 26 it had to be.)

I hope that you enjoy these beautiful and inspirational tanka as much as I have, and that they encourage you to flow your own tranquility onto paper, into art, out to the world. I wish you all grace, joy, and days that flow with the gentleness of serenity.
~ KLN, 23 November 2019.

Selected Tanka

1) Michael H. Lester

I linger there
watching the moon disappear
behind frosted pines
listening for the trickle
of the old mountain stream

(In a stuffy office in Los Angeles flipping back and forth between news channels hoping against hope for something positive to happen)

~ Los Angeles, California, USA

2) Darrell Lindsey

sunshine caught
by a kaleidoscope
in the rose garden
I let the morning turn
until I feel weightless

~ Nacogdoches, Texas, USA

3) Carol Raisfeld

refuge from reality
in a night of shooting stars
I inhale
the breath of the moon
its peace fills me

~ Atlantic Beach, USA

4) Joy McCall

a brief rustling
in the night garden
the hedgehogs
shifting in their sleep
in the dry sweet hay

~ Norwich, England, UK

5) John S. Gilbertson

walking alone
in Kyoto
snow falling
like wishes
of a child

~ Greenville, South Carolina, USA

6) Amelia Fielden

all the blues
of bay, mountain, sky,
one more summer
travelling to the island
in the company of seagulls

~ Canberra, Australia

7) Joe Witt

cat on my shoulders
another asleep on my lap
in this moment 
the only moment
all is well

~ Altadena, California, USA

8) Kiersta Recktenwald

White sugar drifting
from a silver spoon into
one pink coffee cup . . .
snowflakes in the lantern light
swirling past my windowpane.

~ Maine, USA

9) Autumn Noelle Hall

the gift of smallness
in the sweep of the dunes
the way
they hold ten thousand times
ten thousand grains of sand

~ Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, USA

10) Vasile Moldovan

noon stillness —
in the shadow of
the ant stopping
to rest a little

~ Bucharest, Romania

11) Geoffrey Winch

I walk 
through the woods
to share my troubles
with the trees
who whisper sound advice

~ West Sussex, England, UK

12) Matthew Caretti

screen time
we watch moths
the patio door connects
nature and nurture

~ Pennsylvania, USA / Johor Bahru, Malaysia

13) Sue Colpitts

dew drops
from grass to grass
a butterfly
on the edges of time
let your life dance lightly

~ Ontario, Canada

14) Thelma Mariano

deep in the forest
in fields of white wildflowers
I breathe in the air
from a thousand ancient trees
along with the silence

~ Montreal, Canada

15) Don Miller

in the blue hour
folding over waves
over dolphins

~ Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

16) Crystal K. Li

droplets of light
on a backdrop of gray —
afternoon rain
steaming warm on cement
inspires me to breathe

~ Tampa Bay, Florida, USA

17) Susan Weaver

a land snail
under my daffodils
stretches forward
pearly house on its back
I forget my burdens

~ Pennsylvania, USA

18) Marilyn Ashbaugh

blanket tent
over mother’s clothesline
soft grass
tickles my cheek
i kiss the earth


19) Pris Campbell

cross borders daily
the language
of trees and leaping bullfrogs
speaks only of love

~ Lake Worth, Florida, USA

20) Tina Crenshaw

for dessert
in the smoky mountains
biscuits and jam
as blackberries ripen
under a summer moon

~ North Carolina, USA

21) Kath Abela Wilson

under the flowering cherry 
I ask the gardener
to take my picture
savoring the long moment 
before closing time

~ Pasadena, California, USA

22) John Quinnett

raising the window
to hear creekflow
in the night . . .
old friends still ask
why I left the city

~ North Carolina, USA

23) Samantha Sirimanne Hyde

on the veranda    
rain clouds whirl    
into the night                                    
amid shrill cicada song    
our companionable silence

~ Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

24) Pravat Kumar Padhy

the boulders
roll all along the river bed
my memories
murmur in deep silence
traversing vastness of the sky

~ Odisha, India

25) Wendy C. Bialek

mauve crystal feeder
the fluttering hum
of thirsty wings
morning sunsets

~ Arizona, USA

26) Richard Grahn

branches laden
with gold and rust
rustle in rushes
of wind . . .
I listen to the sky

~ Evanston, Illinois, USA

Contributor Bios:

1) Michael H. Lester is a CPA and attorney living in Los Angeles, California. Passionate about short-form poetry, Michael’s poetry has been widely published in prestigious poetry journals and has won numerous awards. Michael has recently authored and self-published an illustrated children’s book, Cassandra and the Strange Tale of the Blue-Footed Boobies, and a book of poetry, both available on Amazon.com. You can reach Michael at and on twitter: @mhlester.

