Monday, November 10, 2008

Pirates of the Narrow Seas

As a few of my friends know, I have been writing a novel, entitled Pirates of the Narrow Seas, a historical nautical adventure set in the eighteenth century and featuring a gay protagonist. I'm a fan of nautical fiction, but being gay myself, I got rather tired of all the heterosexual heroes. Churchill is said to have named "rum, sodomy, and the las"' as the traditions of the British naval service, and the Articles of War, which governed naval conduct at sea, prescribed the death penalty for "unnatural and detestable sin of buggery and sodomy with man or beast" . You don't outlaw things you think are irrelevant.

Besides, gay men have always existed, and they had to make a living somehow. At the time gentlemen had to purchase their ranks in the army, but a man with no money could, with a little effort and modest funding, obtain a position as a midshipman in the navy and thereby hope to work himself up through the ranks based on a combination of merit. His rise was more certain and more rapid if he had political influence, but competence and valor could provide a man with a successful career without it.

It also struck me that a gay protagonist had a built in set of challenges that would make his life more difficult and more interesting, and give a fresh approach to a rather hoary genre. Reading the series featuring Jack Aubrey, Horatio Hornblower, Richard Bolitho, and other 20th century nautical series, I was struck how alike they seemed -- due, no doubt, to the authors' -- and audience's -- endless fascination with men like Cochrane and Nelson. I found the works I enjoyed most to be the older works, such as Mr. Midshipman Easy by Marryat -- which is a both a parody and reinforcement of the navy of the early 19th century, and the even earlier Adventures of Roderick Ransom, a picaresque dating to the middle of the 18th century, in which our feckless hero parodies various employments, ranging from gentleman to scholar to doctor to naval officer.

Startlingly, it was in Roderick Ransom that I came across the only gay character I've encountered in the genre. While serving as a surgeon's mate at sea, Ransom serves under tyrant of a captain, who is then replaced by a puffball of a captain. The pouffe show that the stereotype of the effeminate, histrionic gay male was established very early in the West. On the other hand, he is a captain, and although he's suspected of having an affair with his doctor, the doctor at least is portrayed in neutral light and neither of them are censured or punished. Other works from the middle of the 18th century include vignettes with gay characters, but they vanish by the end of the century. One wonders why . . .

Quite aside from that tiny glimpse into the subject of gay men at sea, I found Roderick Ransom to be a very useful reference work with regards to the morals, livelihood and especially the profanity of men on the bottom edge of the middle class at the time. There is comfort in knowing that 'son-of-a-bitch' has been a choice epithet for two and a half centuries. In the whirlwind of the 21st century, some things remain the same.

So, one day in March of this year, I through down the book I was reading, and said, "Bother, I'll write something for my own entertainment." The character, Peter Thorton, a very junior lieutenant in the British navy of the mid-18th century, sprang full grown from my head like Athena leaping from the brow of Zeus. I had only a vague idea where he was going when I launched him. With no goal in mind, content to write whatever tale happened to emerge, whether long or short, I figured I might get a story of some five or six chapters out of him. 130,000 words and forty-six chapters later, we have a novel.

I realized the story had legs somewhere around chapter ten when Thorton, aboard His Britannic Majesty's frigate Ajax, encounters a Spanish galley founding in a storm in the Bay of Biscay. Chained on board was a rogue of a corsair captain, one of nearly two hundred slaves being left to drown as the panicking Spanish abandoned the galley. Released by Thorton, and commanded by Isam Rais al-Tangueli, known thereafter to the English as 'Captain Tangle', the slaves save the galley and promptly begin raiding the Spanish, with Thorton stranded aboard.

Writing for my own entertainment I didn't worry too much about historicity. The first draft came out in a rush in a mere ten days. But as I shared chapters with friends who enjoyed it, I realized it was a romping good tale and there were probably other people that would enjoy it too. That meant I had to address the issue of history. I have great respect for history; I enjoy it. But I didn't want to let the facts get in the way of a good tale, either. Thus my history deviated from the actual history of the middle of the eighteenth century.

I also had to deal with the fact that I was depicting Muslim characters and a Muslim nation with what I felt was a less than thorough education in the subject. I read the Koran and consulted it frequently, and also researched Muslim jurisprudence, discovered that the Maliki school dominated thought in North Africa, and considered my options. I finally decided to make a fictionalized country drawn from historic material. There are a great many fictional countries in literature, but none in the canon of British naval fiction. The British tales are almost always set during the Napoleonic Wars, with excursions into areas and times around that. I was tired of Napoleonic Wars and the rather predictable course of events. For a while I thought the War of Jenkins Ear might suit my purposes, but it didn't, quite, whereas the Seven Years War was immensely longer and more complicated than I really wanted to deal with. As a consequence, the political events of the novel are drawn from a variety of things that happened in the seventeenth century, but chart their own course to serve the purpose of the novel.

I also deliberately kept the scale small, ship-level, with much emphasis on the daily/weekly life at sea. This suited the complicated relationship between Thorton and Tangle, while still providing plenty of scope for individual peril and heroism, storms, duels, battles at sea, and the other action and nautical procedures expected of the genre. It even admits a certain humor, as when the excessively tall Captain Tangle is obliged to go to battle dressed in a pair of pants made from a tablecloth, there not being any trousers aboard to fit him.

I had a great deal of fun writing it, and I'm happy with the way it turned out, while being well aware of some of the criticisms that might be leveled at it. I must say I was very heartened when reading a Hornblower novel I detected an error that made me realize C. S. Forester had never gone to sea -- rising storms do not blow hot, no matter how sweltering the day is: they announce themselves with a clammy heat that chills the sweat on the skin. Hornblower has been turned into numerous movies and even a mini-series in spite of his author being an armchair captain. Maybe my readers will be kind to me.

Once I decided I had a tale worth sharing I had to figure out how to share it. I didn't bother to offer it to any of the publishers of the usual nautical adventures as I figured they wouldn't be receptive to a gay protagonist. Maybe that is small-minded of me. The usual gay small presses don't publish such things unless they are erotica, which Narrows Seas isn't. Oh, there are some steamy scenes in which Tangle does his best to seduce Thorton, but Thorton's too busy being British to succumbed entirely to his blandishments. Thorton's struggle to cope with his sexuality given the extreme repression on one side and potential license on the other side is one of the subtexts. That makes it a 'coming out' story, albeit a very different one than is usual.

