Saturday, December 29, 2007

Atlas Poetica Deadline

Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka is nearing its deadline. Very little space is left. I have been pleased and impressed by the quality of the submissions and the number of international and indigenous submissions. Atlas Poetica aims to be a true 'atlas' of the tanka world, and we are well on our way to that goal.

Also noteworthy are the number of sequences submitted, some quite lengthy, as well as the use of prose with tanka. I deliberately designed Atlas Poetica with a large format to permit more flexibility in the types of poetry that could be effectively presented, and I'm pleased to see that coming to fruition.

There have been only a handful of submissions that clearly did not read the guidelines, but let me make it clear. We are a tanka journal. We are quite flexible about the tanka form and definition, but we will not publish things that bear no relationship to the tanka form. Your forty line free verse rant about the political situation in the Third World doesn't qualify. Turn it into tanka, which means also turning it into poetry and we'll consider it. Some of the poems we received addressed concerns of indigenous peoples in realistic ways, such as reporting poverty, alcohol abuse, and the effects of international adoption or natural disaster, and we welcome more poems upon these and other themes. Tanka need not be all rosy hued romanticism.

Nevertheless, we did receive many poems that present loving views of particular places and cultures, some in idealized forms and others with more realistic views of a place's merits and faults. There is a place for all such poems in the Atlas Poetica. Rant or paean, as long as they are poetry of place in the tanka form, they are welcome.

What we did not receive much of were sequences that incorporated other forms of verse with the tanka. There were no Wilsonian sequences, in which haiku alternated with tanka, no sequences with envoys or other techniques, and no tanka in alternate formation. We did get a little bit of sedoka, but since it didn't meet other requirements, it was declined. Thus the first issue appears as a very powerful endorsement of traditional English format of five phrases on five lines, but we wish to emphasize that this is an artifact of the submissions that came to us.

We encourage multiple forms, and are happy to consider cinquains and cherita (tanka derivatives) as well as other forms in combination with tanka. We are also willing to consider forms that were not derived from tanka, but which share characteristics of tanka, such as the word sonnet. Tan-renga, linked tanka, and renga are also welcome, where renga is understood to be the old style in which verses of three and two lines (total five) are written by multiple poets, with or without formal schema in the Japanese style.

The reading window for Atlas Poetica 2 will be March 1 to May 31, 2008. Please don't wait to the last minute to submit!

Atlas Poetica 1 is on schedule to be release March 1, 2008. It will be available through our publisher's web site,

For more editorial information about the journal, please visit our blog at

Thank you for your support,


M. Kei

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Further Thoughts on Lineation in Tanka

My article in the current issue of MET (#6), scratches the surface of the subject. I had not yet figured out for myself exactly what I was trying to get at when I wrote it, but went ahead with it on the assumption that if I stuck my neck out, somebody would respond by trying to chop it off, and that this would advance our understanding of the subject. I was right, somebody did, and it has. Here then is the response I made to him:

Japanese doesn't have meter; it does not stress or accent syllables. There is no variation in sound that determines line length, and in fact, spoken Japanese does vary from its written form. What the Japanese count are the kana, the written form. Thus, a word like 'desu' is written with two kana, and is counted as two kana, but is pronounced as 'dess', one mora. That the pronunciation varies from the written form is of little concern to the Japanese.

When dealing with classical waka, we never know what the originals are because old Japanese had many sounds that have disappeared from modern Japanese, and waka are always translated into strictly formal modern Japanese, which eliminates any irregularities. Thus, when we see Saigyo in Japanese romaji, we are seeing a modern Japanese translation of what Saigyo actually wrote. It is very rare -- and quite befuddling -- to confront the romaji inscriptions of classical waka. Translating from classical Japanese to modern Japanese is just as difficult and perhaps more so than translating from Anglo-Saxon to modern English. When we read Beowulf in English, we are not reading what the bard wrote. Yet if we are to confront the bard's word directly, we can make very little sense of it. So in reality, all our supposed adherence to the aesthetics of classical waka is complete poppycock: we are adhering to some translator's notion of what old waka were like. As far as I know, no one has ever made a direct translation from classical Japanese to modern English. Anything passed through a double layer of translation must depart far from the original.

Yet even in the strictest period of waka writing, under Ki no Tsurayuki and his influence, waka might vary by a syllable or two. When I was first writing tanka and adhering to the 5-7-5-7-7 format, I had a good friend from Japan who was a published poet. She constantly nudged me to not worry so much about counting syllables, telling me the Japanese didn't mind if it was off by a bit.

In the more flexible periods, eg, the modern era and the earliest eras, there was/is considerable flexibility. For example; the ancient form appears to have been alternating long and short lines, with lines varying from 3 to 9 syllables. When it was adopted by the courtiers, they seem to have settled on 5 and 7. Such a pattern is now seen as 'inherent' in the Japanese language, but it is long custom that has made it so. And yet, as noted, variation was still permitted.

I speculate that the Japanese settled on 5 and 7 for reasons having to do with Chinese influence, which saw the world made up of as sets of five -- five musical notes in the scale, five elements, five colors, five directions, etc, and natural harmonics, eg, the seven note scale, and so forth. Gagaku, the classical music of the same period as waka, is quite eerie to Western ears. It's based on the five note scale.

What sounded musical to a Japanese courtier of the Heian period will set the Westerner's nerves on end -- if you dislike bagpipe music, then gagaku will cause real suffering! I do not think we can import the Japanese classical musical system to our tanka and win any admirers. The Japanese model simply does not translate, either in syllables, rhythm, or sound.

See A Waka Anthology, Vol 1, for more details on ancient Japanese prosody.

Another thing to keep in mind is that tanka was not the only form, merely the most popular form. All kinds of forms were in used in ancient Japan, and the Japanese kept inventing new ones, like the ko-uta ('little song'). Thus, a thing that did not adhere to the tanka form might appear as a sedoka or ko-uta or Buddha's footstep poem or one of the many other forms. So the tanka poet was not confined to the 5-7-5-7-7 form; if a poem needed to be something else, it could be. Hell, even the acrostic survived in the courtly anthologies. When we fixate on tanka, we are ignoring the context which provided many more options to the Japanese poet than just 5-7-5-7-7.

Alas, we hear next to nothing about other forms. Thus, if I present a six line poem in a tanka context, the great majority of readers are not going to recognize it as a sedoka, they're going to think it's a defective or experimental tanka. If I use four lines, they aren't going to ask if I'm trying to do a Chinese quatrain or a ko-uta, they are going to see it as a radical tanka.
A Japanese reader would have no such problem.

Japanese rhythm is built on phrases, rather than words or lines. Generally speaking, waka have a single phrase per line. Japanese grammar being what it is, particles of various sorts demark groups of words as belonging together. In Japanese, these words are run together with no space between them, and are pronounced without pauses. This is very different from English with space and pauses between each word, no matter how important or unimportant they are. Thus a Japanese auditor can easily tell where the line breaks fall -- there is a pauses in the flow of sound. How many syllables are in that flow of sound doesn't matter. They aren't counting. They're registering the pauses between groups of syllables, along with certain grammatical markers, to know when a phrase ends and the next begins. English-language tanka is not built on phrases at all, which is why we can have enjambment and single words on lines, and other things. Our language is simply too different.

I could, if I was to imitate the Japanese rhythm, write tanka by eliminating the spaces between words. Thus the lineation would be completely irrelevant. Consider this:

thewoods thatseemedimpenetrable insummer arehollowin December'swind

Voila. A Japanese tanka in English. Written on one line with the breaks appearing at the ends of phrases. Counting syllables or morae is completely irrelevant; the breaks between phrases are obvious. Thus it becomes clear why the Japanese need not be too exacting when counting syllables. It also becomes clear that the need to take a breath is going to break the poem into 'utterances' if we can use that term to refer to the group of words sung between breaths. In poem of these size, two or three breaths is natural to an ordinary speaker; to utter a poem of this length in one breath or five is out of the ordinary, but perfectly feasible. To manipulate the breathing places is part of the poet's technique.

The above poem's breathing pattern is:

thewoodsthatseemedimpenetrableinsummer arehollowinDecember'swind

Such issues are given no attention by poets in English, except for a few who mention 'one or two breaths.' There is no discussion of the impact that such breaths give to prosody, or how such breaks might be exploited for literary benefit, or how they balance one another, or any such thing. The break at the end of L3 does have the virtue of dividing the poem into two roughly equal halves. Such a break is certainly easily accomplished by a singer with no special training. But why limit ourselves to what is simple and obvious?

When you get right down to it; the vast majority of tanka poets and readers working in English -- including most of the well known ones -- haven't a clue what really makes a Japanese tanka work, or what the equivalent is in English. As long as we keep on with our absolutely meaningless rubric of 'five phrases on five lines', we haven't a chance of learning anything about either Japanese tanka or English-language tanka. My article on lineation is primitive, I know, but I operate on the theory that sticking my neck out may provoke discussion, education, and improvement.

I thank you for raising the issue. I had not quite figured out for myself in any conscious way what I was getting at in 'Alternate Lineation,' my thoughts on the matter are much clearer now.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Tanka Bestsellers at

Tanka Bestsellers at is becoming the de facto home of print on demand publishing of tanka. While tanka books continue to be published with small presses and other print on demand services, no publisher makes public the sales figures for their titles. Since each publisher uses his own method for establishing sales ranks (if they do it at all) it is impossible to compare from publisher to publisher.

