British Haiku Society
Haiku Canada
Haiku Poets of Northern California
Haiku Society of America
Manitoba Writers' Guild
New Zealand Poetry Society
Tanka Canada
Tanka Society of America
United Haiku and Tanka Society
World Haiku Association
Yuki Teikei Haiku Society


Serow, Journal of the Akita International Haiku Network
Volume 4, Spring 2021

Getting to Know Haiku Poet Debbie Strange 

Haiku poet Debbie Strange makes poems, music, photographs, and art in Winnipeg, the heart of the Canadian prairies. She is an internationally published short-form writer and haiga artist. Her haiku (below) along with Marilyn Ashbaugh’s (page 20 and page 45) were selected as the winners of the 9th Annual Akita International Haiku Contest. 

blue nemophila
I still miss the little things
about my sister

I am beyond grateful to the judges, Ben Grafström, Hidenoru Hiruta, and David McMurray, and to the Akita International Haiku Network, for recognizing my work with this award. This haiku was written as a tribute to my sister, and I can think of no greater way to honour her memory.

The theme of temporality for this year’s competition deeply resonates with me, especially during these challenging times, when so many lives have been lost to the ravages of Covid-19. Our earthly life has been forever changed, as we fight to overcome this deadly foe in a war against time itself.

I came to haiku quite late in life, having written songs and longer poems from an early age. My haiku-writing practice serves as both medication and meditation. It helps me to focus on the world outside me, rather than within me, as I grapple with the limitations of declining health. I spend several hours at my desk every day making haiku, tanka, and haiga, and these acts of creativity have offered me countless epiphanies!

Nemophilas are tiny, cup-shaped flowers, whose blooms of purple, blue, and white are welcome harbingers of spring. The root of phila in Greek means loving, and one of the plant’s varieties is referred to as baby-blue-eyes. Thus, my haiku evokes the season, whilst also alluding to the colour of a loved one’s eyes.

My older sister was my mentor in the fields of poetry and music. When she passed away from a sudden illness, I was devastated, and I sympathize with those who have suffered bereavement during the pandemic. The word “still” is important in this haiku, because it references our complicated relationship with the concept of time.

For me, the passage of time, the seasonality of nature, and the ebb and flow of grief, are inextricably linked. None of us are strangers to the grieving process, and we have all learned how to speak the language of loss. Though death is not explicitly mentioned in my haiku, it is implied by the word “miss.”

The use of the phrase “the little things” in this haiku embodies a double meaning. It not only refers to the diminutive size of the blossoms, but also to the small personality traits and mannerisms that uniquely define each person. It hints at the solace we take from holding fast to our memories, and speaks to an ineffable state of longing and melancholy.

I rarely write with the intention of composing haiku in the 5/7/5 format, but in this instance, I felt that all 17 syllables were required to achieve the desired effect. In my mind, the repetitive use of “s” in still/miss/things/sister helps to reiterate the fact that grieving is a natural, recurring, and necessary part of life, and that its sharp edges do indeed, become softened with time.

 —Debbie Strange


The Haiku Foundation - New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners – Debbie Strange

In Advice for Beginners posts, we ask established haiku poets to share a bit about themselves so that you can meet them and learn more about their writing journeys. We, too, wanted to learn what advice they would give to beginning haiku poets.

Welcome to New to Haiku, Debbie! How did you come to learn about haiku?

I have written poetry and songs since childhood, but all I “knew” about haiku was that they were defined as nature poems written in a strict 5/7/5 syllable pattern. I dabbled in writing this style for many years. When I joined social media, I soon discovered that my knowledge was completely outdated! My eyes were opened to a whole new way of reading and writing haiku. I instantly fell in love with short-form poetry, and it has since become a powerful healing force, and the creative passion in my life.

Do you have a haiku mentor? What advice did they give you? Did someone else’s haiku greatly influence your own?

The first editor to publish my haiku was the esteemed poet, an’ya, and that acceptance changed the course of my writing life. She gave me pointers regarding personification and line breaks, and she holds a special place in my heart to this day. I consider every poet whose work touches me in some way to be a mentor! This influences my writing and my appreciation for the myriad ways in which haiku’s compact form has broadened my horizons.

