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Fifteenth Annual




Hortensia Anderson

Tony Beyer

Pamela A. Babusci

Mary Lou Bittle-DeLapa

Marjorie Buettner

Ana Cagnoni

Kathy Lippard Cobb

Peter Duppenthaler x 2

Jeanne Emrich

Laryalee Fraser x 2

Suzanne Finnegan x 2

Richard Goring

Wheeler Joseph Hall x 2

C. W. Hawes

Kirsty Karkow

Karina Klesko

Angela Leuck x 3

Carol MacRury x 2

Thelma Mariano x 3

Michael McClintock x 2

Allen McGill

Keith McMahen

Joanne Morcom

Jack Prewitt

David Rice

Maxwell Ryan

Adelaide B. Shaw x 2

Sheila Windsor






AHA Books is proud to announce the winners in the Tanka Splendor 2004 Awards. The 31 individual tanka arranged according to the number of points the poems received. The range was from 76 points to 32. In cases of ties, the poems are set according to the alphabetical sequence of the author's last name. 

In the sequences the range of points was from 45 to 34 with a three-way for 34. Therefore we have five sequence winners.



we sort through
grandma's belongings...
under her pillow
the photo of a man
no one knows
Laryalee Fraser


without a word
remaining between us –
with a sharp knife,
I cut the soft yellow peach
to the ragged bloody pit
Hortensia Anderson



that part of you I carry
deep inside
I see the way the sun
belongs to the summer grass
Marjorie Buettner


older now
than my parents lived to be
fall stillness
the trees are barren and
silence arrives with the cold
Allen McGill


she loves me
she loves me not
petal by petal
I’ve pulled
this love apart
Keith McMahen


this deer
by the road
it too
is traveling alone
under an autumn moon
Suzanne Finnegan



a chorus of crickets
follows me on my night walk
how can I complain
of life’s unfairness
when my ears are filled with song?
Thelma Mariano



full of stealth
your footsteps late at night
I wake not to sound
but to the scent
of where you’ve been
Carol MacRury


a chilly gray day -
sitting in the rocker
with the mending
the shape of you remains
in your old sweater
Adelaide B. Shaw


spring runoff
water moving swiftly through
makeshift channels
somehow I always know
the way back to you
Angela Leuck


a thousand reasons
to leave him
a thousand
reasons to stay...
withering bamboo
Pamela A. Babusci


late in the season
I watch the last geese fly south
alone in the cold
is how I make up my mind
to finally tell you goodbye
Thelma Mariano


tempted to buy
the last bunch of tulips--
how much brighter
my room would have been
when you called to say good-bye
 Angela Leuck



though you’re never
farther away than my thoughts
it is here
that I feel you the most –
where the earth touches the sky
Thelma Mariano


if I can be an orphan
at my age ...
I take spring flowers
to the cemetery
Joanne Morcom


trying to catch it
the moon in my sake cup
I fill it once more
and try to forget the face
of she who does not love me
Peter Duppenthaler

this morning
surprised to find my back door
after last night you slipped again
into my dreams
 Angela Leuck


when you opened
my letter
were you surprised
my heart
fell out?
Michael McClintock


the look
on your face…
if only my words
had remained
Ana Cagnoni


ninety years old
Dad reads his Li Po,
phone off the hook,
I listen to mountain winds
watch the mist roll in
Maxwell Ryan


at my age
my grandmother had
ten children
I sit and sip tea
with no distractions
Suzanne Finnegan


She is
a whisper on
the sheets--
I close my eyes
to kill the moonlight
Wheeler Joseph Hall


when the full moon
cast our shadows
on the meadow
we stopped talking
words would cloud the view
David Rice


needles click
in still-nimble hands --
her clouded eyes
do not recognize
the sunset
Laryalee Fraser

the bowl
lies shattered on the floor
just like the marriage
lying in pieces about me
C. W. Hawes


my parents' house
empty of all that was theirs -
closing the door
on painted wood and nails
I keep the key to the rest
Adelaide B. Shaw


autumn rain
I toss another letter
to you on the pile--
one more thing in my life
Kathy Lippard Cobb


our age and mileage
let us enjoy
blackbirds in the cattails
and lilac on the breeze
Kirsty Karkow


only a week
since you left
how did I miss the moment
the gibbous moon
became whole?
Carole MacRury


the mausoleum
and weeping willows
inside the old brooch --
slowly it dawns on me
they are made of hair
Michael McClintock


brown spots
on the old photo
and my hands too
        this year's young swallows
         have already flown south
Richard Goring


passiflora curls
around the washing line
i fold in
the fragrance of summer
Sheila Windsor

the last embers fade
in the cabin in the snow
rising with the dawn
she braids her hair with wood smoke
his slumbers still unbroken
Peter Duppenthaler