It was my daughter that suggested I use the site she enjoys, I have some qualms about using an amateur site, but it's free, and although they don't support Macs, they do support RTF, so I was able to convert my work and get it uploaded with only a moderate amount of hassle. My goal is to be read, so giving away something for free on the Internet seems the cheapest and easiest way to get a readership. I hunted for other sites out there on which to publish a novel length work, tried some of them out and abandoned them, and was annoyed by the pesky sites searching for the naive to con into shelling out hundreds of dollars to get published and 'advised'.

All of which is a long-winded way of suggesting that you give it a read :)


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fighting for the Right to Vote

Well well. Hank Stuever at the Washington Post has really put his foot in it. He opposes voting early. He is apparently one of those lucky elitists that doesn't have to worry about taking off work to stand in long lines to vote. I have voted every election I've been able to, but there was an election when I couldn't vote because the employer didn't let me take time off work to do it. We were directed to vote before or after work, and don't be late. I couldn't vote before work because the commute and the lines at the poll were too long. I couldn't vote after work because I got to my polling place 5-10 minutes after the polls closed. While my polling place is conveniently near my home, it is not conveniently near my place of work.

(There didn't used to be adequate parking at my polling place either, but that issue was fixed this year. We got parking reasonably close and didn't have to cross a busy street/minor highway on foot to reach the polling place.)

I voted Yes on Maryland's proposal to allow early voting and to expand the locations for voting. I'm not quite sure about how the location thing works, but I'll say yes to anything that makes it easier to vote. More locations and more days on which to cast ballots is a big YES to me. For years pundits have been bemoaning the low voter turnout. Did it ever occur to them that more people would vote if they could?

I was lucky this year -- my day off just happened to coincide with election day. I was able to stroll in at a low volume hour and spend ten minutes and be done. My son, however, was not so lucky. He recently turned eighteen. He's also autistic, and being able to vote is a huge milestone in anybody's life. We tried to register him to vote at the same time we got his learner's permit, at the Motor Vehicle Administration. We never got any paperwork confirming it, so we went to the election board in person and asked them. They looked him up, said he wasn't registered, and that all MVA voter registration applications had been processed. He then registered to vote right there in the election board office and showed the necessary ID: driver's license, social security card, etc.

He never got a voter's registration card, which worried me, but he did get ballot instructions with his polling place and information on how to vote and who the candidates and questions on the ballot were, so we figured we were all right. When he checked in to vote, they had his name and address, but they issued him a provisional ballot. An election judge whisked him away without me. I understand that the right to vote is private and all that, but my son being autistic doesn't cope well with unexpected change. We had prepared him for voting: what issues were important to him, how the candidates stood on those issues, what the constitutional amendments were and what they meant, what the ballot looked like and how to fill it out -- he was informed and prepared to vote.

He spent half an hour in a corner of the gym, reading and filling out paperwork. He's a slow slow reader and writer. The printed word is not the best way to communicate information to him. Papa normally helps him with forms, explaining what they are and what they mean. This time I didn't get to help. A complete stranger with no knowledge of his disability plunked papers in front of him and left him to figure it out on his own. Eventually he got to sit at a voting booth and vote. The paper ballots are not like the computerized ballots, and the paper machines don't look like and don't work the same as the computerized machines that he was prepared for.

He thinks he got to vote for the candidates and issues he wanted, but he isn't sure.

When he came out, we asked an election judge why he was issued a provisional ballot. She didn't know. We got shuffled among three different tables. The upshot was nobody knew. They 'guessed' it was because his Social Security number and driver's license couldn't be verified -- both of which he had showed when he registered and both of which he had on him when he was voting. They assured us that if they could verify his registration, his vote would be counted.

Um, yeah.... I'm supposed to feel confident that his vote is going to be counted after all this? We did everything necessary to register to vote not once but twice and had all the proper paperwork and ID every single time... and they still have doubts about his registration?

And now Mr. Hank Steuver tells us that people who vote early are somehow not part of "We The People", that they're just some kind of hipster fashionsetters not to be taken seriously? Puhleeze.

For some of us, voting isn't easy. Some of us have to fight for the right to vote and make sacrifices. We shouldn't have to jump through triple sets of hoops to get registered to vote. We shouldn't have to make a choice between our job and our vote. We shouldn't have to be baffled and confused by the voting process.

Elections should be organized, accurate, and staffed by people who know what they're doing. Election offices -- and organizations that assist in registering voters -- should do so correctly and promptly. People with disabilities should be able to participate on the same terms as everybody else. I'm still wearing my 'I Voted' sticker. I earned it.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Opening the current issue of Ribbons , the journal of the Tanka Society of America, I find once again another writer's attempt to suggest something of what tanka in English might be. Of the several points offered, the presence of a poem formatted on five lines is once again offered as part of what defines tanka.

While it is conventional to format tanka in five lines in English, it is not required to do so, and exceptions have occasionally been published. I have addressed alternate lineation in tanka in an article in Modern English Tanka. Since then my understanding of tanka structure and definition have continued to refine.

Specifically, the reason why tanka is written in five lines in English is because that tanka is a poem of five poetic phrases. The easiest way to depict those phrases is with line breaks. However, this leads to poets writing things that don't have five parts, but because they are formatted on five lines, they are accepted and published as tanka. No wonder critics have difficulty in distinguishing between English language tanka and short free verse!

There is also a general misunderstanding between free verse and 'unfree' verse. The opposite of free verse is metered verse, eg, verse in which something is counted. Traditionally in English it has been meter, but it could be morae, sound units, lines, phrases, or any other subdivision. In tanka what is counted is 'poetic phrases.' Thus tanka is not 'free', it must conform to this expectation. Because it conforms, it is 'formal verse.'

Formal verse is verse written to a recognized form. The tanka form is clearly understood -- anyone who is a fan of tanka can recite by heart that it is form that originated in Japan, consisting of five phrases of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. Once upon a time in literary history Western poets were quite strict about their forms, but they managed to invent new variations of them all the same, with nonce versions of the forms seeing print as well. The sonnet, for example, now has numerous recognized variants, but it is still a sonnet and the relationship between any given variation on the original forms is identifiable.

Just so with tanka; just the numbering of syllables does not serve in English, but I don't believe that formulas based on line length are an adequate definition. It is quite possible to write a poem with something other than five parts and arrange it visually so that it appears to meet the short-long-short-long-long pattern -- but when we are adhering to a format, that is not the same as adhering to a form. Tanka in Japanese are typically written in one or two lines and can be subdivided however the calligrapher pleases. Clearly, the format is not the form.