Where do you most often write? Do you have a writing process?

I write anywhere and everywhere! I keep notebooks beside the bed, on my desk, and in my pocket. One of my main sources of inspiration is a series of journals spanning over 40 years, which chronicle the adventures of my husband and me in the Canadian wildsThese observations of the world are my lifeline to nature, especially now that I do not have the physical stamina I once enjoyed. I also keep a file of interesting words, fragments, and facts, which are invaluable sources of ideas for writing haiku. I have been an avid photographer for decades, and I often use images to spark my writing process. By using these techniques, I never have to wait for the muse to come calling!

My writing and art practice helps distract me from chronic pain. It allows me to attain a meditative state of mind, fostering a sense of purpose. I am at my desk for about five hours each day. During this time, I write haiku and tanka, revise, prepare and track submissions, update publication data, and create haiga.

Every haiku I craft presents a unique challenge, and to be quite frank, I sometimes feel as though I am flailing about in uncharted waters! I find these small poems incredibly difficult to compose, but immensely rewarding when the right words fall into place. After countless drafts, I read the completed haiku aloud until its breath becomes my own. I strive to leave a gate open to welcome readers into my sanctuary. Sometimes I over-polish the poem, and once it has lost its shine, I must begin again.

How do you approach reading haiku?

Exposing oneself to the work of classical masters and modern haiku practitioners is of paramount importance in order to grow as a poet. I subscribe to several highly regarded print journals, and I regularly access well-established online magazines. Haiku anthologies are perfect for studying differing approaches to the form. I support the work of others by purchasing their books and sharing their accomplishments online, but deteriorating vision has curtailed my reading of late.

Though I am unable to perform at poetry readings or attend Zoom events, I greatly enjoy listening to haiku presentations on YouTube, which helps keep me connected to the poetry community. 

What print journals, online journals, or YouTube channels do you recommend for the purpose of studying haiku?

YouTube channel links:
Other online resources:
Free eBooks:

For those just starting out, what advice would you give?

I spent a full year reading, writing, and researching before I took my first tentative steps along the haiku pathway. It is very easy for novice poets to become overwhelmed by the plethora of haiku “rules,” and in so doing, lose their enthusiasm for the form. I recommend Terry Ann Carter’s tiny book of instruction, hue: a day at Butchart Gardens (Leaf Press 2014) as a gentle introduction to the basics. The Haiku Foundation offers a treasure trove of resources and lesson plans for all poets at every stage of their writing journey!

Once you feel confident enough to venture forth, try to send out your work on a regular basis. Rejections are a necessary part of a writer’s growth, and they simply mean that your work did not connect with a particular editor. They should never be taken personally! I learn something from every acceptance, as well as from every rejection, and it is always a bonus when an editor provides feedback. Be open to editorial advice, and be gracious to those who so generously volunteer their time to help us become better poets.

Entering reputable contests is a fun way to discover whether one’s haiku is resonating within the global community. The best thing about placing in a contest is not the award itself, but rather, the judge’s personalized commentary! It is encouraging and affirming to know that your work has engaged at least one reader.

What are some of the fun ways that you have used or experienced haiku?

In March of 2020, as Covid-19 began making its presence known, I wanted to find a way to share a little joy with the Twitter short-form poetry community. To that end, between March 25 and May 18, I made haiga for 50 emerging and established poets whose work complemented a series of my previously published photographs. (You can view these on Twitter using the hashtag #DebbieMStrangeHaigaProject.)

In 2014, I initiated another Twitter project, inviting poets to write on the theme of “feathers” (#LostFeatherPoetClub). Over 100 poets participated in that challenge, with more than 200 poems posted!

What are your favorite haiku that you have written? Can you share a story behind one of them?