Didn’t it rain
the day you left,
didn’t it leak
through the hole
you badgered me to patch?
Wheeler Joseph Hall




Jack Prewitt

clinic threshold
the woman pulls down
her wind-blown skirt
those long lover-legs
hold me each night

a butterfly pattern
on the bed sheet
we listen to fountains
plashing in the garden

radiation wing
foreign music fills
a carpet pattern
the same as ours

winter beach
I dig for mollusks
as you showed me
waves keep coming
relentless as cancer

during cannulation
I look outside
rust stains round
the gutter joints

portable catheter
they insert a shortcut
to your heart
why don't they ask
me to guide them


Karina Klesko

from the choir loft
a child's voice a cappella
this morning in April
rain on the metal roof
sounds like bells

left in mom's pocket,
needle, thread and a button--
all through the eulogy
I feel the space between us
doesn't really matter

forgetting, again
my birthday--
for our anniversary,
he buys a pecan seedling,
together we wait for its' fruit


Tony Beyer

the granddaughters
have gone home
leaving chalk figures
on the path
waving goodbye

mostly head
with eyes and limbs
the figures show
they belong to
their mother’s tribe

imagining human
comes out as
secret lives
part fish part angel
they have known

one chalk line
just runs recklessly
downhill on
driveway concrete
like water

the people who
made these marks
will have changed
by the time
they return

days later
in the plant border
a stub of chalk
that was once
other creatures’ bones



Mary Lou Bittle-DeLapa

Turning my pillow
to the dry side
I wonder for the hundredth time
why my daughter never came home
today from school.

Searching her room
for clues
I come across e-mail pages
from people
I’ve never heard of.

Reading the e-mail heading
the realization slugs me
in the gut:
she’s using the name she had
before we adopted her.

On her birthday
we wait all day
unable to look at them any longer
we put her gifts away.

Every night
on the phone
the boyfriend
(who kept her at arm’s length)
in tears.

After days of dead ends
full of despair
we still pursue
every doubtful lead
to its bitter end.

So sick
of talking about it
my husband and I
can talk of nothing

Standing with the phone
the police officer’s words
buckle my knees,
"She’s sleeping in the abandoned
subway tunnels."

After a week
no longer expecting
to hear her voice
I pick up the phone,

Parked outside the soup kitchen
my daughter who’s not my daughter
steps out the doorway
her long beautiful hair
chopped off.

Packing a bag of food
and all her warmest clothes
she returns to the soup kitchen
and her street friends
to say goodbye.

Turning my pillow
to the cool side
for the hundredth time
I send a prayer of thanks
into the darkness.


Jeanne Emrich

autumn light . . .
how thin the glass
that tells her story
St. Joan in flames
once again

a footfall
echoes in the nave
holy ghost
of silence and stone
maybe it's me

somber columns
of bullet holes
and whispers

someone has left
the door to the garden open --
little sparrow
who made you
a monk?


The fifteenth annual Tanka Splendor Awards attracted 101 e-mail submissions and two entries by post. There were 220 individual tanka and 14 sequences accepted as valid entries. Those authors entering by e-mail were then eligible to vote for their favorites. All the anonymous entries were posted on a web page, which address was sent to all e-mail addresses with instructions for voting. Each judge could pick 31 single tanka and three of the sequences. In addition, the judges could give additional points by giving each of their picks a grade. A = 3 additional points; B = additional points; C = 1 extra point. This system, though making more work with the tallying, sharpened the judgmental skills and gave a wider latitude of points to minimize ties.