Having studied the matter extensively, I have noted that certain poems retain their 'fiveness' regardless of how they are formatted, although admittedly, changing the format does change emphasis. The line break is a powerful tool well entrenched in the Western literary tradition. Even so it is quite possible to recognize a poem as tanka that is formatted as two lines, or prose, or even in some other format.

The consequence is a great many short poems are published as tanka that do not adhere to the form. That doesn't particularly bother me since I have always been an advocate for 'tanka and related forms.' Critics of tanka are therefore missing the point. If a journal stated that it published 'sonnets and related forms,' would they claim that it was impossible to know what a sonnet is and that free verse is being published as sonnets? I think not.

On the other hand, there are forums that publish any five line poem and think it to be tanka. Some of these are amateur forums where it is only to be expected that a naive definition prevails, but the larger, more prestigious journals ought to be clear about the matter. Modern English Tanka , for example, is very clear about its expansive scope of using tanka to establish a new lyric poetry in English. I myself am not convinced that lyricism is part of the definition of tanka, but I admit that it is a very common treatment. Lyricism, which is an aesthetic consideration, appears to have replaced form as a defining principle of tanka in many people's minds.

Given the differences between Japanese and English it is inevitable that different treatments will develop in English. How many hundreds of different ways has Basho's frog poem been translated? We cannot say that any one of them is the best translation, but even in the ones we all agree are terrible translations, we can see the shadow of the original. When translating an entire form into English, it is only to be expected that myriad adaptions should result. Therefore, when critics claim to be unable to perceive the difference between tanka and free verse they are coming about it the wrong way. The question is not whether a given poem can be discerned from free verse; the question of whether a given poem's relationship to tanka is detectable.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stylus Review : Slow Motion

Patricia Prime has also review Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack in the current issue of Stylus Magazine. A lengthier and more literary review, she gives ample space to discussing the form and content from various angles. I am grateful for her deep appreciation for what I was trying to accomplish with Slow Motion .

She quotes a number of the poems to illustrate the points she makes.

"Slow Motion is a collection of haiku and tanka, interspersed with narrative that has many of the characteristics that are the essence of good writing: concise expression, clarity, sensory immediacy, an allusive quality of hinting at more than is directly stated, a preference for specifics and concrete images rather than generalities, a lightness of touch, a willingness to share the fundamental realities of experience, and an ability to communicate with others. The book is about M. Kei’s life on a skipjack fishing vessel in Chesapeake Bay. Kei takes readers on a journey that paints a vivid picture of live as a skipjack crewman.

"The poetry in this collection shows an intensely lived connection to the natural world. It deals with personal experience and emotions not in isolation; the personal is not expressed against a decorative background of natural imagery, but the two are intimately interwoven.

"Kei brings a contemporary feel to the tanka form that encapsulates the qualities of timelessness, poignancy and simplicity that can give tanka a sense of being lived by the reader. Whether it’s a description of the skipjack:

the old lady
wants a new dress:
five patches
in her sail
and more needed

Off Worton Creek

"or that sense relaxation that can follow after setting sail and is profoundly evoked in this haiku:

sails set
a deckhand
studies law

off Thomas Point Light"


"The narrative sections nicely complement the tanka. Like the tanka, there is a strong sense of personal engagement with seascape, history and personalities that pervades the narrative. Kei’s is poetry of locality, a range of history, and the constant in the relationships between narrative and poem is the poet himself. He imbues his scenes with a sense of spirit and mystery. And despite this much personalised relationship with the sea, his main concern is to bring the beauty of this world to the reader. One needs to reach beyond the confines of the short poem in order to fully achieve the necessary imaginative vision to express the history, the feelings of place, and the hardships of life at sea, and to find those anchors or signposts to help us navigate our way through.

"Slow Motion is a collection that maps a personal territory, but also addresses themes that are of universal concern. It is unusual in being a successful amalgam of haiku, tanka and narrative, with each demonstrating its particular strength."

Thank you Pat, and Stylus Journal!


For the Love of Skipjacks

Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack made the cover of Bay Weekly Magazine October 9. The lead article 'For the Love of Skipjacks' reviews Slow Motion and includes excerpts and photos from the book. Reviewer Dotty Holcomb Doherty touches briefly on the history of tanka poetry and covers the wide range of treatments possible, from sensory intake, to life experiences, philosophy, and humor.

rolling swells
spray breaking every
tenth wave
the cries of seagulls
scatter around us

–Off Tilghman Island

"In his poems, Kei captures the briefest moments — often overlooked or dismissed as ordinary — to take us on a sensory voyage, immersing us in the smells, sights and feel of sailing a skipjack."

Bay Weekly is a free weekly magazine distributed throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. It is a must read for boaters, vacationers, and residents, devoted as it is recreation and conversation of the 'great shellfish bay.'

Cover: (good Oct 9-16, 2008)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

1000 Tanka

Today the publication of Modern English Tanka 9 marks an important milestone in my career: I have a thousand tanka in print, with several more to be coming out soon. It's a prodigious quantity of work, and made even more startling when the reader reflects that with a single exception, they were all published between spring of 2006 and now--a span of little more than two years. What is even more astonishing are the changes in the tanka world that have unfolded in that time.

In 2004 when I first attempted to publish (and had a single tanka published in the TSA's member anthology, to find the moon), tanka was wallowing in a straitjacket of japonisme and rule-bound demands regarding form. It must have a pivot, it must be bi-partite, it mustbe autobiographical, it must reek of the stale perfume of old Japan . . . Mine wasn't like that, and after the rejections and admonishments piled up, I decided, "Feh, I wrote for my own pleasure and that of my friends. I'll go back to doing that."

Two years later, the death of my mother and my nephew's suicide were hard blows to carry. I wrote a great deal of tanka. At the same time, I had been serving with the skipjack Martha Lewis for most of a year and found what I loved: the Chesapeake Bay, seen and worked from the deck of an old wooden sailboat. I kept writing, but what changed now was that the charms of Old Japan (that had captured me in my youth, indeed as they have captured many of us) fell away. Confronted with the realities of my own life, both beautiful and terrible, most of the Japanese verse grew brittle and cracked. It was too precious a medium to carry what my eyes saw and my heart felt. It became abundantly clear to me why the waka of Japan had grown increasingly irrelevant until it was the province of a few poetasters and dilettante.

Not all poets writing in English were ensnared this way, but it was hard to find the ones who weren't. I didn't even know the 'tanka world' existed. Joining some email lists again, I decided to try again. I still ran into much of what I had already run into, but this time somebody noticed: Michael McClintock. I recognized the name from having read (and abandoned) haiku, but McClintock, along with a handful of other poets, had stuck in my mind as somebody who wrote poetry that was worth reading, and that was categorically different from the herd. He encouraged me, and Robert Wilson at Simply Haiku published several of my tanka.