One of the highlights of my haiku life was having the following three poems shortlisted (30 haiku selected from over 800 nominations) in The Haiku Foundation’s 2019 Touchstone Awards for Individual Poems:

I skip a pebble across
the universe

  •    Seashores 22019
       1st Place OtherWordly Intergalactic Haiku Competition

ghost apple
this emptiness

  •    Shamrock Haiku Journal 42, 2019

weathered oars
we fold our worries
into the river

  •   Acorn 42, Spring 2019

It reassures me to know that a panel of six accomplished haiku poets deemed these poems worthy of inclusion.

Many of my haiku are written from a poetry-of-place perspective, and natural history is regularly featured in my work. Making haiga in a variety of media (ink, watercolour, photography, digital), using illustrative, associative, and interpretive techniques is a vital part of my creative process.

This sketch-of-life, illustrative haiga, evokes fond memories for me. We were camped beside a lake in mid-autumn. A huge harvest moon was on the rise, accompanied by the soft calls of snow geese overhead. Their loose skeins gave the appearance of reins, pulling the moon out of the water.
glassy lake by Debbie Strange

Though writing about the moon in a fresh way can be an exercise in frustration, I was honoured that this haiku placed first, as it appealed to the judge of the 2017 Autumn Moon Haiku Journal’s annual contest, Dr. Bruce Ross:

“Many haiku have been written about the effect of moonlight and the moon’s reflection. This haiku is unique and highly poetic in its expressions.”

What haiku-related project are you currently working on that brings you joy? What do you like about it?

My husband and I are planning to produce a book that will pair his childhood bird watching field notes and watercolour paintings with my short-form poetry and photography. We hope to be able to give copies to our friends and families as keepsakes, and we’re brimming over with ideas at the moment!


Red Lights, Volume 15, Number 2, June 2019

Book Appreciation: Three-Part Harmony: Tanka Verses

I was honoured to be chosen for this feature by the editor, Marilyn Hazelton. 

In response to her question regarding my musical background as it informs Three-Part Harmony:

I have been playing guitar, singing, and writing songs since the age of 12. My eldest sister was the main musical mentor in my life. I received my first guitar from her as a Christmas gift, and we often played music and sang together. She taught my sisters and me to sing harmony, hence the title and dedication of this book. Though she passed away when she was 28, every time I play my guitar, I think of her.

In response to her question regarding how I compiled the book:

It took about a year to finalize the manuscript. I began my eliminating poems that had appeared in my first book, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads. I sorted the remaining published work into themed groups, and whittled the field down to approximately 300 tanka. This is like working on a huge jigsaw puzzle. I inserted each tanka into a set until they resonated with each other, thereby breathing new life into old poems.

In response to her question regarding my reflections on three tanka sets she chose at random:


curls of clouds
become passerines
each autumn
the low-angled light
invites me to follow

snow geese
scribe an ancient mystery
across the moon
their soft murmurs
catching winter's breath

a starling
m u m u r a t i o n
sifting the sky
she recalls the moment
her life changed shape

I have been an avid birder for 40 years. Birds inspire me on a daily basis, and they feature in many of my tanka. In murmuration, I tried to encompass the way birds make me feel, how they capture my imagination, and stir my emotion. Here, we have clouds shape-shifting into passerines, snow geese becoming scribes, and starlings changing the very shape of sky.

bread and tempers

that phone call
all those years ago
I still see
a serpent writhing
between her fingers

the argument
escalates all night
inside me
these paper-thin walls
only meant for wasps

we lived
above a bake shop
that summer
of bread and tempers
rising through the night

I find it cathartic and healing to share my joys and sorrows via the written word. I do not shy away from writing about the dark times in my life, because these experiences have helped to mould me into the writer I am, and the writer that I will become.

gunmetal nights

mule deer
resting in a thicket
by the slough
all over this world
the sound of guns

shots fired
another child dies
for a debt
her chalk outline
macabre street art

bullets of crows
on gunmetal nights
a deeper shade
of anguish echoes
in her bones

This set is especially meaningful to me, as I have a complicated relationship with guns. When I was a child, my father hunted to provide food for our family, so they seemed like a necessary evil, if you will. Over the years, two of my cousins have been murdered by these weapons, and with escalating gun violence throughout the world, I find myself becoming increasingly fearful for our global community.