After the votes are tallied, again e-mails went to all the participants so they can visit the web site to see which poems won and how many A's, B's and C's each one received. This permitted the judges to evaluate their own skills and choices against those of other judges. The authors received a detailed picture of how well their poems did when stacked up against the others. So even if the author did not win, there was a learning process. Only the names of the winners are revealed so this part of the process is known only to the submitting author. The winners receive $20 worth of books from AHA Books per win. Congratulations to all the winners! A huge Thank-You goes to the many judges for all their work and a special thanks for all the kind words of encouragement. Blessed be! Jane Reichhold

Comments from the Participants:

This year's entries seem to emphasize once again how truly difficult it is to capture a tanka moment within the structure of this form. Many of the poets do not seem to know what a tanka is, and even those who do often cannot write it effectively (including yours truly at times!). There are a few gems in this avalanche of poems and I thank you for the opportunity to judge. Best regards, Thelma Mariano

Thanks for all your help and sorry for all the trouble. Anyway I'll learn and it will also make a me a better poet.  Too often in our rush to get to the prize of a good poem we miss the joy of the whole creation process.  I just need not to worry so much and enjoy the whole process and contest.  Thanks for making that possible. I think it would be interesting if the winners of the previous year's vote went also into a separate winning poet's vote award (pf course you could come up with a catchier title) for what they considered the best tanka and maybe the next 4 as honorable mention.  It might not be any different then the general vote and then again it might.  I would think though that since they were chosen to be the best the year before that they would be established tanka poets (or if new and fortunate to be chosen would have immersed themselves and developed) so that their opinion would carry some interest and distinction.  Just a thought.  I enjoy the contest and always look forward to it. Keith MacMahen

Here are my votes for the contest. I really did enjoy reading everything--and now want to write more tanka--and haiku--myself. SuzAnne C. Cole

it was an honor to read & reread all the entries this year.  i couldn't come up with 31 individual winners, but, i did select three tanka sequences. thank you again for sponsoring this v. important tanka contest. hugs & blessings,    Pamela Babusci

You're right.  I never realized how hard it must be for teachers to grade papers, etc!  Wouldn't it be easier for you to tally things up if they weren't graded? Grading makes us take a closer look at WHY we are voting for a particular poem.  I want to mention #151 [Joanne Morcom’s tanka] for the fact that you get it as you read it . . . I mean that it unfolds line per line.  Do you know what I mean?  Each line you think you understand what's happening but then the next line changes your perception.  Very neat "trick"! Anyway, thanks again for all the time you put into this! Mary Lou Bittle-DeLapa

[After voting for two sequences] I didn't like another sequence enough to vote for a third. Kathy Cobb-Lippard

This is the first time I've participated in a competition of this kind. A very instructive experience. Thank you! Irene Golas

It has proved a fascinating task reading and deliberating over the submissions.  A real 'plus' for participating is that you get to see all the submissions, not just the eventual top 31.  But that is a bit of a mixed blessing, as not only do you have the awesome task of judging the work of other poets, but you also find some of the poems seem to be far away from your own general concept of what tanka poetry is about!  However, after reading through everything once, I then did a second reading, this time crossing through all the poems that seemed to miss the boat.  At the same time, I began marking those which appealed in some way or another.  Several more readings, interspersed with ponderings, and I had a basic list - a few more than 31 as it happened, but another few rounds of reading through and dishing out (and revising) my ABCs and I ended with the following lists.  I am very happy to have participated and I look forward to the results in due time.  It will be particularly interesting to see how my selection matches up with the consensus list. Peace and Joy Richard Goring

Here are my votes.  I always think, when reading so many tanka, that I would like to read them with someone else.  I am sure I would not agree with some of my own choices if I was talking them out with another poet.  I continue to think that being a good reader is a very difficult skill. David Rice

Its a blustery coldish rainy leaves in droves leaving the trees day here and I've decided it is a good time to send my votes... I have enjoyed the whole roster enough to feel fairly comfortable with my selections... the ones I like best ( the "A" group) are certain... it is more the next bunch that I gave B & C to where lots of wavering and second, third and fourth guessing has come into play... If I took more time no doubt some of the B & C' would change but from here and now are my choices and glad gratitude to both of you for putting together this event for all of us... Tom Clausen