Along the way I also met Denis M. Garrison who was finishing the last issue of Haiku Harvest and moving on to a new project. At that time he called it 3 x 5 Poetry Review, but as we corresponded and met in person, the project evolved. While Denis' ideas and work is his own, I like to think our conversations helped to shape his views. The result was that 3 x 5 morphed and became Modern English Tanka, which two years later is hands down the premiere journal of tanka in English.

Feeling my education to be deficient, I had been cramming knowledge of tanka in Japanese and English. I quickly noticed that the average resident of Tankaville was even less knowledgeable than I, and considerably less motivated to rectify that ignorance. They wanted to write and read poetry. As much as I must endorse such a view, it must be coupled with discipline and knowledge to amount to anything that a larger circle of people might want to read. In short, the tanka world was much more of a 'tanka club' at the time.

Accordingly I hatched the notion of creating an anthology that might popularize tanka by presenting to people who were not members of the club, while at the same time, serving to demonstrate to the club just how broad tanka could be. The result was Fire Pearls : Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart . Denis and Michael supported the project, but when differences of opinion developed over how to manage it, withdrew financial support. I published it out of my own pocket. Denis continued to provide technical assistance, and Michael was instrumental in bringing the work to the attention of poets and readers.

Fire Pearls has sold over 300 copies, which constitutes a bestseller in Tankaland. It has entered the canon of tanka in English, appearing on recommended reading lists, and referenced in other articles. Many of the poets who appeared in it are proud of their participation. But aside from its own achievements, it spurred others. Garrison and McClintock, with proof that 'concept anthologies' worked, launched their own series of projects, published through Modern English Tanka Press. McClintock has dubbed this 'the Little Age of Anthologies,' but what is important to remember is that Denis Garrison is the foundation upon which the anthologies are built. He has been exceptionally generous in supporting worthy ideas, and so other editors, such as Alexis Rotella, have partnered with him to produced anthologies of great size and beauty. Denis' expertise has been tapped by the Tanka Society of America for help in publishing their last member anthology, Sixty Sunflowers .

Publishing a book, even with the benefits of economy offered by new models such as print on demand, is no easy task. It requires a suite of skills involving editing, book design, administration, cover design, layout, computer skills, marketing, distribution, and more. Few individuals possess the full suite; they are usually found in a team. Modern English Tanka Press has prospered, and by doing so, has changed the shape of tanka as we know it.

Denis' immense openness to form and idea has provided a forum that enriches the tanka world. It allows diversity of content and form, idea and counter-idea. The tanka club is no more: it has been replaced by the tanka world. It is a much larger, more inclusive, varied, and lively world than it was before. Truthfully, the tanka world has always been larger than the tanka club that thought itself the be-all and end-all of tanka. My own researches into tanka in English dug up evidence that tanka has been written and published in English since the tail end of the nineteenth century. My Bibliography of English-language Tanka is well over 700 books, chapbooks, journals, and other stand-alone media. (I do not record articles and other short works.) What has happened is that by providing an open forum, it has been possible to inform tanka readership of what has been out there all along, and to forge some connections that have yielded a great understanding and awareness. Tanka the island has become tanka the voyage.

Along the way, new journals have been founded and old journals have folded. New contests have been offered and prizes awarded. In remains to be seen whether the new arrivals will elevate and expand tanka as we know it, or merely provide a haven for the sponsor's particular pleasures. To a certain extent, new arrivals are reacting to the promiscuous publication of Modern English Tanka by staking out territories of their own, more tightly focussed on a narrower set of criteria. This is well and good--tanka thrives when more minds create more venues. The more there are, and the more they differ from each other, the more likely readers and poets are to find green pastures of their own delight.

Denis Garrison has often written about tanka's potential as the new lyric poetry in English. I myself am not so sure that English-speakers in general want a new lyric poetry; but at least some of us do. I do think the audience for tanka is growing and will continue to grow, but I doubt that lyric poetry has the capacity to capture the 21st century imagination that is saturated with videogames, reality television, and the looming disaster of an American economic meltdown. Lyric poetry does not admit works on economic collapse and the romance of the cell phone.

Lyric poetry is out of touch with modern life. Even as it focusses on micro details of that life, it provides an insulation between the reader and the reality. Modern Japanese tanka poets can write about being tear-gassed and arrested by the police, about menstruation and picking up young men half their age, but I have never seen those subjects in English-language poetry. Poets like Dave Bacharach and Andrew Riutta who can write about unpaid mortgages and prostitution do so through the lens of a gritty pastoralism remarkable both for speaking things rarely spoken in tanka and by speaking it through the lyric voice. They say ugly things with beautiful words.

I am as guilty as most and maybe more in my poetry. Lyricism suits my natural voice. I like the lyric world. I see beauty even in hardship. Yet I can't help feeling that I have accomplished a fundamental failure as a poet: I have soothed, instead of roused.

I have written works that are less lyric, more surreal, sharper, and darker. They don't get published. No, not even in Modern English Tanka, the most welcoming of them all. And so, after publishing one thousand tanka, instead of feeling successful, I feel disgruntled. I've felt this way before. More than a decade ago I wrote fiction. After working diligent and enjoying a certain amount of success in that field, I realized that editors were publishing certain sorts of things from me and declining others. The result was that a viewing of my published work gave a very biased view of who I was as a writer. I tried to break through, but couldn't. Editors publish what editors want to publish. I quit writing fiction rather than collude.

As the editor of Atlas Poetica , I have a bully pulpit from which to preach an alternate approach to tanka. It is bearing fruit. The first issue of tanka poetry of place provided an opportunity for poets to publish works which they loved and which readers also loved, but which lead in new directions. In the second issue, we covered new territory as poets began exploring and reporting on family and history, venturing to touch even larger topics, often through the means of tanka prose and tanka sequences that had few opportunities to be published elsewhere. Atlas Poetica was deliberately designed as a large format journal to accommodate such ventures.

Accordingly, I don't plan on going anywhere. Through the means at my disposal I will continue to advocate a larger, more complicated vision of tanka that expresses more of the myriad issues of our lives with innovation and skill. I encourage all poets to challenge themselves to go beyond the easy, the familiar, and the soothing, and I challenge all readers to open themselves to newness, change, and risk. Let tanka grow until it is more than lyric poetry, let it be the lyric of the real world.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Best Canadian Tanka Poets

Dear Editors and Poets,

As you probably know by now, I am the editor-in-chief of Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka, forthcoming from Modern English Tanka Press in 2009. I and my editorial team have set ourselves the goal of reading all tanka published in English during 2008, regardless of the source.

