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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 1, March 2016


Alexis Rotella
Arnold, Maryland, USA

Tanka Prose: Sharing Stories With the World

Atlas Poetica 23, edited by M. Kei. Perryville, MD: Keibooks, 2015. 8 1/2" x 11", perfect bound, 104 pp. ISBN: 978-1515332763. Price: $13.95 US.

My daily practice of writing and creating art feels like coming home to a place of peace after a long and difficult journey. I think the day of the small poem has come. Life can be overwhelming in this technological age, and so it makes perfect sense that in order for our words to engage busy readers, poems must become both tiny in format, and large in scope. Many of us loved poetry and learned to recite it as children, and perhaps if we reflect upon that past joy, we might be moved to fill our future with the music of these little songs.

—Debbie Strange, "Hedgerow"

In the latest issue of Atlas Poetica No. 23, M. Kei focuses on tanka prose, the sister to haibun. Although this issue does include tanka sequences and individual tanka, there are also many shorter tanka prose poems featured here.

The one- or two-line tanka prose pieces are jewel-like and quick to read. I found myself initially skipping over the longer works—comparable to picking out the dark chocolates from a box of candy, knowing which ones would contain the nuts.

Many of us are hungry for stories but don’t have time to read novels and or longer poetry. Tanka prose (like haibun) is a delicious way of satisfying our craving for richness and texture and to savor how poets string words together to create these incredibly beautiful poetic structures.

M. Kei is an unusually generous editor who includes numerous poems by single authors so readers can not only become familiar with a poet’s style, but also get an idea of what the writer is about. Bob Lucky, Patricia Prime, Liam Wilkinson and Debbie Strange are just a few examples of poets whose works are abundantly included in this issue. From the beginning of M. Kei’s calling as a tanka editor, he has published writers from around the world—his way of bringing people together so we don’t feel like strangers to one another. There are birds and flowers in Australia, for example, that we’ve never heard of here and people from Down Under see a different set of stars than we in the Northern Hemisphere. Bob Lucky writes about his experiences in foreign lands with which we are not that familiar—in this issue, Saudi Arabia.

After I nibbled the smaller tanka prose pieces, I put the journal aside to take with me to the dentist knowing that there I will have time to savor the longer works as well as go back over the tiny poems and circle them for future reference.

ATPO is a journal for seasoned writers as well as the new readers who want to learn about this five-line form which seems to be becoming more popular in the poetry world. There are those haiku writers who sometimes find that a haiku is not a large enough receptacle to hold the feelings and awareness that one might wish to convey.

All in all, ATPO 23, once again, brings poets and readers closer together as we reveal deeper layers of ourselves that might otherwise never have been shared.

Here are two just two examples that illustrate this:

The “Alpha” Romeo

Europe on 5 Dollars A Day was current. Twenty and ready for the world, my best friend and I were on our way to Venice, she seated behind me, barely stifling her guffaws.

the usual way
hitching through Italy
the driver
of the Alfa Romeo
his hand on my inner thigh

—Maxianne Berger, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

August Night

The humid air petrifies my body with a stillness that hangs heavy as I spend my first night in what was once the maid’s apartment on the third floor of this rundown lakefront home.

the thud
of a gull against my door,
the landlord’s dog
digging in the sand—
something the lake wants to whisper

—Tish Davis, Concord, Ohio, USA



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