The following ranks have been culled from the sales ranks, and are based solely on those rankings. Thus the list can capture only those works published through

1) Kei, M., ed. Fire Pearls : Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart.
2) Garrison, Denis M., & Michael McClintock, eds. Modern English Tanka 1.
3) Bacharach, Dave, ed. Ribbons : Tanka Society of America Journal, 3:3.
4) Garrison, Denis M. & Michael McClintock, eds. Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka.
5) Garrison, Denis M. & Michael McClintock, eds. Modern English Tanka 3.
6) Garrison, Denis M. & Michael McClintock, eds. Modern English Tanka 2.
7) Garrison, Denis M. & Michael McClintock, eds. The Five-Hole Flute : Modern English Tanka in Sets and Sequences.
8) Garrison, Denis M. & Michael McClintock, eds. Modern English Tanka 4.
9) Blankenship, Gary. A River Transformed : Wang Wei’s River Wang Poems as Inspiration.
10) Goldstein, Sanford, ed. Sixty Sunflowers : Tanka Society of America Members' Anthology for 2006-2007.
11) Garrison, Denis M. & Michael McClintock, eds. Modern English Tanka 5.
12) Woodward, Jeffrey. In Passing: Selected Poems, 1974-2007.
13) Burns, Roderick. The Salesman's Shoes.
14) McClintock, Michael, & Denis M. Garrison, eds. The Dreaming Room: Tanka in Collage and Montage Sets.
15) Millcock, Allison. pausing for a moment . . . haiga and tanga.
16) Garrison, Denis M. and Michael McClintock, eds. Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka.
17) Garrison, Denis M., ed. Haiku Harvest.
18) Rotella, Alexis. Lip Prints : Tanka Collection 1979 - 2007.
19) Garrison, Denis M., ed. Five Lines Down : A Landmark in English Tanka.
20) Kei, M. Heron Sea : Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay.

Small press tanka publishers, editors, and poets are loathe to share publication figures. I have been able to obtain only a handful of numbers, and most of those under a pledge of confidentiality. Refusal to share number of units sold makes it extremely difficult to track which works are actually being sold, and presumably, read. Some critics argue that 'sales' differ from 'readership', and that readership is the more important criterion. That is certainly a valid point, but not many publishers are willing or able to give me readership figures, either. And how does one calculate 'readership', anyhow? A useful figure, it is far more slippery than units sold.

Units sold also performs a valuable function: it puts a monetary value on tanka poetry. I suspect that is why so many people are uncomfortable with it. Yet it's an important measure; if tanka is to sustain itself as a legitimate genre it needs financial support. It needs readers who are willing to pay out cold hard cash to support the small presses and self-publishers who are making the effort to publish and promote tanka.

As much as we might like to sit in our ivory tower and declare ourselves above pecuniary motivations, the truth is, poetry must be paid for. It is the readers that decide how it is paid for, and therefore, what kind of poetry gets printed. While the barriers to self-publishing are getting lower all the time, it still requires an investment of time, money, and skills, a combination that describes a minority of tanka poets. The skills referred to here is not literary skills, but practical skills: book design and layout, cover design, publishing software, marketing, sales, legal (copyright and copyleft), and related efforts, such as packaging and mailing. Does tanka belong only to those who can afford the investment?

The ordinary reader, by choosing which books and journals they buy, determine which poets and consequently, what kind of poetry is worth publishing. Or put it this way: how many poets are going to publish a second book if they only sell twenty of their first book?

Yes, the Internet offers the opportunity to publish for free, or nearly free publication, but you can't wrap up the Internet and put it under the tree. You can't write your own personal inscription to a beloved on the Internet's flyleaf. You can't take the Internet with you when you're sitting in a doctor's office, waiting for an appointment. And there is absolutely no guarantee that any given page or poem will still exist on the Internet tomorrow, next week, or next year. And worse yet, read the fine print on many of those Internet hosting sites — you will discover that by posting your material to that site, you have given ownership of copyright to the website, to do with as they will.

Support literature. Buy books. Buy books by poets you like. Take a chance on poets you're not familiar with. Subscribe to journals. This Christmas, when you're trying to figure out what to buy for all the people on your list, why not buy one of them a book of tanka?


M. Kei

Sunday, December 02, 2007

New Email Address for Atlas Poetica

Effective immediately, Atlas Poetica has a new email address for submissions .

Please use this address when submitting to the journal.

The web address remains the same

Thank you.


M. Kei
Editor, Atlas Poetica

Thursday, November 29, 2007

FREE Resources for learning about TANKA

The following resources are FREE online, and include ARTICLES and TANKA. Many of them have reading lists and link lists to direct you to further resources.

The Tanka Teachers Guide can be downloaded for free at

In addition, Modern English Tanka journal can be read free online. In addition to the many poems in it, you will find scholarly articles, explaining and analyzing different elements about tanka

Tanka Online has poetry and articles and a recommended reading list

The Tanka Society of America has a web page with some articles and some tanka aims to be the megasite for tanka information. It has a Reading Room with reference material and poetry, including tanka being read aloud by poets (anyone can contribute sound files).

The Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society publishes both tanka poetry and articles about tanka

Happy studying!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sportsmanship and Reviews

Recently I have been perusing articles on review writing. There are those who think that if the reviewer can't say something nice, they shouldn't say anything at all, while there are those that think the reviewer's job is to call a spade a spade. On the cheerleaders side, there is the arguments that we want to encourage people to read and you don't do that by being negative about the written word. On the curmudgeon's side is the retort that there is no point wasting people's time with things that aren't worth their attention.

I love to read and I love to write. And Heinlein's rule applies to poetry. He said, "Ninety percent of science fiction is crap. But then, ninety percent of everything is crap." The reviewer's job is to tell the reader what's what, and to do so in an informed and informing way. If he has done his job well, the reader can tell whether the book is something he is interested in even if he doesn't agree with the reviewer.

Fair play is the rule here: The reviewer must be fair in his or her analysis of the merits and demerits of a particular work. He must engage it on its own terms and make a distinction between his personal taste and the accomplishments (or failures) of the writer. This is very difficult work, made even more difficult by the prevailing notion that a 'good' review is one which praises the work (deserved or not) and a 'bad' review is one which points out its shortcomings.

As reading has been losing ground to more exciting media like movies, television, the Internet, and videogames, a sort of desperation has developed among writers and editors and other literary professionals -- it seems we must praise everything in order to convince somebody that all this literary work is really worth something. But effusive and undeserved praise only persuades the reader that we can't tell the difference between toilet paper and poetry.

But there is something else: Fear of retalation. Reviewers -- some of them, at least -- are afraid that writers (and editors and readers) won't like when they write what they really think, and so they say only nice things. This fear is real and warranted -- I have personally been campaigned against by a writer who didn't like my review and who did her damnedest to persuade my editor to kill the review or change as she specified. He didn't, for which I am grateful.

I admit, I wasn't so sure. It was the same editor, who, when giving me a review copy, told me if that if I was going to pan the book, he wouldn't print it. Reviews are a marketing tool. While I totally endorse the notion of effective marketing for a book (and have been criticized for it), I don't agree that a book review is a marketing tool. It's a tool for the buyer, not the seller. That it is useful (or not) to the seller is merely a side effect and not the intended purpose.

I walk an exquisite tight rope. My own integrity requires me to report what it is that I see, both good in bad in a work, and to analyze what the writer was attempting and whether s/he succeeded, and discover things that perhaps the writer didn't realize were there. I have to present my reasons for my statements and support them with quotations from the work, placing it in context of other relevant work. In short, it is a devilish amount of very difficult work, for which I receive no pay at all, rarely any praise, and which exposes me to the ire of unhappy poets who behave like they must have spent most of their school time in the principal's office.

It's enough to make a man throw up his hands and say, "I don't need this." Or, if he is made of weaker stuff, to write only nice things so that people will like him and continue sending him free books. Frankly, I place 'respecting myself' higher on the list of things that make me feel good than 'being popular,' so I've made my decision.

I have to say, I don't particularly like reviewing books. Of all the things I do, it's the least fun, the most work, the least reward, and which most exposes me to the bad behavior of people who claim to be grown ups. I do it because it helps me with my research, which I love. And because I think it needs doing because there are a lot of poorly written reviews and a definite lack of critical rigor in evaluating English-language tanka. Donning my hair shirt, I say, "tanka will be better for this."

Which brings me to sportsmanship: If you can't behave at least as well as a Little League player, go home. The world is overloaded with insecure, egotistical prima donnas of marginal talent and bad manners. We don't need any more. If you submit your work for publication, then it is your duty to do so with grace, accepting that some people will like it and some people won't, and listening carefully when reviewers, readers, editors, or anyone else make comments on your work.

Some of them will be airheads with nothing useful to say and can be ignored, but some of them have valid points that will make you wince. Take what you can use and ignore the rest. Don't argue about it. If necessary you can correct a factual error, but recognize that it is the reviewer's prerogative to say what he thinks. If you think a particular reviewer is incompetent, don't submit your books to that reviewer. Better yet, write reviews yourself. Good reviews, not laudatory reviews.

On the other hand, given the disincentives that exist, I don't foresee many new reviewers in the field. Thus, I propose that book reviews should be eligible for prizes, along with other non-fiction writing about tanka. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no prize given for tanka non-fiction. Perhaps if members of the various organizations demanded it, it would be though. Certainly we ought to recognize and promote our non-fiction writers who write about tanka as well as tanka poets themselves.


Monday, October 29, 2007

The Ever Expanding Obsession

As readers of this blog know by now, as do all my friends and relatives, there is nothing I like better than sailing wooden boats on the Chesapeake Bay. Yes, I even like it better than poetry, but don't ask me to choose between them! They can be accomplished simultaneously, one lived through the other.

Over the period of October 17 - 22 I once again crewed aboard the Martha Lewis, this time for a trip down the bay to the Crisfield Watermen's Festival. Crisfield is about as far south as you can go on the water and still be in Maryland. I also learned many new an interesting things, including how each and every one of us has a built in map of the Chesapeake Bay. To use it, raise your arm up straight, but put a slight crook in your elbow. The fingers tips are the head of the Bay with Havre de Grace. The elbow is an Annapolis. The armpit is Crisfield. Extending the anatomical metaphor, Norfolk is your rear end. Or to put it this way: If you were going to give the Chesapeake Bay an enema, Norfolk is where you would insert the nozzle. I'll spare you the rest of the watermen's humor I encountered.

Everywhere we go, we meet watermen who tell us about the time they served with Martha or some other skipjack. I have noticed a common thread. Speaking as they do in the common language, intent only on talking about things that matter to them, watermen are developing a peculiar figure of speech. More than once I have heard an older waterman describe himself as working on the Bay "back when winters were cold." Global warming may be a subject of debate to people who lived in climate controlled boxes in cities, but for the people who live and work the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, it is a manifest fact.