Therefore we would appreciate your help in getting the word out to Canadian tanka poets and editors. Due to the large number of works published we cannot afford to purchase all of them, although we do have the major tanka journals covered. We need especial help identifying and obtaining copies of works that are not as well known, such as poets' websites, chapbooks, non-traditional media, etc.

Any person, poet, or editor, may submit work for our consideration. Please send the published work as it appears, eg, the chapbook, journal issue, broadside, etc, to us. If finances are an issue, we can also accept PDFs and photocopies. Poets may not nominate individual poems of their own and loose leaf manuscripts of poems will not be accepted. Every tanka in a published work will be reviewed. Since we must track down the finalists for permission to reprint, and since the original publication swill be credited, it is necessary to have the copyright and business pages of the works from which the nominations are drawn.

Any poem is considered 'published' if it appears in a public forum, eg, a printed text, a website that is accessible to the general public (sites that require the user to log in are not 'published' and ineligible), a public exhibition or performance open to the general public, etc. It does not matter if the venue was edited or not; self-published materials are also eligible, provided they were made available to the general public. (Twenty copies of a broadside a poet gave only to friends and family are considered 'private circulation' and not eligible. Only if a random member of the public could have seen/obtained the work is it considered 'published.')

Please send printed works to:

Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka
P O Box 1118
Elkton, MD 21922-1118

All materials become the property of the editors and will not be returned.

Please email URLs, PDFs, and other web related material to: kujaku (at) verizon (dot) net. [Note to editors, please do not publish my email address as a link; I format it this way to foil spammers.)

Thank you for helping me to get the word out.



M. Kei
Editor-in-chief, Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Saigyo Awards for Tanka 2008

The Saigyo Awards for Tanka is a new contest sponsored by Carolyn Thomas. I sent my entry fee and contest entry, wondering what it would be like. Well, the results arrived in the mail today. Thomas has produced a simple but elegant broadside of several pages featuring the winners and a number of Honorable Mentions. One of my poems received an Honorable Mention:

a white sail
skimming through
my dreams
teaches me the meaning
of everything

I received a bookmark with my poem printed on it, plus a certificate of achievement along with the broadside of winning poems. I saw a number of familiar names among the winners, as well as poets who are strangers to me. Generally speaking, they are the highly romanticized poems that have long been a staple of the genre in English. There were also a number of poems with explicit Japanese or Oriental references. While the quality of most of the poems is obvious, there were a couple of Honorable Mentions that puzzled me because they seem jejune to me.

No information was provided about how the winners will be disseminated (if at all). If you want to find out how to read them, you'll have to contact Carolyn Thomas herself, but she didn't provide email contact. You'll have to send an SASE via snail mail to make your query.


Friday, August 29, 2008


I've acquired a new vice: I've posted to Thisisby.Us, the gimmick site for writers that promises them a share of the advertising revenue depending on how many 'goodness points' they get. Apparently, some of the novice writers are under the impression that it's a 'serious' literary site, which speaks volumes to the naivete of novice writers. But at the same time, there are a few interesting and thoughtful things posted, along with the dreck. It's basically a blog so the more controversial posts get strings of comments hanging off of them. A member can post comments, vote on the posts, and pick out favorite writers to follow, which makes it more interactive than the usual blog. It's kind of the MTV of blogging . . .


Monday, August 18, 2008

Prune Juice

Friend and Colleague, Alexis Rotella, has established a new journal, entitled Prune Juice, to publish senryu and kyoka. This journal will be published twice a year by Modern English Tanka Press. Submissions are now open for humorous, satirical, and witty poetry. Read the full submission guidelines at the home page.

Good luck,

Friday, August 15, 2008

"a wonderful collection of poetry"

Robert Wilson, managing editor of Simply Haiku, one of the major Internet journals for Japanese short form poetry, has reviewed Slow Motion in the current issue of the journal.

"M. Kei has written a book of tanka and haiku about life on a skipjack fishing vessel in the Atlantic Seaboard's Chesapeake Bay. He takes readers on a journey reminiscent of Bashô, allowing them to feel a semblance of place, the tanka and haiku therein giving a vivid picture of life as a skipjack crew member. It's also a rare book in that the majority of the poems are all well sculpted. It displays the author's solid understanding of poetry. Kei is not a traditionalist, and his use of meter and syllabication in many of the tanka is more akin in some ways to free verse and, perhaps, should be categorized as short tanka-like poems."

You can read the entire review (and journal) at

Thank you, Robert.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Moonset Tanka Contest 2008

I was just notified that one of my poem's won the 2008 Moonset Tanka Contest, and that another was an honorable mention. I have not won this contest before, so I am quite pleased! The winning poems will be published in Moonset, so after they've come out, I'll post them here.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Homoerotic Tanka

I'm pleased to have a solo show and interview at 3Lights Gallery online. Liam Wilkinson has done a lovely job as usual presenting my work. I like his conceit of the gallery exhibiting poetry as if it were art. The theme of the exhibit, homoerotic tanka, is one that I often write, but which people often fail to realize. With a gender-non-specific pen name like 'M. Kei' it leaves the poems open to interpretation with the reader filling in whatever gender suits his or her taste. Which explains why I have been mistaken for a woman online... poems addressed to male lovers are assumed to have been written by a woman.

rattlesnake love—
you gave me warning,
but I, entranced
by your desert heart,
wouldn't heed it

(Fire Pearls, 2006)

Full well do I know
that this transient pleasure
is like foam on the sea;
Yet even so I want it
to last a thousand years

(Simply Haiku, Summer, 2006)

his burlap skin
washed by the
diamond waters,
and everywhere,
jellyfish in bloom

(Modern English Tanka, Winter, 2006)

Persian carpet,
my denim leg over
your bare one,
my book resting
against your back

(Gusts #6, 2007)

The above tanka are all homoerotic poems that have been published in various places without drawing attention to the fact that they are poems of male love. 'Persian carpet' was inspired by a Tom of Finland drawing, and when I saw it published in Gusts, I realized that I had to do something to make the context explicit if I wanted these poems to be seen as I felt them. I am grateful to Liam Wilkinson for his openness to publishing a collection of this sort.

