Monday, January 28, 2008

Tanka Tough

I've taken to writing travel tankas. A tanka is kind of like a haiku on performance enhancing drugs - rather than the typical 5-7-5 syllable construction of a haiku - the tanka has two extra lines of 7 syllables each resulting in a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern.

I like the constraint of form when I am writing "on assignment" whether the assignment is levied by me or another. When writing in form – to paraphrase the poet Michael Brown – one must be sure the form is used to trim the fat from a piece of writing. The analogy here would be pouring a gallon of something into a quart container letting the extraneous run off rather than putting a pint of material in that same quart container then adding in order to fill the form.

Sometimes I string the short poems together as stanzas in a longer piece – but these three stand alone.


Taxi cab driver

Blushes with complicity

While waiter cheats us

Two days pay for beef noodles

High priced illiteracy

Smog dangles in air

Like hooked horsemeat in market

Eyes water, lungs burn

Sub zero temperatures

Fail as anesthesia

Morning walk to school

Sun veiled behind mountain range

Watch dog barks spew steam

In warm class sitting cross-legged

Students launch non sequiturs

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