When I tell young people that a hundred years ago the Upper Bay used to freeze over and that ice cut from it was Maryland's second largest export, they are astonished. Their grandparents then chime in to tell about how when they were young and the Bay would freeze over, they would walk across the ice from one side to the other. More astonishment. When I ask them when that was, they say the 1950s. Indeed, as late as the 1950s, skipjacks were sometimes caught in the ice and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. Wooden boats are no defense against the slow grinding crush of winter.

But while Crisfield was interesting for many reasons, that which most attracted my attention (aside from a few brief but exciting moments when my glove was pinned against the samson post and the skipjack was swinging out of control at Tilghmans Island), was the three log sailing canoe, Ruby. She belongs to Randy George who lives on Galen's Creek, or as it used to be known and still is known to oldtimers, Red Cap Creek. He kindly invited us to go out on it with him, and three of us accepted.

the magic trick
of dawn:
a slim white sailboat
from the mist

Arriving at night, the creek and sailboat were invisible. But as dawn rose, the slim white lines of the sailboat emerged from the mist. What a beautiful sight to behold! About thirty feet long, including her Roman-nosed bowsprit, and about six feet wide, she sported a single mast with a skipjack rig. She was built in 1895 and is an example of the working type of log sailing canoe. She had been used for oystering.

The log sailing canoe was evolved by the colonists from the Native American dugout canoe. In the case of the Ruby, three logs were affixed side by side and hollowed out with axe and adze to make the hull. Then her sides and coamings affixed and the whole lot rigged as it pleases. The result is an extremely shallow, narrow, and quick sailboat, so much so that they survive today in the sport of log canoe racing, which is unique to the Chesapeake Bay. The modern log canoe with its trapezoidal sails and hiking boards is a strange and unmistakeable sight. There aren't many of them left, and even fewer that are still rigged as workboats. The oldest canoes in the racing fleet are over a hundred years old.

The Ruby then was a sweet little boat and when I saw it I think I must have felt much as Mole felt when he first saw the Water Rat's little boat, and for much the same reason. As Kenneth Graham said in The Wind in the Willows , "There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

my hand on the tiller
like Water Rat and Mole
with no particular place to go
and no particular desire
to get there any time soon

Randy very kindly let us each have a turned at the tiller, so we sailed down Red Cap Creek to the Big Annemessex River. The marshes were all brown and sere, quite, and with few insects about. The waters were placid and a light breeze blew. The curves of the waters wended through the stands of tall marsh grass, and the higher ground ('high' is a relative term) with its trees and houses fell away. The sky overhead was the purest blue, fading into silver at the horizons.

How my heart went out to it! A skipjack is and always will be beyond my means, but wouldn't it be possible to some day perhaps have myself a log sailing canoe? It's not so very large, and the skills -- knocking out the rotten wood and replacing the Bondo and other makeshift repairs with something more solid -- requires no great skill. Mast hoops made of rope and a sail that I could probably stitch myself . . . why not?

Ah. The real difficulty is not with the boat but the shore. Where to keep it? It won't fit in the living room. Where to store it where it could live safely while I puttered with it for as long as it took my meager funds to slowly patch it back together and return it to the water? I'd live in a shack if it had a bit of creek for a boat. I have, at times in my life, been gifted with chocolate, plane tickets, medication, and old clothes, but never with a waterfront home.

Alas. Such is not be. I've got a job working at Walmart, running my legs off so that people who make as little as I do can have their DVDs and gaming consoles. How they spend, spend, spend on HDTV, the latest pop album, and gadgets for their gadgets. It feels a little strange to be selling people things I have no use for, and if they had any sense, they wouldn't have any use for them either. Once upon a time, little boys messed about in old wooden rowboats and explored the riverbanks and marshes. Nowadays their parents keep them away from those dangerous places and give them better entertainment, like 'Grand Theft Auto' and 'Hitman.'


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sounds from the Unknown

I have been working on a comprehensive article about the history of tanka publishing in English, which has caused me to revisit Sounds from the Unknown edited by Tomoe Tana and Lucille Nixon.

Nixon describes the elements that make up good tanka as:

"The most important requisite for a good poem is that it come from the heart, that the expression must be real and sincere. The image, in other words, the sensory intake, must be clear, but there must be enough space around it so that the reader may delight himself with it by using his own associations."

All the following are the English translations of the Japanese originals. Both are included in the book.

From the high cliff the boat
I see in the middle of the Hudson River
Looks so very small
As it pulls along its own trail
Through the pure blue water.

~Masa Nishi

As my son opened a bundle
Of his luggage
When he returned,
The room was filled
With the odor of soldiering.

~Keigetsu Fukunaga

At the mountain villa
Where my friend's mother
Has just died,
The magnolia fragrances embraced us,
And words were few, very few.

~Junko Iizuka

At Hallowe'en
The baby goblin
Looking so happy,
Whispered from under the mask,
"This is me."

~Totaro Matsui

The sun shone so brightly
Into the Gilroy mountain stream
That the bodies of the fish
Became transparencies
Of yellow intestines.

~Takako Iino

Today at Pearl Harbor,
From the shore line,
At highest tide,
A gossamer mist,
With the deepest stillness.

~Hagino Matsuoka

Going steadily to study English,
Even through the rain at night,
I thus attain,
Late in life,
American citizenship.

~Kiyoko Nieda

The first person's name
My baby spoke again and again
Was that of Donna—
The little colored girl
Who lives across the street.

~Tomoe Tana

Oh, how very cold!
And how bright the frost this morning
On the silent fields,
As the sharp voice of the pheasant
Passes through.

~Tomo Hasaka

I am possessed
By this metropolitan phantom,
And have become as familiar
With New York in twenty years
As with a well beloved elderly wife.

~Kisaburo Konoshima

I, too, add my rock
To the mound of stones
Piled up
By all those who
Have climbed to the top of this peak.

~Shizuko Murakami

How silently
That tower of forty-two towers
Reflects the dawn,
In the harbor
At Seattle!

~Yosei Nomura

Quite early in the day,
Going to their city jobs,
People sit in buses,
And, oh, the beauty of each face
Reflecting early morning sun.

~Fumiko Kiyotoki

On the wide desert,
Before the silent wind,
My body sank
Into nothingness.

~Fumiko Ogawa

At Redondo Beach
Where Mexican people dwell,
Ugly oil wells rise,
But on washdays,
Oh, the flaming reds
That flutter in the breeze!

~Masanori Toyofuku

Sounds from the Unknown was published in January of 1964 as a trade paperback. Copies of it are readily found at low cost through the various online used booksellers.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007



Autumn 2007

TANKAFALL | October 1st - December 31st 2007

For our fourth open-submission exhibition since our launch in January we're delighted to present Tankafall, dedicated entirely to tanka. 3LIGHTS is pleased to welcome back writers such as Bob Lucky, Fran Masat and Matthew Paul for this Autumnal exhibition, as well as a host of newcomers to the gallery, many of whom have been making their mark in the pages of modern tanka magazines and journals across the globe.

Tankafall is now open at

If you have submitted poems for inclusion in Tankafall and haven't made it into the final line-up, why not submit again to be considered for our next open-submission exhibition. Details can be found below.

Closing Date: December 10th 2007

From January 2008, it's lights out at 3LIGHTS! Our first open-submission exhibition of 2008, Nocturne, will be a celebration of the dark hours that fall between dusk and dawn. If you've ever stayed up into the night, sipping black coffee, collecting the haiku, senryu and tanka as they fall onto the lamp-lit page, then you may have the poems we're looking for.

Submit up to ten haiku/senryu/tanka to with a brief biography by December 10th 2007.

See our submissions page for more details at

M. KEI : AUTUMN WATER | October 1st - December 31st 2007

3LIGHTS has been lucky enough to present a selection of M. Kei's tanka previously, but now we're thrilled to present an exhibition of over twenty of his poems.

M. Kei's work is filled to the brim with a drama that can only be found at sea and along its salty coastlines. Whether aboard the Skipjack Martha Lewis or on the shores of his beloved Chesapeake Bay, M. Kei continues to deliver consistently stirring tanka, and his voice on the modern tanka scene is becoming evermore distinct and influential. We’re lucky to have him and it’s a great pleasure for 3LIGHTS to present a hand-picked selection of his tanka, along with a revealing interview with the man himself.

Autumn Water runs until the end of the year. It's now open at


Since our last exhibition opened in the Summer, we've moved home. Find 3LIGHTS at and enjoy a more visual and jam-packed online gallery of haiku, senryu and tanka.


Finally, a thank you.

3LIGHTS has been open since January 1st 2007 and, since then, has welcomed a vast amount of high-quality submissions of haiku, senryu and tanka from across the globe. We have endeavoured to exhibit successful work in a range of online exhibitions in the hope that your reading experience is enhanced.

We're grateful for every submission and look forward to reading more. Next year we will present another twelve months of themed exhibitions and solo shows from new and established writers. We hope you can join us.

Thank you all.

Liam Wilkinson, October 2007

Editor: Liam Wilkinson

If you do not wish to receive future editions of this newsletter, please let us know. Reply to this email with the subject: UNSUBSCRIBE. We apologise for any inconvenience.


3LIGHTS Gallery is an online gallery of haiku and related, short form poetry, submitted by
new and established writers. It is edited and curated by Liam Wilkinson & Diane Sturch.
3LIGHTS is based in the North of England.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

7 Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay

I love the Chesapeake Bay and I believe it is best seen from the water. I have seen sites of spectacular beauty along its shores, especially from the deck of the Skipjack Martha Lewis. Several sites impress me with their beauty and so it has occurred to me to develop a list of the 'Seven Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay." Much to my surprise, apparently no one has done such a thing.

My list is barely begun, but I offer the following candidates:

1) The view from Turkey Point. This is an absolutely breathtaking panorama which allows a person to see more than thirty miles to Poole Island. From water level, the island is only a barely visible dark smudge, but from atop the 100 foot bluffs, the island is a broad expanses. Add to this the Turkey Point Lighthouse, built 1833, and the hawks and other migratory birds that use Turkey Point as a launching point to cross the bay, and you've got my number one pick.