I have searched the Internet for other gay tanka and there aren't many, and even fewer that are good. My own style is an indirect one, so that makes it difficult to write poems which are frank in their appreciation of male love and friendship. There is also the perception that gay=pornographic, that anything gay must be full of explicit homosexual sex acts. I suspect the reason why the insistence of a gay extreme for sexuality is because the line between male friendship and homoeroticism is a slim one and easily crossed. People become uncomfortable if they suspect a relationship might be perceived as 'abnormal' in some way. They justifiably object to viewers reading something into a relationship that does not exist. Therefore they exaggerate the differences between male intimacy and homosexuality.

One of the reasons why the exhibit carries the subtitle 'homoerotic tanka of love and friendship' is to acknowledge this continuum of male feelings and to permit the publishing of poetry without building a wall between friendship and sexuality. My own experience with soldiers, for example, suggests to me that the emotional intimacy that develops in men who serve together in harsh conditions is not foreign to sexuality. This is not to say that soldiers' relationships are erotic, but to acknowledge that men are emotional beings as well as physical, and that the emotional intimacy that men can develop is very powerful. Whether a man is a soldier or a lover, the capacity for emotional connection is there. Not only there, but desirable and necessary if we are to be a civilized people.

American men in particular are deeply constrained in their self-expression to the roles of bad-ass action hero and buffoon, often at the same time (especially if he is black). More desirable and finely nuanced roles -- such as father -- are hard to sustain. Contempt for men is widespread. Teenage girls walk around wearing t-shirts that say, "Boys have feelings too, but who cares?"

I do. Part of coming out gay is not only a matter of coming out with regards to one's sexual orientation, but a coming out to demand to be perceived and respected as a whole person, not just a set of genitalia driven by hormonal urges searching for a compatible set of genitalia with which to mate. I don't want to have sex with men as much as I want to be able to hold hands with a male lover and walk down the street in safety. The most important reason I use a pen name for my poetry is so that I can write what I want to write and feel reasonably safe. I want the right to be a whole person, without being stereotyped, denigrated, channeled, ignored, assaulted, and discriminated against.


Love Letters : Homoerotic Tanka of Love and Friendship


One of tanka's most distinctive and passionate of voices makes his return to 3LIGHTS this Summer with an exhibition of homoerotic tanka of love and friendship. Although many would associate M. Kei's poetry with images of the ocean, the coast and his native Chesapeake Bay, this latest exhibition from the editor of such publications as Atlas Poetica, Fire Pearls and author of Heron Sea, homes in on tanka of a more personal nature. We are proud to present this exhibition and delighted to welcome back a good friend of the Gallery.

M. Kei: Love Letters: Homoerotic Tanka of Love and Friendship
3LIGHTS Gallery, July 1st - September 31st 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

1st Int'l Erotic Tanka Contest

Deadline Postmark: Dec. 31st 2008

Eligibility: Open to everyone MUST BE AT LEAST 21 YEARS OLD

Subject matter: Erotic, sensual/physical tanka. Tanka that expresses
love in all its manifestations. Please NO pornography!!

Prizes: First Place $100 Second Place $50 and Third Place $25
Prize monies maybe reduced if there are insufficient funds due to
number of entries.

Entry Fee: $1 per tanka No limit on number of tanka submitted.
Checks, money orders, made payable to Pamela A. Babusci, or cash.
Foreign entries CASH ONLY, U.S. MONIES.

Rules: Submit tanka on 3x5 index cards. One card with just the tanka on it and
the second card with your tanka and your name, address, telephone number, and
e-mail address on the front upper left of the card. Entries MUST be typewritten
or printed legibly. Entries that cannot be read be will destroyed.
Enclose an SASE, with sufficient postage (or 2 IRCs for international entries)
if you desire contest results.
ONLY unpublished tanka will be accepted. NO tanka
that is being considered for publication or entered
into tanka contests elsewhere. NO tanka that has been
published on-line or in on-line tanka workshops should be entered.

Judge: Pamela A. Babusci, international award-winning tanka poet.

Note: The contest will be judged blindly. Karen Shiffler will receive all entries
and send ONLY the blind entries to the judge.

Send entries to: First International Erotic Tanka Contest, Karen Shiffler, 1464 Lake Road Webster, NY 14580 USA.

Questions: E-mail; subject line: Questions: Erotic Tanka Contest.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tanka Splendor Awards 22008






Sponsored by AHA Books

1. Thirty-one tanka and three tanka sequences will be awarded publication in Tanka Splendor 2008 and for each winning entry the author will receive a $20. gift certificate for books from AHA Books.

2. Deadline: Midnight September 30, 2008. Do not send entries before June 1, 2008, please.

3. Each author may submit either a group of up to three (3) unpublished tanka or one tanka sequence of any length. All material must be original and not under consideration elsewhere.

4. There is no entry fee.

5. Individual tanka should be in English, written in five lines containing 31 or fewer syllables, preferably without titles.

6. The tanka sequence should consist of a title with three or more tanka, each of which contains 31 or less syllables written in five lines.

7. Send your entry either by using the form below. It works fine even though it may tell you it doesn't have any idea of what is happening - so don't worry. You will get a confirmation that your poem has been received and accepted. Entries may also be sent by regular post. These will be entered in the contest but the author will be unable to take part in the judging. Send mail entries, typed on sheets of paper to:

TS2008 Contest
pob 767 / 1250
Gualala, CA 95445

8. The judging will be done only by the persons with a valid e-mail address who have entered the contest. Each contestant will receive an e-mail with an address on the web showing the anonymous poems for judging. The contestants are invited to declare their choices for the best single tanka and best sequence. After tabulating these votes the 31 single tanka and three sequences which receive the most votes will be published as Tanka Splendor 2008 as an AHA Books Online and winners will be notified with the gift certificates.

9. Rights return to authors upon publication. Entries cannot be returned.

Send your tanka entries to the Tanka Splendor Awards Contest with this form. Be patient with the funny form. It may seem to scramble your lines, but be reassured that when they come to me they are okay. I will send you a confirmation and you can see then that the computer was kind after all.

Read the winning entries in Tanka Splendor 2000.
Or in Tanka Splendor 2001.
Or in Tanka Splendor 2002.
Or in Tanka Splendor 2003.
Or. . . Tanka Splendor 2004.
Tanka Splendor 2005
Tanka Splendor 2006
Tanka Splendor 2007

Back editions of Tanka Splendor for the years 95, 97, 98 and 99 are still available from AHA Books for $5.00 each postpaid. Send a check by post to AHA Books, pob 1250, Gualala, CA.