Ribbons, Volume 15, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2019

Honoured to be the featured poet in this issue. My thanks to David Rice!


Sharing My Light

As a child, I used to curl up on the couch in our farmhouse while listening to my father recite poetry. This was my introduction to the power of words, and I remain under their spell to this day.

snow whirls
outside the henhouse . . .
father cups
my hands around
a warm brown egg

3rd Place, 2018 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

I wrote my first poem at nine, and began writing songs at twelve. My older sister was my mentor and singing partner, always encouraging me to "share my light." When she passed away at 28, I was lost.

a smudge
of blackbirds swirling
into evening . . .
how fluid the shape
of this sorrow

2nd Place, 2018 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

Years later, I took my sister's advice and submitted work to an'ya at kernelsonline (Cattails). My haiku chapbook, A Year Unfolding (Folded Word 2017) is a direct result of that first acceptance. I am grateful to an'ya for helping me take a leap of faith into short-form poetry. It changed my life!

each moment
here on earth is numbered . . .
so why not
fly too close to the moon,
and hang our hats on stars?

1st Place, 2016 Mandy's Pages Annual Tanka Contest

Shortly afterward, I discovered tanka on Twitter via M. Kei. I am indebted to him for publishing my first book, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads in 2015, and its sequel, Three-Part Harmony: Tanka Verses in 2018. Both books are comprised of tanka that appeared individually in a variety of publications over the years. I selected tanka that resonated with each other, combining them into triptychs in an effort to expand their scope. This technique allowed me to breathe new life into old poems. I do not think of these "verses or threads" as sequences, because they were not written as such. The titles are drawn from the last tanka in each set and serve to bring the poems full circle.

this fleeting moment

how still
this numinous dawn
we kneel,
watching a muskrat's breath
bubbling under thin ice

light spills
through a fallstreak hole
onto water . . .
if nothing else,
this will be enough

wishing seeds
cartwheel through warm air
how quiet
this fleeting moment
this belief in miracles

1st verse: The Bamboo Hut, Spring 2015
2nd verse: HM, 2017 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest
3rd verse: 2nd HM, 2015 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

Musicality in tanka is vital to me, as I often sing the poems while strumming my guitar. Vocabulary also plays an integral role in my work.

the growth rings
of otoliths and trees . . .
when did she
become smaller
than her daughters

2nd Place, 2017 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

Composing tanka is my primary writing focus. This daily meditation quiets my mind and helps to distract me from chronic pain.

the architecture
of impending storms . . .
every cloud
that hangs over me
has a given name

HM, 2017 Fleeting Words Tanka Contest

I have made my home beside the ocean, on the prairies, and at the feet of mountains. Poetry of place features in much of my tanka.

the ocean
was in a rage last night
but today,
these peace offerings
of blue mussels and kelp

1st Place, 2018 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest

Many of my tanka and photographs depict flora, fauna, and phenomena encountered while camping, birding, and hiking in the wilds.

dried curls
of gray reindeer moss
crunch softly
underneath our boots . . .
no other sound, but breath

1st Place (tie), 2016 San Francisco International Competition

Human experience is also a frequent subject in my tanka.

tracks of birds
meander through snow . . .
the surgeon
marks her left breast
with a cross

1st Place, 2016 British Haiku Society Tanka Awards

The short-form community inspires me. Reading the work of others and heeding editorial advice pushes me to hone my skills. I offer my thanks to the following gifted tanka poets who provided blurbs for my books:

without . . .
each evening seems even
than it takes the river
to smooth a thousand stones

an'ya: Winner, 2018 British Haiku Society Tanka Awards

when no one is around,
my heart changes
into a heron
and flies

M. Kei: HM, 2007 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest

it's not so much
the 'big one' when it comes
but aftershocks . . .
our favorite song,
letters addressed to you

David Terelinck: Winner, 2018 British Haiku Society Tanka Awards

through rain
through a year
of threadbare melodies
the early dark
of stolen mulberries

ai li: The Tanka Anthology, 2003 (editor Michael McClintock et al)

if you were reborn
a fly and I, a spider
with skeins of rainbow
I would weave
a web for our dreams

Sonam Chhoki: Fire Pearls, Volume 2, 2013 (editor M. Kei)

a tree trunk
lost in the shadow
of its branches . . .
another yes
when I meant to say no

Ken Slaughter: 1st Place, 2015 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest

in an old picture
my mother's hand so firm
on my shoulder
as if gravity alone
could not hold me down

Angela Leuck: Take Five, Volume 4, 2011 (editor-in-chief M. Kei)

Holding a letter
with words no longer true;
day-lilies open
and wither
in the same vase.