2) Sharp's Island Light. The famous Leaning Lighthouse of the Chesapeake. It was nudged over by heavy ice in 1970. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is more famous, but why? Sharp's Light was built in 1882 on what was then Sharp's Island. This is one of several islands of the Chesapeake that has completely eroded away, becoming a set of shoals that require the light for warning. There are very few places in the world where a historic structure is still standing when the land under is has disappeared. Sharp's Light is our very own Atlantis.

3) The Calvert Cliffs. They line the Western Shore for more than thirty miles, a stretch with no harbor, making them a peril to mariners when storms blow out of the east. More than one ship has been sunk here. In addition, the cliffs have yielded more than 600 species of fossils. Because they are constantly eroding, they are constantly revealing new fossils. Crocodile teeth, anyone? Prehistoric crocs from the Miocene period lived here when the Cliffs were at the bottom of a shallow sea. The Cliffs are also the highest shoreline along the Chesapeake Bay.

4) The Skipjack Fleet. Listed on the National Register in 1985 and listed in 2002 as one of the eleven most endangered historic places in America by the National Historic Trust, these beautiful hard working vessels and the people who keep them afloat are truly a wonder. Official boat of Maryland, the number that are still dredging could be counted on one hand by a man who has lost a few fingers.

These four seem to me shoo-ins for Wonders of the Chesapeake Bay. I am undecided about the rest of the Wonders. I prefer natural wonders, but there is Sharp Island Light and the skipjacks... If we are to include man made wonders, then the C&D Canal, dug by hand with dirt hauled in baskets by mules is a prime candidate, and so is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Yet I admit to having a bias against the Bay Bridge. Maybe it's simply too new for my historical taste.

As for other candidates... Tangier Sound offers possibilities. And I admit to a great fondness for the little town of Wingate. It's a tiny place composed of two churches and seventeen crabboats where people are in bed by 9 at nine because they get up at 3 in the morning to go to work crabbing or in picking crabs in the crabhouses, and the docks are missing most of their boards. But the view of skipjacks heading out in the morning mists is something never to be forgotten.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Heron Sea Reviewed in Loch Raven Review

It's very hard to find places to review tanka books, so I'm very pleased that one of our regional journals, the Loch Raven Review has reviewed Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay. The really nice thing about a regional review is that they know the subject matter and appreciate its authenticity.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Asking Passage

The new issue of Lynx is up. It contains a long sequence of mine, 'Asking Passage.' Print journals are chary of their space, so an online journal is an ideal venue for a long work like this.

The sequence is distilled from about 80 poems written on a hike through a vacant lot and field behind my apartment. All the poems were written on the spot -- even the dead deer poems. Is it morbid to crouch over the bones of a fawn writing poetry?

Above and beyond that, today was a banner day. I attended the meeting of the Haiku Poets of Central Maryland. The meeting was well attended with 10-12 people. Cathy Drinkwater Better gave us each a copy of the chapbook she printed up with the poems we had sent her. I got copies of Dreaming Room and Five Lines Down from Denis Garrison, and when I arrived home, Landfall was sitting on my doorstep! A couple of days ago, Yellow Moon 17-20 arrived. I have a stack of reading!

I am thoroughly enjoying Landfall. A sign of good poetry is that it sparks creativity in others. Landfall does. I have written a number of poems, which is slowing down my reading! Every few pages I stop and write some poems of my own.

As usual, I forgot to bring a poem to read and a poem to workshop at HPCM. I swiftly penned a poem to use:

ginger ale
autumn sparkling
in the glass

It was well received. A few people noticed me looking at my bottle of ginger ale and realized I wrote it on the spot. Apparently that is strange. I do that quite normally though. I learned to write poetry by speaking it as part of a conversation. Thus a person had to create an apt expression instantly or else the tide of conversation would pass him by.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Native American Shoes -- Let Me Buy Shoes That Fit, Please!

Open Letter to Nike

Dear Nike,

In the world of blogs mine is a very small and unimportant one, but I hope that you will notice. I'm writing about the recent article on announcing that you have made a shoe specifically for Native Americans and will be providing them to tribal organizations, but that they will not be available to the general public.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me buy a shoe that fits!

I am one of about nine million Americans of mixed blood, meaning we have Native American and other ancestry. As a person of Native ancestry, I have various genetic traits common to my Native ancestors -- dark hair and big noses may be the stereotype, but as we have known in my family for generations, it's diabetes, feet, and teeth that really make the difference.

Just like your article describes, I have a wide ball of the foot and high arch. All my life I have been obliged to wear shoes that don't fit properly. I will never forget the odyssey I undertook once when I was a teenager -- My mother and sister and I visited 22 shoe stores before we finally found a shoe that fit me. What was it? A lady's platform shoe. No, this gentleman cannot wear that to work...

To get a shoe wide enough that it doesn't pinch the ball of my foot gives me a shoe that is too long and too large in the heel. The heel slops and chafes. I have a tendency to trip over the long toe. Even though it's a larger shoe, it's not tall enough for the arch of my foot so the top of my foot hurts all the time. I hate wearing shoes -- I am barefoot as I write this -- because I will only wear shoes when forced to by law, meaning at work, in stores, etc. I even go barefoot to take the trash out in the middle of winter, and I don't live in Florida. Given a choice between wading barefoot through six inches of snow to take the trash out, or wearing shoes, snow wins.

I can't buy shoes for looks. Fashion is irrelevant. Simply put, it is so hard to fit my feet that I buy the first pair that sort-of fits -- because once you've tried on a dozen or more pairs where you can't even get your foot in, or make your feet hurt before you've even laced them up, you take what you can get.

So Nike, your Air Native shoe sounds wonderful. But I don't live on a reservation and I don't have access to Indian Health Service or any other Native American agency. Please please let me buy your shoe anyhow. Please make your Native American shoe publically available. Millions of Americans of Native descent will thank you.


(Mixed blood of Scotch Irish, Cherokee, and Yamacraw descent.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Autumn Water

I will have my first solo exhibit of poetry at the 3Lights Gallery from October - December of this year. Entitled 'Autumn Water,' the title is the theme. Included with the poetry are photographs from the Skipjack Martha Lewis. The exhibit isn't done yet and won't be ready for a public unveiling until October 1, but what I've seen so far is absolutely beautiful. I really love the way curator Liam Wilkinson is making my vision come together in a gorgeous exhibit.

The 3Lights Gallery is set up to present haiku and tanka as if they were art, and so the visitor tours a virtual gallery to study the poetry, much the way one contemplates art objects in a gallery. The presentation is effective, and more visceral than the usual literary journal presentation. Utilizing the web to include color and image really enhances the experience in a way that cannot be done in a purely textual medium.

Art and haiku and tanka have been combined before in the form known as haiga, but this 'art gallery' conceit is different. In haiga a single image and single poem are combined in a gestalt, but with the gallery concept, the photographs are important works of art in themselves. They complement but are not subsumed in the poetry. The intergration is not as tight, space is left between image and poem for the reader to breathe and think. The combination really works and I can't wait to see the finished product!


Grapes and Hawkwatch

Today I helped load 4000 pounds of grapes on the Martha Lewis. She was transporting grapes from the local Mount Felix vinyard to the St. Michael's Winery on the Eastern Shore. In the warm months when skipjacks couldn't oyster, their captains shipped whatever they could get, typically produce and lumber. Skipjacks were just like semi-truck owners today -- whatever load they could get that would pay, they would take. Back before the Bay Bridge and the excellent highway system, it was cheaper, easier, and faster to move freight by boat.

It happened that the Mount Felix winery has its first harvest this year. They sold them to the winery, and the winery owner stipulated that they be shipped by boat, was traditional. The Martha Lewis was going that way to the Cambridge skipjack races this weekend, so a deal was struck. Martha will deliver the cargo on her way down.

There are only three skipjack races and they're popular with the volunteers, so I couldn't go this trip since I went to the Deal Island skipjack races over Labor Day.

watching the boat
sail away without me,
somebody else
going to adventure
this autumn morning

After Martha sailed away I reminded people on the dock, "Don't watch her out of sight. If you do, they won't come back." It's an old Irish superstition handed down in my family.

I drove to the other side and joined a friend and fellow crew member for the Hawkwatch on Turkey Point at Elk Neck State Park. We didn't see very many birds, but did spot a couple of vultures, an osprey, and a sharp-shinned hawk. She helped me identify some other birds. Leaving Elk Neck, a kestrel was sitting on a powerline crossing the road, counting cars I presume.

We hiked an alternate route back and found a pocket beach with plenty of clamshells and sea wrack washed up on it. It was paved almost as much with shell as with sand and pebbles. I wrote poetry and she took photographs. It was a rather long hike back to the carpark :)


Monday, September 17, 2007

Tanka Bestsellers at is home to a thriving community of tanka and haiku poets, especially tanka poets. The print on demand service provides an economical way to get books into print, and many fine books are being publishing through its services. Using sales rank figures listed on the market pages of tanka books, I compiled this list of the top twenty bestselling tanka books at

1) Fire Pearls : Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart
2) Modern English Tanka, 1:1
3) Ribbons, 3:3
4) Modern English Tanka, 1:3
5) Modern English Tanka, 1:2
6) Five Hole Flute
7) Modern English Tanka, 1:4
8) River Transformed
9) Amaze: The Cinquain Journal Annual 2006
10) Sixty Sunflowers
11) Dreaming Room
12) The Salesman's Shoes
13) Haiku Harvest
14) Call of the Inland Sea
15) Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka (Hardcover)
16) Five Lines Down
17) Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay
18) Tiny Droppings
19) blue night & the inadequacy of long-stemmed roses
20) Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka (Softcover)

Friday, September 14, 2007


I have received the letter from Biken International confirming me as the grand prize winner. They also send copies of their magazine, which includes the following announcement:

Announcement of the Results of the Second World Poetry Contest

In December 2006, the Second World Poetry Contest was held in New York. This contest saw many works of a high quality, represented by the contributions from the Society of America. Among their poets, the work produced by M. Kei was awarded the highest award. The highly emotional sensitivity of the author caught the heart of the readers.