Tanka Splendor Awards Contest and rules are Copyright © AHA Books 1989 - 2008.

To read the winning poems of previous contests go to AHA Books Online.
To read more about the genre tanka.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Few Poems from Slow Motion

Slow Motion contains 350 poems, most of which are tanka, but also including tercets, short verse, and prose. A few sample poems are below:

the black
and white diamonds
of Holland Island Bar Light—
this too
belongs to cormorants

southern breakfast
asparagus fresh from the garden,
eggs and bacon
served on broad china plates
in an old plantation house

a little white boat
always busy
never doing anything
always going somewhere
happy never to arrive

a few vague stars—
although drunk,
the sailors
gaze up
in reverence

mild weather—
yet the dark warning
of clouds
piling up
beyond the mast

a polydactyl cat
walks the bulwark—
he, too,
is the offspring
of sailors

with worn out
sailing gloves I pull
the torn leech,
me and the boat
both feeling our age

the leaning tower
of Sharp's Island Light . . .
all that remains
of a vanished island,
a vanished time

Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack, can be ordered
from Modern English Tanka Press at:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Slow Motion: Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack

Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack by M. Kei
Published by Modern English Tanka Press

"Slow Motion: The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack" by M. Kei is a
break-through collection of waterman poetry from the Chesapeake Bay
by a poet who actually knows what he is talking about. M. Kei crews
on the title boat, the Skipjack Martha Lewis. Kirsty Karkow, prize-
winning poet and author of "water poems" and "shorelines," says: "A
Skipjack is a historic vessel where form follows function with a
rough beauty. These characteristics are apparent in the sensitive,
poetic voyages of an aging boat and the men who work her sails. This
history and trip log is sure to delight any sailor or lover of the
Chesapeake Bay . . . and of poetry."

Baltimore, Maryland–May 27, 2008–Slow Motion : The Log of a
Chesapeake Bay Skipjack by M. Kei has been published in trade
paperback by Modern English Tanka Press, Baltimore, Maryland. This
break-through collection of waterman poetry from the Chesapeake Bay,
by a poet who actually knows what he is talking about, is sure to
delight any sailor or lover of the Chesapeake Bay and of poetry. The
poet M. Kei crews on the title boat, the Skipjack Martha Lewis, out
of Havre de Grace, Maryland. The short lyric forms used in Slow
Motion are perfect vehicles for the laconic voice of the waterman.
Kei has captured a bit of Chesapeake magic in a bottle and all who
love the Bay, boating, and poetry, are a little richer for it.

"Kei, in his Slow Motion: The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack, has
made these poems on the Chesapeake Bay with its sailboats and workmen
and beauty into a tour de force. Having read hundreds and hundreds of
modern haiku, I find that Kei's, along with his many tanka,
communicate his joy in the beauty of sky and wave and sea and work.
There is a sustaining harmony in the collection, at times earthy, at
times transcendental, at times Whitmanesque. In this journey of log
poetry, along with commentary and notes, Kei has extended the range
of our poetic world." –Sanford Goldstein, co-translator of
Midaregami, Tangled Hair

About Author:

M. Kei crews aboard a skipjack, a traditional wooden sailboat used to
fish for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. He is the author of Heron
Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay, and the editor of the
critically acclaimed anthology, Fire Pearls: Short Masterpieces of
the Human Heart. Kei edits the biannual tanka journal, Atlas Poetica,
which is dedicated to poetry of place. His latest project is Take
Five : Best Contemporary Tanka of 2008, of which he serves as founder
and editor-in-chief. He has published more than 800 poems and
scholarly articles in five languages and ten countries. He also
compiles the Bibliography of English-Language Tanka.

For media inquiries or to arrange an interview with the author,
contact: M. Kei by e-mail at kujaku (at) verizon (dot) net. Publisher
information at:

This book is available from and from
major booksellers; or by order from the publisher. Complete
information and mail order form are available online at Price: $16.95 USD. ISBN 978-0-6152-
1265-4. Trade paperback. 164 pages, 6.00" x 9.00", perfect binding,
60# cream interior paper, black and white interior ink, 100# exterior
paper, full-color exterior ink.

About Modern English Tanka Press:

Modern English Tanka Press is an independent equity publishing house
in Baltimore, Maryland, dedicated to producing books and periodicals
of lasting literary value. A family business, we treat our customers
and partners in publishing like family. Our publications are produced
using modern print-on-demand production and distribution methods. We
publish tanka, haiku, and other fine poetry. Our special mission is
to promote the tanka form of poetry, to educate newcomers to tanka
about this most ancient poetic form, and to work for wider
publication of tanka in both specialty and mainstream poetry venues.
To those ends, we publish the journals "Modern English Tanka," "Atlas
Poetica," "Modern Haiga," and special edition books of tanka, haiku,
and other fine verse. We operate, the internet
megasite for tanka, with its popular "Tanka News" blog, and the
poetry web hub,


Denis M. Garrison, owner
Modern English Tanka Press
Email to dmg (at) themetpress (dot) com.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reminder: Atlas Poetica

Just a reminder that Atlas Poetica is open for submissions from 1 March through 31 May this spring. We accept all kinds of tanka in traditional and innovative forms, individual tanka, tanka with prose, sets and sequences, not to mention, book reviews, articles, announcements, book notes, etc. Tanka in any language when accompanied by English translation is welcome. As always, the focus is on poetry of place: the natural and cultural places that we inhabit anywhere in the world.

Issue #1 is now on sale at, and features content in twelve languages from around the world. It is a large format journal, 8.5 x 11 inches, perfect bound, with a full color cover. See our home page at for more information.


M. Kei
Editor, Atlas Poetica

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ash Moon Anthology

I wrote the blurb for the dustcover of the hard copy edition of Ash Moon Anthology. I'd like to share it with folks because I think Ash Moon is the best anthology yet from Modern English Tanka Press, and at nearly 900 poems and nearly 100 authors, it is the largest tanka anthology published to date. I encourage you all to get your hands on a copy and read it. It is available through


Age. It happens to us all. Advertisements inform us that we can be sexual athletes at ninety, if only we buy the magic cure and follow the exercise guru's advice. Yet the evidence of our own lives is decidedly more human, more problematic, and full of petty perfidies. Age is not simply the prolongation of our youth with the help of a little dye to hide the grey hair but a fundamental process of transformation. We change, and as we change, we are haunted or enlivened by the past we carry with us. Understanding all that we are and have experienced is difficult enough, but communicating it to others is even harder, especially when the gap is dramatic as the one separating today's youth from today's elders. This is the chasm which the poets of Ash Moon cross. Nearly a hundred in number, they are themselves aging or the caregivers and companions of elders. With unblinking honesty they record their age as it is lived—despair and dereliction along side grace and humor—and what emerges is a true portrait of age with all its awkward complexities.