2) Darrell Lindsey is the author of Edge of the Pond (Popcorn Press, 2012) and has garnered numerous international awards for his haiku and tanka. His work has appeared in more than 70 journals, magazines, and anthologies. He lives in Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas.

3) Carol Raisfeld lives in Atlantic Beach, a barrier island close to New York City. Her hobbies include sailing, chess, sculpting, painting and boxing. She holds US and foreign design patents in interactive toy design. Her poetry, art and photography appear worldwide in print and online journals. Carol is an anthologized poet and winner of international awards. Website: www.Haikubuds.com  Twitter: @carol_red

4) Joy McCall has written tanka for most of her 75 years. She loves many poets both alive and dead, but mostly Ryokan and Rumi. She is a bedbound paraplegic which makes tranquility very hard. She has been trying to learn from watching nature outside her window, how to just ‘be’. It’s a slow journey, and even after 17 years of it, she fails, mostly.

5) John S. Gilbertson lives in Greenville, S.C. and has been writing poetry for thirty years. Poetry published in several magazines, and two books of poetry: Two Ends of a Loose String, and Beyond the Morning Sun. Written four fiction novels and several non-fiction works. Traveled extensively in Japan and Asia.

6) Amelia Fielden is a professional translator of Japanese literature and a keen writer of poetry in traditional Japanese forms.

7) Joe Witt resides in Altadena, California, with his wife, Roz, and their two cats, ShadieLadie and Mouse, and a dog named Sandy. They have one son, two grandsons and two step grandchildren, who keep them busy. He retired from JPL in 2002. At the age of 82, he is learning to kiteboard. He was in Mira Mataric’s creative writing class at the Pasadena Sr. Center where he learned to love haiku and tanka.

8) Kiersta Recktenwald was born in Maine and grew up in Saudi Arabia, mainland China, and Japan, in which last she attended public schools. Back in America she’s attended courses at Colby College and the University of Maine. She writes tanka, free verse, aphorisms, psalms, and prose. Autistic, intractably epileptic, spiritually visionary and 99% mute, she communicates via one-finger typing. Her special interests include philosophy, psychology, and non-denominational spirituality. Her next large project: Prayerful Paragraphs.

9) 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 is also a form of meditation, a way of holding imagery which allows us to truly see and make sense of our dreaming and waking worlds and to honor our unique place within them.

10) Vasile Moldovan was born in a Romanian village on June 20, 1949. He was co-founder (1991) and chairman of the Romanian Society of Haiku. He published tanka poems in several magazines like Aha!, Atlas Poetica, Moonset and Simply Haiku (U.S.A), Diogenes (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Albatross and Haiku (Romania) Also he printed two tanka books, five haiku booklets, renku book (together with Magdalena Dale) and a historical novel.

11) Geoffrey Winch is a retired highway engineer who lives near England’s south coast. He is associated with several creative writing groups and regularly reads his poetry at the Chichester Open Mic. His work has appeared in many small press journals and anthologies mainly in the UK, US and online, and he has published five collections, most recently Alchemy of Vision (Indigo Dreams, 2014) and West Abutment Mirror Images (Original Plus, 2017).

12) 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, Neon Graffiti: Tanka of Urban Life, and Atlas Poetica: Stacking Stones. His first chapbook, Harvesting Stones, was just published as the winner of the Snapshot Press eChapbook Award. Originally from Pennsylvania, Matthew currently resides in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, where he teaches English at an international school.

13) For many years, Sue Colpitts was immersed in education as a student and teacher. With early retirement she became a gardener and poet. One day online during a cold February she discovered haiku and tanka. Now years later like her garden she has downsized her poetry trying to capture the beauty of simplicity.

14) Thelma Mariano lives in Montreal near the rapids of the St. Lawrence River. Her tanka has been published in different literary journals as well as anthologies including Fire Pearls (Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart) and Take Five (Best Contemporary Tanka). She is also a fiction writer and editor.

15) Don Miller has been living in the Chihuahuan Desert of southern New Mexico, USA for over 30 years, and when the occasion has presented itself, he has shared his daily bread with those lost and in search of survival in and safe passage through an increasingly inhospitable landscape.