The Major Award-Winning Works

M. Kei

my mother
planted a plum tree
to have blooms
when her heart
was winter weary

~from Poetry Renaissance Magazine, Vol. 02, 15 June 2007, Tokyo, Japan

Thursday, September 06, 2007

2nd World Poetry Contest

I apparently took first place for the 2nd World Poetry Contest, but I haven't been notified by the organization. Their Japanese website lists my tanka as what Google translates as 'most best winner'. If you can read Japanese, please tell me what it says!

my mother
planted a plum tree
to have blooms
when her heart
was winter weary

I apparently have two honorable mentions as well:

tawny lilies
growing wild
in the ditches;
once I had a
heart like that

a harpsichord
plays an allemande
in a minor key;
all this grey day winds
rove through leafless trees


2nd Place for Skipjack Martha Lewis

As regular readers of my blog know, I have a bigger obsession than tanka poetry, and that is the Chesapeake Bay, and skipjacks in particular. Over Labor Day(s), I spent five days crewing aboard Martha as she took two days to get down the Bay to Deal Island (I wonder if the name was originally 'Ordeal'), one day to race, and one day back. I did get showers which made life bearable because it was sunny and hot on shore. On the Bay it was sunny and very pleasant, and I have intensified my tan with only minor sunburn to report.

Martha took second, outsailed by the spry Captain Art on the City of Crisfield, who at 86 is the last of the old time skipjack captains. He still drudges, too. Art is a Deal Islander and knows his waters, and he's been winning skipjack races since before our captain was born. It was a duel up until the final stretch. We made the first mark but he cut inside us and got ahead, then we caught up to him. We parted ways when he ran up the bay and we took our turn for the next mark early, way ahead of everybody else.

Turned out we turned too early and had to tack back to make the second mark, thereby losing ground that we had gained. City of Crisfield was waaaaay out there, and came screaming into the next mark on a broad reach - her best point of sail. Captain Art trusted his boat's ability to reach to give him the speed he needed in spite of us taking a shorter course, and he was right. We crossed her bow and tried to steal her wind, but he pulled away from us. He was just ahead of us going around the last mark, and then the wind died.

He got the City of Crisfield wung out, and though we tried, we couldn't get Martha to run wing and wing. Skipjacks are hard to wing out because of their club-footed jibs. Only one other skipjack got her sails wung out, which I do believe was the Rebecca Ruark. She'd had a block break earlier that cost her time and she wound up coming in fifth. There were three skipjack's fighting it out for third and a piece of the money. But as it was, the wind went nearly dead and we dawdled toward the finish line. City of Crisfield sails well in light airs, and we couldn't catch her, although we tried. We came in a quarter of a mile behind her (7 mile course). It took about an hour and a half.

Looking back, a flock of skipjacks was rounding the mark behind is, crossing each other and coming about, fighting it out for third. The fight was among Rebecca Ruark, Thomas Clyde, H. M. Krentz, and Fannie Daughtery. The third place spot went to Fannie Daugherty.

Finals were:
1st City of Crisfield
2nd Martha Lewis
3rd Fannie Daugherty
4th H. M. Krentz
5th Rebecca T. Ruark
6th Thomas Clyde
7th Helen Virginia
8th Somerset
9th Wilma Lee

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Deal Island Skipjack Races

Today, in about half an hour, I leave to spend five days without showering while crewing aboard the Skipjack Martha Lewis for the Deal Island Skipjack Races! Two days down, one day to race, two days back. If we get lucky, some kind soul will offer us showers along the way. If we get lucky, a fancy schmancy place in Annapolis will let us overnight with them, if not, we'll be docking in Dogwood Cove on Tilghman's Island. Personally, I'd rather dock at Dogwood Cove -- a skipjack belongs there. The rest of the crew is agitating for options with facilities, though :)

To learn more about the skipjack Martha Lewis, visit her website at:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Atlas Poetica : International Blurbs

I am pleased to report that I am receiving translations of the short blurb for Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka. I have received Nederlands (Dutch), Deutsch (German), Español (Spanish), Română (Romanian), Hrvatski (Croatian), Magyar (Hungarian) and Finnish.

Nederlands     Modern English Tanka Press kondigt een nieuw tijdschrift aan. Atlas Poetica: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka richt zich tot een internationaal publiek en zal twee maal per jaar verschijnen. In het formaat 8.5" x 11" zal het tijdschrift tanka's, waka's, kyoka's en varianten daarvan presenteren, evenals sets en suites. Opgenomen wordt uitsluitend poetry of place: gedichten waarin landschappen of plaatsen een rol spelen.

Het uiterlijk landschap is met het innerlijk landschap van de mens verwoven. Atlas Poetica streeft ernaar, de diversiteit van het leven in de meest uiteenlopende omgevingen te tonen en zo een poëtische atlas van de tanka-wereld te vormen. Inzendingen in andere talen zijn zeer welkom, mits vergezeld van een Engelse vertaling. Zowel traditionele als innovatieve teksten kunnen in aanmerking komen voor publicatie.

De deadline voor het eerste nummer is 1 januari 2008. Raadpleeg voor gedetailleerde informatie

Deutsch     Modern English Tanka Press kündigt das Erscheinen einer neuen Zeitschrift an. Atlas Poetica: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka wendet sich an eine internationale Leserschaft und wird halbjährlich erscheinen. Im Format 8.5" x 11" wird die Zeitschrift Tanka, Waka, Kyoka und deren Varianten sowie Serien und Sequenzen dieser Formen präsentieren. Aufgenommen wird ausschließlich poetry of place: Gedichte, in denen Landschaften oder Orte eine Rolle spielen.

Die äußere Umgebung ist mit der inneren Landschaft des Menschen verbunden. Atlas Poetica strebt an, die Diversität des Lebens in den unterschiedlichsten Umgebungen zu zeigen und so einen poetischen Atlas der Tanka-Welt zu gestalten. Einsendungen in anderen Sprachen sind sehr willkommen, sofern eine englische Übersetzung beiliegt. Sowohl traditionelle wie innovative Beiträge haben Aussicht auf Veröffentlichung.

Einsendeschluß für das erste Heft ist der 1. Januar 2008. Detaillierte Informationen bietet

Español: Modern English Tanka [Editorial de Tanka en Inglés Moderno] tiene el placer de presentar su nuevo periodico, ATLAS POETICA: un periodico de la poesía de lugar a traves de Modern English Tanka.  La publicación de dos periodicos anualmente consistirá en una revista en formato 8.5" x 11" con tanka/waka/kyoka y sus variantes, además incluyirá sequencias y conjuntos de poemas que siguen esas formas tradiciónales japonesas.  Todos los poemas tratarán de lugar en general, de la importancía del paisaje, o del lugar cultural.

Atlas poetica está dirigido a encontrar poesía en la que hay una conneción entre el entorno externo y el interno, y que muestran la diversidad de la experiencá humana y natural.  Se puede entregar Tanka que siguen la forma tradiciónal, o que son inovadores.  Se puede presentar poemas en idiomas que no son inglés con tal de que tienen al lado una traduccíon al inglés.

La ultima fecha por entregar poemas será el 1 de enero 2008.  Para obtener más información, se puede visitar:

Română Modern English Tanka Press anunţă apariţia unei noi reviste. Atlas Poetica: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka se adresează unui public internaţional şi va avea o apariţie bianuală. Cu un format de 8.5" x 11" ea va prezenta tanka, waka, kyoka şi variante ale acestora, precum şi secvenţe de astfel de forme. Vor fi acceptate exclusiv lucrări care se încadrează în conceptul de poetry of place, poezii în care peisajele sau locurile specifice să joace un rol important.

Mediul exterior este legat de peisajul interior al omului. Atlas Poetica se străduieşte să evidenţieze diversitatea vieţii şi a circumstanţelor ei, alcătuind astfel un atlas al lumii tanka. Contribuţiile în alte limbi decât engleza sunt binevenite, dacă sunt însoţite de traducere. Se acceptă atât compoziţii tradiţionale, cât şi inovatoare.

Data limită de expediere este 1 ianuarie 2008. Informaţii detaliate se găsesc pe

Hrvatski Modern English Tanka Press najavljuje prvo izdanje novoga časopisa. Atlas Poetica: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka namenjen je međunarodnoj publici a izaći će dva puta godišnje. U obliku 8.5" x 11" časopis će predstaviti tanka, waka, kyoka i njihove variacije kao i serije i sekvencije ovih formi. Traži se iskljućivo poetry of place tj. pjesme u kojima predijela ili mijesta igraju posebnu ulogu.

Spojna okolina strogo je povezana unutrašnjim predijelom čovjeka. Atlas Poetica namijerava da pokazuje šarolikost života u najrazličitijim okolinama stvoreći na taj naćin pjesnićki atlas tanka-svijeta. Doprinosi koji nisu napisani na engleskom dobro su došli ukoliko imaju u prilogu prijevod.Prihvatitće se tradicijonalne kao i inovativne pjesme.

Krajni datum za slanje doprinosa je 1.sjećanj 2008. Opširnije informacije nalaze se na

Magyar Modern English Tanka Press egy új folyóirat megjelenését hirdeti meg. Atlas Poetica: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka nemzetközi olvasókórhez fordul és evente kétszer fog megjelenni. A 8.5" x 11" formatumú folyóirat tanka, waka, kyoka és ezeknek változatait valamint ezen formákból álló sorozatokat, szekvenciákat akar bemutatni. Kizárólag poetry of place fogadunk el, azaz olyan verseket, amelyekben egyes látványok vagy helyiségek szerepelnek.

A külső környezet az ember benső tájához szoros kapcsolatban áll. Atlas Poetica azzal törekszik, hogy az élét sokféleségét a legkülönbózöbb kórúlmények kózótt mutasson és így mintegy tanka-világ atlaszát állitson össze.

A nem angol nyelvű verseket szivesen fogadunk el, feltéve, hogy angol forditást melleklétként küldenek. Mint hagyományos, mit újîtó munkák elfogadhatók.

Az elküldési határidő: 2008, jánuár 1. Egyéb információkat a weboldalon olvashatnak.