Alexis Rotella: The Tanka Anthology, 2003 (editor Michael McClintock et al)

The cuckoo clock strikes
I smile at the soft dawn light
Until my eyes rest
On your bare dressing table,
On all the empty hangers

Denis Garrison: Fire Pearls, 2006 (editor M. Kei)

This tanka journey has been an amazing adventure, and it has brought me closer to awareness of the universe and myself.

on this night
of our awareness,
the aurora
brushes an ensō
across lake and sky

HM, 2018 Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest


Scryptic - Magazine of Alternative Art, Issue 1.4, March 2018

Featured Artist Interview

1. How long have you been writing and what led you to poetry?

I have been composing poetry and songs since I was nine, when my parents separated and moved away from each other. Writing was my way of dealing with the emotional upheavals in my life.

2. Who do you feel has influenced your work the most?

My father has had a strong influence on my work. He introduced me to classical poetry when I was young, and he recited poems from memory until his death at age 90. He was also a naturalist who instilled in me a reverence for the world, and many of my haiku and tanka reflect this affinity.

3. What is your favorite poem and why?

My favorite poem is always the one I am reading at any given moment. This week, I am appreciating poetry about language. "Soft Travellers" by P.K. Page, and "Words" by Anne Sexton, are two wonderful examples.

4. We particularly enjoy your haiga. Can you tell us a bit about your process?

Thank you! Making haiga is one of my greatest pleasures. I have been taking photographs since I was a teenager, and they are often the inspiration for my artistic endeavors. I create haiga in a variety of media (ink, digital, watercolour), using traditional methods (associative, interpretive, illustrative) during the creative process. I maintain a publication archive that includes hundreds of haiga and tanka art at

5. Did you always want to be a writer, or did you have another dream when you were a child?

I have always wanted to be a writer, and I am forever grateful to the editors of leading short form publications worldwide who have made this dream a reality.

6. A lot of your work has dark undertones. Is there any particular event in your life that has inspired this subject matter?

I strive to keep a balance between dark and light themes in my writing, but I must admit that it is easier to find homes for the latter. I extend my thanks to you both for giving my work a platform in Scryptic. The death of my older sister, mentor, and singing partner, was a life-altering event for me. Another ongoing issue is that of chronic pain. My daily practice of writing and making art helps to distract me from physical limitations, whilst fostering a meditative state of mind.

7. Do you have words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

My best advice for aspiring writers would be to read widely, maintain a regular writing schedule, and submit work often. There is much to be learned from rejections as well as acceptances, and it is never too late to begin...


Presence, Issue 59, November 2017

Focus Poet 44

I was introduced to poetry in a small farmhouse on the Canadian prairie in the 1950s. My father often recited classic verse, instilling in me a reverence for language.

Though my interest in poetry and songwriting began in childhood, I did not share my efforts until I discovered Japanese short forms via social media in mid life. I immediately felt at home working in these genres, and now devote several hours a day to the development of my tanka and haiku skills. This is a welcome distraction from physical limitations. I am primarily a nature poet, and my affinity for birds influences much of my writing.

M. Kei has been instrumental in furthering my appreciation of short songs. In 2015, Keibooks released Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads, my collection of triptychs comprised of poems published in different journals, but sharing a common thread. The following compilations have been essential reading: The Tanka Anthology, edited Michael McClintock, Pamela Miller Ness, and Jim Kacian (Red Moon Press, 2003), and Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 4 editor-in-chief M. Kei (Keibooks, 2012).