Here I am with my votes.  It is the first time that I have to evaluate such an enormous series of English tanka.  I have weighed up all the poems during several days of reading and judging.  My three favourites are: 62, 140, 143, but I want to judge people with charity, so I have sought to make a good balance of A, B and C points.  It was difficult to eliminate some poems that in my view are also worthy of our attention.  However, I find it a good idea to limit the number of tanka that one may select (31; 3).  I wonder if a further differentiation is desirable, e.g. restriction of the A, B, C votes. Perhaps a suggestion for the future: Is it possible to distinguish tanka into two style categories, namely tanka of the 'classic' style (31 syllables.) and those of the 'free' style (as probably most of the English tanka)?  I suppose that people, sometimes, may be inclined to decide in favour of their own preferential type of style. I am curious about the final results. Frans Terryn

1 A
15 C (a little clichéd, especially in line 3, but better than most of the "missing you" in this batch)
16 A (good parallelism- disjunction/connection, several levels to poem)
20 B (nice concept)
43 C (2nd line awkward, otherwise intriguing and well-done)
57 A (great parallelism)
61 C (wordy but OK)
83 C (would do better to put "are" on 3rd line, no sensible reason for current line break)
84 B (enigmatic, good sense of sound)
86 C (cute, 4th line off a bit)
94 C (good sense of tone, then last line comes out of nowhere)
119 A
140 C (clichéd but clean, good line breaks)
170 B (cute, funny, good line breaks)
not accepting, just commenting on 181- if lines 2 & 3 were cut it could be much better, they are just out of place in this poem for the sequences, , "The Spaces In-Between" gets a B from me... that's it. I was probably harder on the ones that were close, giving them C's rather than B's if one or two words were off. Hope that's all right. All the best, Jeffrey D. Stumpo

"Show, don’t tell" is appropriate advice for haiku and it’s even more critical for tanka, when poems turn confessional. Rather than tell the reader what to feel, let them come alongside with their own similar experiences and allow them to flesh out a response. Only a few poets explored this powerful hand-off to the reader. In essence it’s an unspoken collaboration. Cherie Hunter Day

Thank you for the poems for the contest.  I so enjoyed reading them.  Here are my picks for top poems.  I wonder if these are by just two poets or more.  I felt so excited when I read the 140 group, feeling I was in the presence of a great poet.    Many other poems I gave a B or a C to.  But when I left a day to pass and was thinking about the poems, I realized that these are the ones that struck me as so  fine that they should get my votes.  The others just did  not excite me and make me sigh or gasp and feel something nearly as deeply as these did. Jane, it seems to me that there are more real tanka here this year than in any year before.  I remember your pioneering work in America with the form beginning decades back and  sustained to this day. I salute the fact that your ongoing selfless efforts to share  your passion for tanka have so clearly borne wonderful fruit.  Thanks for the thrill of this contest; and for all the loving care you have taken over the years with the Splendor Event.  It IS an Event. It IS Splendid. And so are you. Love, Marianne Bluger p.s. You may quote me, Jane, if your modesty allows. love.  m

I read all the poems, noting my favourites as I went along. Then I walked away and did some housework, knowing that the ones that stayed with me would be the ones I gave extra points to, as simple and as that. Before parenthood, one of my professions was translating, mainly from Modern Greek into English and I have learned to trust my instincts for good or ill when it comes to poetry. I write haiku and because I am a lyrical, blethery Scot, I often find my haiku are indistinguishable from senryu and are desperate to evolve into tanka, so, for me, studying and writing both forms has been challenging and emotionally rewarding. Unfortunately, the high quality of the entries, especially my favourites, has  made me wish I could delete mine! My favourite tanka had several things in common. I feel tanka should contain the succinct simplicity of the haiku but make profound but elegantly lyrical statements about humanity. I'm a bit old fashioned and also like the ones that deal with love in all its forms. Unusually, these two did not have the overt links with the natural world that I often find myself falling for. However, the emotions they created in me stayed for a long time, interwoven inextricably with the symbolism, the sensory imagery and the rhythm and syntax used to evoke them. I have experienced many of the emotional events contained in dozens of the entries and found many to be intellectually stimulating short poems. However, these two, in my opinion, simultaneously encapsulated deep emotion and symbolic images while provoking contemplation of the bittersweet beauty of love and life in several elegant brush strokes which for me are vital elements of tanka. They also show a degree of detachment, which I prefer. It allows me to fill with my own experiences the emotional spaces the poem has guided me into. I also like an unobtrusive use of appropriate rhythm, the jarring absence of which made it easier to eliminate many entries. And all three left me with questions as well as glimpses of epiphanies in the writers' lives.