Suomeksi Modern English Tanka Press on tyytyväinen ilmoittaessaan uuden aikakauslehtensä, ATLAS POETICA: Aikakauslehti Paikan Runoudelle Modernissa Englantilaisessa Tankassa. Aikakauslehti tulee julkaisemaan 8.5" x 11" formaatissa tanka/waka/kyoka-runoja ja sen variantteja, sekä runojoukkoja ja runoelmia kaksi kertaa vuodessa. Kaikki runot tulevat olemaan paikan runoutta, runoja joissa maisema tai kulttuurillinen paikka on merkittävässä asemassa.

Atlas Poetica tähtää runouteen jossa sisäinen ja ulkoinen ympäristö ovat yhteydessä, ja josta on nähtävissä luonnollisen ja inhimillisen kokemuksen monimuotoisuus. Tanka sekä traditionaalisessa että innovatiivisessa muodossa ovat tervetulleita, kuten myös submissionit muilla kielillä kuin englanniksi, kunhan niiden mukana lähetetään myös englanninkielinen käännös.

Ensimmäisen julkaisun deadline on: 1. tammikuuta 2008. Lisätietoja:

Ελληνικά: Ο σύγχρονος αγγλικός Τύπος Tanka είναι ευτυχής να αναγγείλει το νέο περιοδικό του, ΑΤΛΑΝΤΑΣ POETICA: Ένα περιοδικό της ποίησης της θέσης σε σύγχρονο αγγλικό Tanka. Το περιοδικό θα δημοσιεύσει ένα 8,5' Χ 11' tanka/waka/kyoka και των παραλλαγών του, καθώς επίσης και τα σύνολα και τις ακολουθίες δύο φορές ετησίως. Όλα τα ποιήματα θα είναι ποίηση της θέσης, ποίηση στην οποία το τοπίο ή η πολιτιστική θέση διαδραματίζει έναν ρόλο.

Ο άτλαντας Poetica στοχεύει στην ποίηση στην οποία τα εξωτερικά και εσωτερικά περιβάλλοντα συνδέονται, και που παρουσιάζει την ποικιλομορφία της φυσικής και ανθρώπινης εμπειρίας. Το Tanka και με παραδοσιακές και καινοτόμες μορφές είναι ευπρόσδεκτο, όπως είναι οι υποβολές στις γλώσσες εκτός από τα αγγλικά εφ' όσον συνοδεύονται από την αγγλική μετάφραση. Η προθεσμία για το πρώτο ζήτημα είναι: την 1η Ιανουαρίου 2008. Για περισσότερες πληροφορίες,επίσκεψη:


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

1000 Days Non-stop at Sea

Reid and Soanya in the schooner Anne are attempting to set a record: one thousand days at sea without stopping or resupply. They post photos and comments at their blog at:

Amazing, beautiful, and awesome.



Denis Garrison, lead editor for Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka is finally making his final selections. I was notified last night that he is taking nine tanka and a short sequence. Exciting! They have received over two thousand submissons for the book, so to be chosen at all is quite an honor. It's going to be a remarkable anthology, a landmark in English-language tanka.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Blurb: Heron Sea

Many thanks to Jim Doss, co-editor of the Loch Raven Review for providing the following blurb:

From the impassioned introduction to last poem, M. Kei has created a gem of a book that sparkles like the waters of the Chesapeake. These short poems paint a clear-eyed portrait of the bay from the point of view of someone who not only lives in the area but works on the water. As you read, it's impossible not to feel the spray of salt in your face, hear the flap of osprey wings in the air, see the silver gleaming of fish and the blue crawl of crabs below the surface. In both his nature and personal poems, Kei's hard-earned love and respect for life cuts through the fog of everyday living like the Thomas Point Lighthouse. A must for anyone residing in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Highly recommended.

--Jim Doss, Co-Editor of Loch Raven Review

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Poetry of Place

I am a fan of poetry of place, and most of the tanka I write is poetry of place. I have always bucked the trend for 'universiality' in poetry in favor of specificacity and locality. 'Universal' is another way of saying 'generic' and it takes a rare gift to say something new and fresh. By contrast, local places, by virtue of being local, having rarely been tapped and their creative fount is still fresh and far from being exhausted. If we are all human, then we can, through the door of the poem, enter into our universal humanity and find it very different and very much the same.

From my own experience, I can relate to the experience of others. From my own experience, I can teach others. Above and beyond poetry, I apply this to daily life. I volunteer about a skipjack, one of the last vessels in North America to fish commercially under sail. I must translate the unknown into the known and in doing so create a sense of the specialness of both. Looking up at the sails, they are merely 'big,' when I tell them they are 1942 square feet of canvas, the number still doesn't register, and then I tell them, "Think about how big your own house is and then you have an idea of the size of these sails." Their eyes pop. Along with the recognition of size comes the recognition of work -- the women can usually imagine how much work it takes to clean and care for their house, and then they say, "It must be a lot of work to take care of this boat." Yes it is.

It matters, too. It is the special things that create a sense of place, and a sense of place is essential for a sense of belonging. To not belong is to be alienated and rootless, to have no investment. To belong is to feel a sense of ownership, guardianship, and care. To belong it to conserve. To be alienated is to reject. The places in which we live, work, play, and worship are not permanent and infinite, but limited, fragile, and perishable. They require care. People who don't care don't take care of them. 'Places' then are the places that we value.

If we are wise, we see the value in all places and revel in their uniqueness and seek to preserve it and develop it. If we aren't wise, we see only our own selfish gratification -- the perfect green lawn, and not the algae blooms in the water caused by the fertilizer runoff from our property. Altruism is not an option but a necessity. It may be altruistic to change our habits to improve our environment and support our communities -- but it shouldn't be. It should be normal. It is enlightenment self-preservation to make certain that the place in which we live will continue to be a viable place while we live there and while our children live there afterwards.

Poetry of place is a regional art. Like the local folk arts and customs, it grows out of a keen appreciation for the past but is not nostalgia. Nostalgia is looking back and lamenting what is lost, dreaming about an imaginary past in which the cares of the world were escaped. Regionalism is not nostalgic but futuristic. It takes the customs of the past and projects them into the future, recognizes the potential for loss, and realizes the value of the past in mitigating the evils of rootlessness, abandonment, and decay. Poetry is the nutrition that keeps the heart rooted, engaged, and fertile.

There has been a rising interest in poetry of place concurrent with a rising awareness and appreciation by city planners, politicians, and concerned citizens who realize that a sense of place is a powerful antidote to the ills of modern society. Some developers are now seeking to identify and preserve that which is unique and valued, to protect and enhance such local uniqueness and value, and to contribute something of their own that truly 'develops' the locality instead of merely exploiting it. Unfortunately, there are not yet many examples of this, and while any step in this direction is to be appreciated, purely cosmetic steps are not enough.

There has been a similar direction in modern American poetry. Not surprisingly, since poetry reflects the lives of the people who write it, American poetry has become as rootless and alien as the malls and McMansions that blight the American landscape. Once upon a time poetry was something that all people shared and enjoyed, now it is the province of ivory tower academics or alienated young people screaming out profanity laden rap lyrics. While each sort of poetry is an authentic expression of the people who write it and the places in which they live, it does not speak to or for the average person. The average person no longer sees poetry as relevant and if very likely to cringe in dread when they discover someone they know is poet, justly fearing that the amateur is going to want to inflict bad verse upon them.

Yet rap is a sort of poetry of place: it directly and powerfully expresses urban poverty and the human customs and experiences in that environment. My students value it precisely because they believe it tells the truth about their lives -- and that is the duty of poetry: to tell us the truth we know about ourselves. If rap music is frightening to the average person, so is the environment in which it was born, where young men are more likely to die of murder than any other cause. Rappers have discovered the power of poetry: to speak in the ordinary idiom of the people from which they come and use it to name the joy and despair of their people. It is not an accident that rappers speak of 'the hood' and 'my people' against all others; they do not merely live in their neighborhood, but dwell in it, and that place is as deep in them as they are in it. For those who deplore rap, ask another question... what would those places be like without it? What silent despair would rule where now there is vibrant, embattled life? To be without poetry is to abide in the graveyard of the heart, silent as tombstones, our epitaphs our only communication.

The average American has gone so long without poetry that they don't know they're missing it. Sadly, when it is practiced, it is dumbed down. Children are taught that poetry is self-expression and that anything they want to write in stanza form is poetry. No. Poetry is NOT self-expression, it is literature, and there are standards that apply. While any topic and treatment is acceptable in poetry, that does not mean that all acts of expression are equally artistic. If it is pure self-expression, it is a journal entry and ought not be inflicted on others. No, in order to be poetry, it must speak 'to' something, as well as 'about' something. While the self has long been a topic for poets, it cannot be the only topic. Purely self-centered poetry is a kind of sophistry, the ultimate in alienation, and thus, the very opposite of what poetry truly is.

Poetry is nothing more or less than the manifestation of a spirit in the material world. So are all the arts. To worship the madness of creativity is to divorce ourselves from the spirit, building a great wall between ourselves and spirituality, a wall which can only be pierced by an act of self- mutilation, for the wall exists within ourselves and nowhere else. How much better to never build the wall to begin with! Let us tear down the false idea that a poet is something outside of the ordinary and that poetry is set apart from real life, and instead open our seven senses to fully experience our own lives. Then, if we choose, we can undertake the apprenticeship of words necessary to write it down.


Atlas Poetica : Call for Submissions

Call for Submissions — August 4, 2007

A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka

Issue 1, 2008

Modern English Tanka Press is pleased to announce its new journal, ATLAS POETICA: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka. In light of the overwhelming response of poets to the anthology, Landfall: Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka (due out later this year), Modern English Tanka Press has decided to publish a biannual journal devoted exclusively to the subject of poetry of place in modern English tanka. To be printed in an 8.5" x 11" format, the new journal will publish single tanka/waka/kyoka and its variants, as well as sets and sequences. The first issue is scheduled to come out in the Spring of 2008. The deadline for submissions is 1 January 2008 for the premiere issue, Atlas Poetica 1.