An'ya was the first editor to publish my haiku, and I am indebted to her for that initial acceptance. In 2017, Folded Word released A Year Unfolding, my tribute collection of 30 haiku previously published in cattails. Many haiku books inspire me, but particular favourites are: Where the River Goes: The Nature Tradition in English-Language Haiku, ed. Allan Burns (Snapshot Press, 2013), and Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku, ed./written by John Barlow and Matthew Paul (Snapshot Press, 2008).

My daily practice of creating art in a variety of media sustains me. I am thankful to Kuniharu Shimizu for selecting my work in the World Haiku Association's monthly haiga contests, and to Jim Kacian for featuring it in the Haiku Foundation's Haiga Galleries. I am also grateful to the fine editors of leading publications worldwide, and to the esteemed judges of respected competitions, who have warmly embraced my offerings.


The Haiku Foundation

Haiku Registry Poet Profile


Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational 2017

Meet the Winners Interview

portage and slain

Interview with Catherine Macdonald

The Tanka of Debbie Strange

hedgerow: a journal of small poems

Poet/Artist in Conversation

August 2015

I have been a word weaver for five decades. The exercise of writing has helped me navigate not only through turbulent periods in my emotional world, but also through countless moments of grace in the natural world. Most of my works are inspired by personal experiences, and the remainder are rooted in my imagination.

The discovery of the welcoming short form poetry community on Twitter in 2013 has narrowed my writing focus, yet has expanded my publishing opportunities much further than I thought possible. I now mainly write Japanese short forms in English (tanka, haiku, senryu, and tanshi - the phrase for short poetry, which I believe was coined by Yosano Tekkan, a Japanese poet in the 19th century), and my haiga and tanka/tanshi art is created to complement the words either directly or indirectly.

I have been making photographs since I was a teenager. I began by shooting wide-angle landscapes and seascapes, progressing to the use of a zoom lens for wildlife portraits, and finally to employing a macro lens to illustrate nature's minutiae. I have an affinity for the small and often overlooked things in nature, such as dewdrops, lichen on stones, frost, fallen feathers, torn leaves, and also for the effects of rust on items that have been broken and abandoned.

The four parts of this resident artist series (Glass, Watercolour, White spaces, and Altered Reality) are only a small sampling from many different galleries of my SOOC (straight-out-of-camera) photographs and enhanced images.

The Japanese concepts of komorebi (light filtering through trees), kintsukuroi (more beautiful for having been broken), wabi (subdued and austere beauty), sabi (rustic patina), and mono no aware (the pathos of things) influence my writing and photography.

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

I appreciate this opportunity to share my creative passions with you, and offer my thanks for taking the time to read. I am excited to announce that my book of triptychs, Warp and Weft, Tanka Threads is forthcoming this summer from Keibooks. You are invited to view further examples of my images and words at the following sites:



Featured Poet

September 2014

Debbie Strange

I am grateful to an’ya for inviting me to be the featured poet in this issue of cattails. She was the first editor to whom I submitted work, and I was thrilled when an artist of her calibre chose to accept my haiku! This encouraged me to take the plunge and begin sending out my work. As a neophyte in the world of writing Japanese short form poetry, I was concerned that I might not have anything of value to add to the wealth of information provided by much more knowledgeable writers. Then, it occurred to me that perhaps my positive experiences with this genre over the past year might inspire other poets to embark on a similar adventure.

The Pulse of Poetry

I make my home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I have also lived in Saskatchewan and Alberta, the other two prairie provinces, as well as on the west coast of British Columbia. Both the prairie and the sea play integral roles in much of my writing.

Photography and art are important aspects of my creative life. An exhibition of my abstract photographs was recently held at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg. A gallery of these images may be viewed on I am currently assembling a collection of haiga and tanka art, and I often post these creations on Twitter. You are welcome to visit me online at:

My other interests include singing, playing guitar and writing songs, tending a huge perennial flower garden, and exploring nature with my husband and our dog in a lime-green 1978 VW camper named Ludwig Van. Our camping trips provide wonderful inspiration for my photography and writing.