Readers of Ash Moon will find all these poems written in a fitting form, namely, 'tanka,' the eldest of poetic forms. The oldest continuously anthologized poetry in the world (compared to which the venerable sonnet is a mere stripling), tanka poetry has been the vehicle by which poets ancient and modern have given voice to the myriad beauties and burdens of their lives. The result is a series of snapshots without commentary, allowing the readers to directly experience the poets' vision. They will find much that resonates with them, and much to reflect on. The ash moon hangs over all our heads.

M. Kei

M. Kei is the editor of Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka and the author of Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay. He is the editor-in-chief of Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka of 2008.

Three Tanka by M. Kei

Bolts of Silk (I love the name) has posted three of my tanka. Bolts of Silk is named for the ancient Japanese practice of giving bolts of silk to reward artists, poets, and anyone else that the giver wanted to reward.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

6 Word Memoir

I was tagged by Don Wentworth of Lilliput Poetry review to play this game. The whole linking thing is a little fuzzy to me, and I hate chain letters, but as I was intending to ignore it, wondering how I could sum up my life in six words, it came to me. Never one to let a poem escape without being written down, here it is:

Woke up. Went sailing. Happy.

And since I did the poem, here's the link:


Friday, February 15, 2008

Thank you and Update to Keibooks

The following announcement was posted to Keibooks-Announce:

For all of you who have written your kind responses to my previous email, thank you very much. I am honored that Fire Pearls (Perryville: Keibooks) has gained a place in your hearts.

By now you may be aware of some other projects I have been working on, including last year's publication of my first collection Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay (Perryville: Keibooks), as well as the forthcoming Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka (Baltimore: Modern English Tanka Press), and now the forthcoming newest project, Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka of 2008 (Baltimore: Modern English Tanka Press).

Up until now I have utilized the link to make it as easy as possible to find Fire Pearls, but since I published a collection of my own last year and plan to publish additional books this year and next, I have changed the storefront's name to Keibooks. The new URL is: , effective immediately. Please update your bookmarks. As always, you can find the storefront by using Lulu's search box.

As always, you can find additional information about myself and my projects at my blog .



M. Kei
Publisher, Keibooks

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Take Five : The Best Contemporary Tanka of 2008


Modern English Tanka Press Announces Take Five : The Best Contemporary Tanka of 2008.

February 12, 2008 - Baltimore, MD

Modern English Tanka Press has announced a new anthology, Take Five : The Best Contemporary Tanka of 2008. This anthology, headed up by editor-in-chief, M. Kei, will review all tanka published in English during 2008 and make selections to showcase the breadth and quality of of English-language tanka poetry. The anthology will be published early in 2009 in both trade paperback and hardcover editions. It is expected to be an annual anthology showcasing each year's best tanka.

The anthology is the brainchild of M. Kei, well-known tanka poet and editor of Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka. No stranger to anthology editing, M. Kei previously edited the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed anthology, Fire Pearls : Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart in 2006. M. Kei heads up a team of editors, including Prof. Sanford Goldstein, tanka poet and co-translator of Japanese tanka poets for more than forty years; Pamela A. Babusci, an award-winning poet/artist, whose awards include the Museum of Haiku Literature, Yellow Moon, and Kokako competitions; Liam Wilkinson, curator of the 3LIGHTS Online Gallery of Haiku and Tanka and co-editor of Modern Haiga; Patricia Prime, co-editor of Kokako and reviews editor of Stylus (AUS) and Takahe (NZ); and Bob Lucky, poet, writer, and teacher.

Kei explained that the project would be different from existing tanka competitions because it is an anthology with editors, not a contest with judges. "Our goal is to showcase not only the best tanka being written and published in English today, but also to present excellence in anthology-making. We will not be voting on which tanka to include, but nominating tanka which we will discuss and debate amongst ourselves. We will select work that exemplifies both the best individual tanka and the best anthology we can produce, with due respect to the diversity of tanka in English around the world."

Editors and authors who wish to assure that their works published in 2008 are reviewed by the editorial team may submit two copies of the work to:

Attn: Take Five
M. Kei, Editor-in-chief
P O Box 1118
Elkton, MD 21922-1118
Email: take5tanka [at] modernenglishtankapress [dot] com

Readers who wish to draw the board's attention to works they admire are also welcome to submit copies. All copies become the property of the Take Five editorial board and cannot be returned. Please note, parcels which require a signature cannot be received. If you wish to receive an acknowledgment of your submission, please include a self-addressed, stamped postcard with the package. International correspondents should send an IRC in lieu of stamps. Please inquire before making electronic submissions: unexpected attachments will be deleted.


Please forward to all interested persons.

Friday, February 08, 2008


A busy month. The proofreading for Atlas Poetica is done and she is going to print. We are on schedule for our March 1 debute. Buy at

I have a new and special project in the works, but hush. That press release will come out later. You'll see.

Slow Motion my book of log poetry from my voyages on the Skipjack Martha Lewis last fall is coming along well. Tentative release date, April. More specifically, after I get my tax refund. Poetry doesn't pay, it costs. It will be coming out from Modern English Tanka Press.

This past week I was done with a nasty stomach bug. I was throwing up and having the runs. Throwing up is something that rarely happens to me. It means I'm very very ill. Throwing up so violently I hurt myself is a new and unpleasant development. I seem to be over the illness portion of the bug, but I'm still sore. I've missed most of work this week, which is bad. I'm a member of the working poor. Compensation is simple: if you work, you get paid. If you don't work, you don't get paid. What is this 'sick leave' people talk about?

Edwards has thrown in the towel. After reading Clinton and Obama's websites, I conclude that there's not much difference between them. A bleeding liberal like me ought to be giddy over having a woman or an African American to choose as serious contenders for president, but I don't agree with either of them about Iraq. Still, I expect I'll vote Obama as the person most likely to do me and other people with disabilities some good. Not that any of his proposed reforms will do me any personal good, but having been there before, I see very much that they need doing. Sadly, when used his website box to 'contribute your ideas to the Obama campaign', I immediately received a plea for money that showed not even a form letter response to my comments. So much for being a man of the people. Money is everything.

Will post more later when I get caught up, have time, and complete past due tasks that have been delayed by my illness.