16) Crystal K. Li was born and currently lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, surrounded by shocking amounts of craft supplies and actual paper books. At times, she’s been a magazine editor, a freelance writer, and a fiber and jewelry artist. She has a degree in anthropology and a great many thoughts and opinions that she occasionally keeps to herself. In addition to poetry, she writes fantasy and nonfiction. Find her on Twitter @wordsofcrystal.

17) Susan Weaver is a former magazine writer on food, fitness, bicycling, and travel. Also a poet in free verse, she found a voice in tanka and tanka prose about a decade ago. Her work appears in a number of journals, including red lights, Moonbathing, and Ribbons, journal of the Tanka Society of America, and has been anthologized in Skylark Publishing’s Earth: Our Common Ground and elsewhere. She is tanka prose editor for Ribbons.

18) Marilyn Ashbaugh is a poet, nature photographer and organic gardener. She is widely published in journals and anthologies featuring Japanese short-form poetry including haibun, haiga, rengay, tanka, and haiku.

19) The haiga, haiku and tanka of Pris Campbell have appeared in numerous journals, including Frogpond, cattails, Atlas Poetica, Acorn, Haigaonline, Skylark, A Hundred Gourds, and Failed Haiku. She won a Bronze award in the 2018 Ito-en competition and a Sakura award in the 2018 Vancouver Cherry Blossom contest. Seven collections of her free verse poetry and one book of tanka have been published by the small press. A former Clinical Psychologist, sailor and bicyclist until sidelined by ME/CFS in 1990, she makes her home in Lake Worth, Florida, with her husband.

20) Tina Crenshaw began writing Japanese-style poetry after retiring from work as a psychologist. She was directed early on to the lessons offered by Jane Reichhold, and she enjoys reading and learning from the work of many other poets. Tina’s poems have appeared in Modern Haiku, Frogpond, The Heron’s Nest, and elsewhere.

21) Kath Abela Wilson travels to Asia with her husband to mathematical conferences and is witness to a strong international community of scholars whose interests extend to the arts and culture. Visiting the gardens of China and Japan, in Suzhou, by Lake Tai, there is great evidence of inspiration that flows over the centuries. Each time we return we visit the growing Huntington Gardens, walking distance from our home,  where tranquility reigns and poetic inspiration thrives. There flourishes a Japanese and Chinese Garden, called Liu Fang Yuan, Garden of Flowing Fragrance, surrounded by scholars rocks from Lake Tai.

22) Born in Los Angeles, John Quinnett has been hiding out in the Great Smoky Mountains since 1972.  He drove a library bookmobile for three years, then did social work with the Eastern Band of Cherokees for 22 years before retiring. Since moving there from the big city, he’s never once thought of moving. Reading and writing short form Asian verse has brought great joy to his life. He’s been published in quality journals and anthologies here and there.

23) 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.

24) Pravat Kumar Padhy, a Scientist and a Poet, hails from Odisha, India. He holds Masters in Science and Technology and a Ph.D from Indian Institute of Technology (ISM), Dhanbad. His poems are widely published and anthologized. His tanka are featured in many journals including Atlas Poetica, Skylark, Ribbons, Simply Haiku, Presence, cattails, red lights, etc, and in anthologies namely Fire Pearls 2, One Man’s Maple Moon Bright Stars Vol.1, Neon Graffiti, Earth: Our Common Ground and others. His maiden tanka collection, “The Rhyming Rainbow” has been published in 2019 by the Authors Press, New Delhi.

25) Exposed to Tanka in 90’s by Jane Reichhold while sharing haiku on Shiki’s list, she still turns towards Tanka when her heart is heavy. Now Arizonian, Wendy C. Bialek with husband, two dogs, a hummingbird family, surrounding desert mountains, and magical, organic gardens, is never short of inspiration to photograph, paint or pen. Edited book . . . Anthology on Compassion, “this side of the fire” sparks global three-six liners prompted by last year’s California wildfires . . . available near 1st anniversary . . . proceeds benefiting victims.

26) Richard Grahn is a musician, artist, photographer, and poet currently living in Evanston, Illinois. He has traveled extensively and has been writing and creating art for over 30 years. He began writing Japanese short-form poetry and other prose in earnest in 2016 to cope with long-term illness. He has since been published in a variety of journals and other publications. His latest passion is bonsai. Each day is filled with blessings and he counts them all.

© 2019