we sort through
grandma's belongings...
under her pillow
the photo of a man
no one knows

The photo under the pillow - a whole lifetime of not being able to share, of secrets carried serenely to the grave, the realisation that you've never really known or fully understood a loved one and that you aren't the only one to be shocked by this realisation. Regrets, distances within families, unanswered questions, perhaps a feeling of betrayal, deep sympathy, the frustration of not being able to turn back time - so many feelings evoked that I wanted to know about this family, the grandmother and the love she had for the man in the photograph. We are made to feel as if we are present at the lifting of the pillow. A pillow can symbolise sleep, rest, comfort, shared pleasures, a place to weep alone but for the dead woman, there was somewhere she travelled beyond sleep, beyond sadness, beyond the present, somewhere softly treasured and hidden. Technically, I like how it starts with a 'we', a family expressed in one word and united in a common activity yet subtly inviting the reader in from the very start. Every word counts in this tanka; 'sort through', such a simple way of describing the emotionally charged process of deciding what has worth, what's to be kept, squabbled over or binned. 'grandma's belongings' - the tangible and symbolic remains of an entire life captured beautifully in a line of two words. With the syntactical placing of 'under her pillow', we are led innocently with the family in real time to the discovery which will touch and change them all forever, leaving writer, family and reader united now in shock but strangely aware of how we are all connected yet forever alone and separate in our most secret selves.

without a word
remaining between us -
with a sharp knife,
I cut the soft yellow peach
to the ragged bloody pit

 Because of the powerful central image, I will think of this poem for the rest of my life every time I cut open a peach. The writer's precise use of sound and rhythm deftly create the image. There is a clever use of juxtaposition throughout; the flowing rhythm in the first two lines leading to a hyphen that echoes the silence; the shocking appearance of the knife, the anticipation and then the abrupt cut; the smooth vowels and sibilants of the flesh being easily sliced and then finally the jagged, unpleasant sawing sound of 'the ragged bloody pit' when the hard pit is reached. I have known this pain of realisation, this silence that can be cut with a knife, this recognition of the end of love but I could never have encapsulated it so beautifully in one image. Cleverly, the first lines show that silence here is not the comfortable state between two happy people who do not need to talk but the painful place where words have slowly run out, lost their power or have been deliberately withheld till not even monosyllabic utterances are left. There is no Momotarou here, no last hope for a future filled with treasure. The cut symbolises so many things but the overriding image for me was the bittersweet pain of empowering self knowledge and the amputation of the comfort zone often created by the simplest and sweetest of our everyday actions. The pain that leaves us raw and exposed and changes everything. I'd like to ask the writer how the peach tasted and what happened afterwards. This could have been written hundreds of years ago in any country. Janice Hunter

Here are my tanka and tanka sequence votes.  There aren't too many and the ratings aren't high, but it's my honest evaluation.  I'm happy to be a part of an endeavor that promotes integrity. Ellaraine Lockie

I'm so pleased that my three poems won in this year's TS.  Much of the credit goes to my friend, Thelma Mariano, who has been working with me this year on my tanka.  She's an excellent teacher.  I'm particularly happy to have won, because I was just reading reviews of the first two books below, and was very interested in them.  It is so kind of you to make them available.  Angela Leuck

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Check out the TANKA SPLENDOR Contest Rules so you can enter the next contest after June 1, 2005. The deadline for the new contest is September 30, 2005.

Read online the results of past contests

Tanka Splendor 2003
Tanka Splendor

Tanka Splendor 2001

Tanka Splendor
Tanka Splendor 1996
Tanka Splendor 1994
Tanka Splendor 1990

Purchase copies of Tanka Splendor from AHA Books Bookshelf.



  Poems Copyright © Designated Authors 2004.
Tanka Splendor and this web page Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2004.