Atlas Poetica will be edited by M. Kei, who edited the anthology, Fire Pearls: Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart, and will showcase previously unpublished tanka in English and English translation from around the world. The Atlas welcomes individual tanka and sets and sequences that are deeply steeped in the human and natural landscape, reflecting the particularities of life as it is lived in all its splendid interconnections. Atlas Poetica believes that diversity, locality, tradition, innovation, and a keen sense of the awareness of the web that binds the internal and external environments together is the essence from which poetry springs. It is by connecting with this place, this moment, and these experiences of life that we achieve deep insight and appreciation for ourselves, our neighbors, and our world. “Sense of place is not just something that people know and feel, it is something people do.”—Albert Camus

Before submitting poetry, please carefully read the complete guidelines which are available at www.atlaspoetica/submit.html along with information regarding rights sought, schedules, deadlines, and more. Submissions and inquiries may be sent to the editor at: submissions (at) AtlasPoetica (dot) com.

For further information contact:
M. Kei, Editor, Atlas Poetica
AtlasPoetica (at) gmail (dot) com
or visit:

Please share widely and forward to all appropriate forums.

M. Kei
Editor, Atlas Poetica: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka

Denis M. Garrison

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Dear Friends and Poets,

It was long overdue, but today I finally figured out how to change the name of the mailing list without having to delete it and start over from scratch. The new mailing list name is: Keibooks-Announce, the web address for reading it online is:, and the subscribe/unsubscribe addresses: and respectively.

In other works, simply substitute 'Keibooks' for 'Seamark' in your old listings, and everything should work fine. If you have any questions, please email me at the address below.

The mailing list will continue as it has, posting occasional announcements about Fire Pearls, Heron Sea, and my others projects. In a slight change, I will also post announcements relating to my scholarly work which had not been carried by the list before. Again, these will be short, informative, and infrequent. It will include announcements regarding updates to the Bibliography of English-Language Tanka hosted by and other projects of general interest. All poets and editors are invited to visit the Bibliography and send corrections and additions.

I also maintain a personal blog, called Kujaku Poetry, located at, which receives more frequent, lengthier, infomral, and diverse posts, including poetry at:

Thank you for your support and good wishes over the past year.



M. Kei

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bibliograph of English-Language Periodical Tanka Literature

As your probably know, I am the compiler of the Bibliography of English-Language Tanka hosted by Over the past week I have been working on a new project, the Bibliography of English-Language Tanka Periodical Literature which will also be hosted at In the periodical bibliography I am attempting to document journals that regularly or frequently published tanka. I am not attempting to document every tanka ever published, just the major publishers thereof.

In no particular order, the list includes:

** SCTH (Sonnet Cinquain Tanka Haiku).
Frogpond : The Journal of the Haiku Society of America.
Lilliput Review.
Blithe Spirit.
* bare bones.
* Hummingbird: Magazine of the Short Poem.
The Tanka Journal.
* black bough.
Five Lines Down Journal.
* Paper Wasp : A Journal of Haiku.
* Raw NerVZ Haiku.
Lynx : A Journal for Linking Poets.
* Presence.
* winterSPIN : haiku senryu renga tanka & small poems.
* Still.
* Yellow Moon.
bottle rockets.
American Tanka.
Haiku Harvest.
Tanka Society of America Newsletter.
dew online
Stylus Poetry Journal.
Tangled Hair.
SP Quill Magazine.
* Hermitage.
* Noon: Journal of the Short Poem.
Ribbons : Tanka Society of America Journal.
Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry.
Gusts : Contemporary Tanka.
* Haiku Scotland.
Nisqually Delta Review.
red lights: a tanka journal.
White Lotus : A Journal of Short Asian Verse and Haiga.
Modern English Tanka.

* Need information on these. If you can help, please email me at: kujaku (at) verizon (dot) net.
** Having a hard time getting info on SCTH -- please help!

To be investigated for tanka content -- if you know if these regularly publish/ed tanka, please let me know!:
Autumn Leaves.
Mirrors - International Haiku Forum.
The Cannon's Mouth.
World Haiku Review.
Wonder Haiku Worlds.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mere Air, These Words

"Mere air, these words, but how delicious to hear!" --Sappho

I have not posted much of my own poetry of late, so I thought I would share a few that I doubt will ever be published.

i was born
under a faint star
and that has ruled
my fate in this
mortal world

it’s because of January
that God made cardinals;
our hearts are weary
of the long grey cold
and we yearn for spring

a raveled thread,
this my life,
untwisting into
gossamers that
blow away


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Reasonable People

This isn't my usual blog entry, it's personal. Very very personal.

At the broken cliff,
pebbles tumble down again,
a gathering of scree.
At thirteen my only son
still struggles with his letters.

My son is autistic.

Let that bald statement resonate a while. Dredge up all your stereotypes and media hype, 'Autistism Every Day' with the mother thinking about killing herself and her autistic daughter, about James McElwan, the autistic teenager shooting 17 points in the only varsity game he was allowed to play and being hailed a hero. Think about head banging, severely disfunctional kids, about the Rainman, about everything.

My son is different.

My son is a unique person who shares many of the challenges of other youths with autism, but the hype and the hopelessness, the extremes of autism, are not him.

Nowadays they label him 'high functioning' and diagnose him with Asperger's Syndrome -- as if the anguish of his childhood was somehow unreal, unimportant, and insignificant. As if nobody ever told me he was hopeless, that he would never be mainstreamed, would probably never speak, was mentally retarded, and would never hold a job or live independently.

As if it was 'easy' for him to overcome what must have been a 'mild' language impairment. As if we never spent a day consumed with six hours of tantrums. As if nobody had ever stood in line behind me at the grocery store, listening to him scream, saying, "If that was my kid, I'd smack him." A firm believer in non-violence, I was sorely tempted to turn around and tell that woman, "If you were my kid, I'd smack you."

I knew there was something wrong with this child when he was born. He slept too much. I was told he was a 'good baby' and we were lucky. He slept and slept -- a relief since his older sister had been colicky, but worrisome too. Late to his milestones. My partner's family kept saying, "He's a late bloomer. You worry too much." The pediatrician said the same thing. I tried to listen and be reassured.

At two and a half, I called Child Find. They came, saw him, and ventured to suggest he was mentally retarded. My ex went ballistic; that side of the family refused to accept that there was anything wrong with him and identified me as the problem.

We split up, I took the kids. We were in a shelter for a while, then a flat in an old house. We were desperately poor. I had my own disabilities to deal with, but I knew, absolutely knew, that the kids were better off with me. I accepted my children as they were and wanted what was best. I wanted to help my kids, not pretend everything was fine when it obviously was not.

To make a long story short, he was in pre-K, and the school wasn't helpful. They even asked to tie him to his chair to make him sit through Circle Time. I called a laywer, a very nice man who didn't charge me a dime to tell me what my rights and my son's rights were, and to advise us what to do. By the time my son was four I had gone through plenty of bureaucracy and a great deal of testing, and he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Delay with Severe Language Impairment and Austistic Type Symptoms.

How's that for a mouthful? It's also some fancy footwork to avoid a diagnosis of autism. When I asked the psychologist why, when my son had 13 of the 14 classic symptoms of autism, he didn't diagnose him, he replied, "Autism is a throwaway diagnosis. I don't diagnose any child with it if I can possibly avoid it because the schools will shut him away and do nothing for him. They think it's hopeless, but I think your son can develop."

Let me give you a simple example of my son. As part of his testing, he was given a standard IQ test. IQ tests are highly language dependent. He scored a 50. Your dog would score a 50! When given a different, non-language based IQ test originally developed for Deaf children, he scored 120. With this we had a portrait of a bright young man who was deeply impaired.

The school did a 180. With his new diagnosis they put him in a classroom for students with Communicative Disorders. It was small, with a high teacher to student ratio. He had a wonderful teacher for two years, and a great speech pathologist, and then two more years with another great teacher. When he was first diagosed and I hoped that he could eventually be mainstreamed, they told me that was not a reasonable expectation. Yet in 4th grade he was placed in an academic class with reading support. He is now 16 and mainstreamed in all classes and slated to graduate in two years. Nationally, only 25-30% of children with autism graduate. He is a B student.

He was deeply language-impaired when he was young. When I spoke, nothing made an impression on him. If I had suddenly started speaking to you in Japanese, you wouldn't understand (unless you are a Japanese speaker), but you would realize that the sounds coming out of my mouth had meaning and were intended for you, and you would make an effort to find some way to communicate. Not my son. He ignored everything until he couldn't ignore it anymore, then he screamed. And because he also had perserverant behavior, once he started screaming, he couldn't stop.

At school they taught him 'Total Communication' which used everything to communicate: speech, sign language, pictures, pantomime, symbols, routine schedule, demonstration, etc. He learned how to sign 'more' and a few other words, and then, when he was four, said 'cookie.' However, he was unable to answer a question like, "Do you want a cookie?" He would simply stare at me.

In 4th grade, he entered with a barely second grade reading level. He did his reading homework dutifully. He set the timer as he was taught, and when it dinged, he stopped. Right in the middle of a sentence, paragraph, page, or story. He was not interested. I searched and searched, trying out many different books. I knew the key was finding something that he liked. Eventually, I found it: Japanese comic books. He loved Card Captor Sakura and Gundam Wing. The night we drove home from the bookstore with him reading in the car, holding up the book so the light of the streetlights fell on the pages, I knew we'd found the ticket. In fourth grade he gained two grade levels, catching up to his 4th grade reading level.

He is now not only reading at a grade appropriate level, he is taking Spanish in high school. He greets me with 'Hola, padre, como estas' in his emails or when I come to pick him up.

When this child was 6, and had few words, I some how made him understand that his beloved cartoons had 'voice actors' who got paid for the job of being the voices. Once he understood that, that's what he wanted to be when he grew up. I was in despair... how could this child with nearly unintelligible speech composed of only a few words possibly become a voice actor? But I didn't discourage him. His sister, who was 8, hit on the notion of turning on the close-captioning on the videos and making him read them out loud and act the parts. At first he only a knew a few words, but soon he could recite the whole thing, altering the pitch of his voice for male and female roles. (Memorized from frequent watching of the tapes, I suspect.) He was a perfect mimic. When he randomly produced a sound or statement, I could identify exactly what video, scene, and character it had come from.