Though I’ve been a word weaver all my life, I am not a prolific writer. When I finally allow a fully-fledged work to leave the nest, I worry that its feathers might be singed, but I also feel hopeful that this might be the creation that takes wing and soars. I do not have a stockpile of perfectly rendered poems in my flock to send out into the world, but I do have a flourishing collection of fragments. This is my treasure trove, and within it are the pinions I need in order to fashion the wing of a new poem. I hope that words will always be thrumming in my blood through the pulse of poetry.

Turning Points

In 2000, I became a member of The Writers’ Collective of Manitoba. I entered their annual contests, and was thankful when I was lucky enough to receive recognition. I also sent in work for evaluation, and the constructive criticism given to me was invaluable. Through my association with this group, I gained a newfound confidence in my writing. As I learned to read my work aloud in public, my voice began to emerge from its cocoon, and this was the beginning of my metamorphosis as a writer.

I entered into retirement earlier than planned, due to the after-effects of an injury. The silver lining behind that cloud is that I now have more time to devote to writing and learning!

In 2013, I made a promise to my inner critic to answer calls for submissions, and to begin sharing my work, no matter how apprehensive I was. The first step I took in that direction was to join Twitter. Before long, I was a member of a thriving online short form poetry community, with too many excellent poets to mention here. That being said, it was serendipitous for me that the first two writers of Japanese short form poetry I discovered on Twitter were the well-known M. Kei and Chen-ou Liu. I admire their work, and I am grateful for the vast knowledge they share, as well as for their support and encouragement. They have helped change the course of my writing life.

Journeying into Haiku and Tanka

M. Kei is an esteemed tanka poet, novelist, and Editor of Atlas Poetica, as well as many other publications. I had never heard of tanka, and encountering this form has been life changing for me. M. Kei published 100 of my traditional and experimental tanka in the Bright Stars Tanka Anthology series, and I am indebted to him for leading me on my journey into tanka. The singer in me has fallen deeply in love with these short songs, and the practice of writing tanka daily feels like coming home.

Chen-ou Liu is an award-winning poet, and Editor and Chief Translator of Never Ending Story – the First English-Chinese Bilingual Haiku and Tanka Blog. I had been introduced to the “traditional 5/7/5” haiku in school, and Chen-ou has expanded my perception and understanding of this form.

My first published haiku: 

sere grasses...
summer threads

kernelsonline 2013

My first published tanka:

on sagebrush prairie
the whirring grasshoppers
and trilling larks
sing a lamentation hymn
for my sister’s stone ears

Notes from the Gean August 2013
Looking back on my first publications, I see how my work has evolved. Brevity is a difficult concept to grasp for a self-confessed “adjective addict”, but I’m learning that less is more. The minimalist nature of Japanese short form poetry appeals to me. I like to see the black bones of a poem on the page, with nothing distracting from, or confining the words. The general lack of capitalization, punctuation, and complex line breaks makes for an austerity and starkness on the page that I find aesthetically pleasing.

I also discovered haiga and tanka art on Twitter, and this has become another new passion. Blending my photographs and art with my words satisfies both creative urges in me.

I am a member of the United Haiku and Tanka Society, Haiku Canada, Tanka Canada, the Tanka Society of America and the World Haiku Association. I subscribe to several journals, and as a result of this, I am continually being introduced to the work of a wide variety of poets with diverse styles. I have made some observations as I travel this road. I find it refreshing that most journal editors do not care who you are or what you have published in the past. The most important thing is the work, and the only prerequisite is quality. Also, it is interesting to note that self-publishing is celebrated rather than frowned upon, as is often the case with mainstream writing.

A short time ago, I could never have imagined that I would have my work published in international journals. Some of the pieces have been translated into other languages, and this is a source of amazement to me. In closing, I will quote from my thoughts regarding inspiration, which Steve Wilkinson, Editor of The Bamboo Hut, so kindly published:

My writing is mainly informed by experiences in both my emotional world and the natural world. Words are my solace and salvation. I am inspired by the very shape of words, their cadence, meaning and power. I breathe words, write words and sing words. In return, they bless me, heal me and save me.