When I say 'random,' I mean random. He would explode with sound effects (he adores them, especially farts and belches), and random statements that bore no relationship to the context. I was delighted -- it meant he was using his imagination. Previously, when he was little and showed no signs of imagination, I was deeply worried. To be blind or mute is a disability, but to have no power of imagination is be subhuman. But it was there, it just needed a means to express itself. Cartoons were it. Thus, he early on acquired a lasting nickname, "The Random Noise Generator." We're all very used to it, but we have to admonish him when we're in public places, like restaurants, that he needs to steer clear of bodily functions and turn the volume down.

I have seen the same behavior in other bright but language-impaired autistic children when I have been a substitute teacher and paraprofessional in the public schools. I encourage such behavior, although most people try to suppress it in favor of 'more appropriate' expression. Noooo! The child has found a way to express himself, don't squelch! Run with it! Give him a few years and his vocabulary and expressiveness, yes, even his social skills will improve. At the very least, he will become popular with other children. I cite my own son's experience as evidence. When his fellow students dubbed him, "The Living Cartoon" it was a measure of admiration and affection. Come on. What's wrong with making people laugh? Even in the middle of a test?

When my son was 12, he appeared on stage of the first time and read a story to little children, voice acting the parts. He OWNED the stage. No, it's not just me and my paternal pride. The Director of the program was sitting next to me and kept saying, "He has talent. He has charisma." Other children on stage were good, but there was a quantum difference. He took to it like a dolphin takes to water.

Less than a year later he got cast by the local community theater for a bit part in a playreading series. For this, the actors sat on stage and read the parts, voice acting them, then the audience engaged in discussion about the play and whether the company should stage it. Of the 16 actors on stage, he was one of the best. He was absolutely furious when adults far more experienced with himself muffed their lines -- he had rehearsed diligently for a month. They hadn't. He was so good that the technical director for the theater sought me out at work (I worked at the theater then) to tell me how good he was.

He continues to study drama in school and to participate in theater workshops. He loves comedy, especially physical comedy -- his first exposure to Charlie Chaplin had him laughing so hard he nearly fell out of his chair. He has had minor roles in other productions. After high school he plans to go to college to become an actor. He speaks clearly now and people meeting him for the first time often do not realize there is anything different about him.

He reached this by imitating cartoons. When he was in elementary school his educators complained about his 'stereotyped' behavior. I was delighted by it. He had gone from a child with no emotional expression who couldn't even say, "I'm hungry," to a child who had the vocabulary of cartoons to call upon and use to communicate. The gross facial exaggerations and extreme body responses and physical humor of cartoons suited him perfectly. As he slowly began to utter statements of his own volition, he repeated segments of cartoons and movies that served his needs. During this phase people thought him odd, but as his repetoire of movies and expressive ability expanded, he developed fluency and naturalness.

Unfortunately, if caught in a situation for which his cartoons or family has not prepared him, he doesn't know what to do. Three years ago I fell asleep while making dinner and the food burned, filling the house with smoke and setting off the alarm. I woke up, ran to the stove and dealt with it, then looked for him. I found him outside. He had been taught that when the fire alarm goes off, you leave the building and meet at the designated location. He had done exactly that. But all the time the house was filling with smoke, he continued what he was doing without reacting to it. Nobody had ever told him what to do if you smell smoke! I swiftly updated his education on that point! It also underscored to me that you cannot simply assume he knows something -- you must spell out every single little step. Once he understands it, he is reliable about performing it.

In another example, we usher at the community theater. I taught him how to read the seat numbers, taught him how to greet patrons, and explained to him that he needed to walk slowly so that old people could keep up with him. He practiced his lines diligently and did a good job. Patrons complimented him 'What a nice young man!' -- including the old lady who was once so offended by his poor table manners that he had been uninvited from volunteering at the theater for an extended time. However, when asked an unexpected question, like, "How long is the show?" he simply looks blankly at them. If you've dealt with autistic people, you know the look. The we-are-now-on-another-planet-and-you-are-only-vaguely-relevant-to-my-existence look.

I have been reading Reasonable People by Ralph James Saverese, recognizing much of my own experience, and being angry and rejecting much of what I also read. Don't get me wrong, I respect Savarese and think he and his wife have done a lot, and I concur with his liberal position on the need to truly serve the poor, the disabled, children, etc. DJ has developed a lot, and its due to the Savereses. My child wasn't abused and placed in foster care and bounced around from home to home.

But still...

And my experience is not just with my own son; I did a year teaching severely handicapped youth computer science, about half my students were non-verbal, several were autistic, and most were not literate. My experience with my son helped me get through to them. I'm not saying I worked miracles. What I'm saying is that I got them to achieve more than other people believed they could. The previous teacher had taught them about the Internet by taking them to a site online where they could color pictures. I taught them the basic structure of a network (by making them roleplay being workstations, routers, servers, etc, and passing a note around).

I taught them how to do a basic Google search for things that interested them. I had to spell out 'rollercoaster' and 'dogs' and 'Kenny Chesney'... but I caught one of my students shopping computer parts online to upgrade his computer at home. It took him a great deal of research, but he figured out what he needed, ordered it, and installed it. When he got the wrong part, he returned it and got the right thing. Guess what he was doing for a living? Pushing carts. You know the guys who go out into that grocery store parking lot and round up the carts? That's what he did. That's all he did. He didn't bag, didn't stock shelves, didn't sweep. He rounded up carts. Period. Because that's all they thought he could do. Because his verbal ability was low.

I have this radical notion: You teach the child you have. Not the child you wish you had. Not the child described in the textbooks and theories. As my Native elders (who have been studied even more intrusively and with less understanding that autistic people) told me, "Real life trumps theory every time." You teach them even if they don't speak, and you judge their accomplishments based on how well they do computers or art or or play volleyball, not on how well they use their voice.

You teach the living child right in front of you with their particular strengths and weaknesses. I believe, I truly believe, that every child can be reached. They can accomplish a lot more than they have been doing. Some of the students in my class were being warehoused and the aides paid no attention to them, having given up on them, but I tried to share my attention equally with all students and I did my damnedest to get through to them and I did. I'm not claiming miracles here. I'm claiming progress.

The single biggest and most important accommodation that we can provide a person with a disability is a change in our own attitudes. It's free. It's easy. It works.

By the end of that class I had every single student creating a short PowerPoint presentation to deliver to the class, voicing their slides themselves. Yes -- even my non-verbal students. They weren't very loud and their enuniciation wasn't clear, but they did it. Even the autistic girl who had started my class slumped against the wall, unresponsive, and staring into space. She watched the presentations by other students, was engaged, and eager to take her place at the projector to show her own slideshow. It took a lot of coaxing to get her to speak her slides and nobody more than three feet away could hear her, but she did it. The students loved it. They all cheered and clapped and were totally into watching each other slides.

The aides -- even the one who had thought it would be impossible to get these students to do PowerPoints -- were in the back, applauding and taking pictures. The program supervisor and a teacher from another class were in the back watching too.

Think of it. They'd gone from coloring online to making their own PowerPoints.

I got another job, working in the same building. At first my former students recognized me and greeted me when they saw me in the hall. Gradually, as time passed, they faded out, became blank, and stopped responding to my presence. Back in the same program, with the same low expectations, the same well-meaning but stupid teachers, and they slid back into the same state of apathetic, twitching, tuned out unperformance.

Gain requires reinforcement to retain.

Change requires commitment.

I love my son, but I don't think he's unusual. If you put him in the same place as those students, he'd be like them. Those students don't have to be the way they are, they can have more accomplishment, more pride, more independence.

I believed at the time I sought help for my son when he was very young that early intervention was important. Most children are diagnosed 'too late', meaning that they have fallen behind in school and developed a load of frustration that further impairs their fuction and which leads to behavior like tantrums and self-harm. These systems, the symptoms of frustration and anger, are then defined as part of the symptoms of autism.

Have you ever seen a giraffe self-harm? I have. And foxes and hawks and other animals too. I did a summer as a volunteer zookeeper at an inadequate rural zoo which shall remain nameless. The giraffes' pen wasn't large enough. They paced and the male in particular engaged in repetitive, perserverant behavior, including biting the other giraffes, banging his head against the barn wall, and other aggressive and self-harming behavior. He had to be kept separate from the other giraffes because of it. The fox, kept in her tiny cage, was pathetically eager for attention and play. She would run around and around, spastically, desperately, crashing into things. A hawk, likewise confined, picked out his own feathers, reminding me of my son picking at his scabs.

All these abnormal behaviors are things autistic children do, but these animals are neurologically normal. It is the environment that fails to provide them with enough space, affection, and attention that causes them to behave this way. Autistic people are different, but maybe many of the 'bad things' they do are not due to autism, but due to not having their needs met. People with autism are experiencing a kind of imprisonment in which sensory overload alternates with sensory deprivation. If a normal personal was subjected to alternating bouts of no sound and excessively loud sound, if people failed to relate to them and didn't have patience with them, if they were controlled and constrained the way autistic people are, they would develop similar behaviors.

In the case of autism, it is a disorder of the brain that imposes the first barrier, but it is the reaction and behavior of the people around them that imposes the second and more debilitating barrier. The child knows it is not receiving affection. He or she may attempt to avoid hugs and other demonstrations of affection because of autistic sensory disorder, but if the parents give up and withhold affection, do they really think the child is unaffected? Would you say a blind child was unresponsive and didn't need affection because he couldn't see his mother smile?

I am not a scientist, and I'm not an autism advocate. I'm a parent and a teacher with personal experience. My son is different. But my son is different because he has been raised differently, not because his autism isn't like textbook definitions of autism. My son is not a 'high functioning autistic', he is a normally functioning autistic. My son is what any autistic person can reasonably hope to achieve and has every right to expect. My son is what any decent person would want for an autistic person.

A change in attitude is the only accommodation that will really do any good. And it's free. There's not excuse not to have one.