Tanka Anthologies

These are the early 21st century “new wave tanka anthologies,” four of which were edited by Denis Garrison and Michael McClintock and one by Alexis Rotella and Denis Garrison. You may read these books online for free and you may download them for your offline use and sharing.

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The Editors (l-r): Michael McClintock, Alexis Rotella, Denis Garrison.


The Five-Hole Flute : Modern English Tanka in Sequences and Sets was the first of the new wave tanka anthologies published by Modern English Tanka Press. Denis Garrison was lead editor and Michael McClintock assistant editor. (2006)

The Dreaming Room : Modern English Tanka In Collage and Montage Sets was the second of the series. Michael McClintock was lead editor for this book and Denis Garrison assistant editor. (2007) This anthology is archived at the American Haiku Archives in Sacramento, California.

Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka was the third of the series. Denis Garrison was lead editor and Michael McClintock assistant editor. (2007)

Ash Moon Anthology : Poems on Aging in Modern English Tanka was the fourth anthology in the new wave series, Alexis K. Rotella was lead editor for this book and Denis Garrison assistant editor. (2008)

Streetlights : Poetry of Urban Life in Modern English Tanka was the fifth and final anthology. Again, Michael McClintock was the lead editor for this book and Denis Garrison assistant editor. (2009)

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THE FIVE-HOLE FLUTE affords the reader an impressively compact and rich overview of modern tanka, cinquain, and haiku, and of the changing shape and power of these forms when arranged in sets and sequences.

The works in this exemplary collection offer a glimpse into the extraordinary diversity and sometimes startling richness of the modern short poem in English, and disclose a fascinating but hitherto concealed dimension of literary creativity: the integration of autonomous short poems into new, coherent, interactive patterns that break free of the conventional stanzaic forms of longer narrative, epic, and lyrical verse. Several techniques are illustrated—including anaphora, thematic linking, antiphonal response, and more—demonstrating the manifold possibilities for grouping tanka, cinquain, and haiku in compositions that convey an expanded poetic experience, a compound literature having broad scope and unlimited potential for dealing with the many layers and complexities of human experience, thought, and emotion.

Resonant with the breadth and vision of literary collage, mural, and existential mandala, the short form poets of the twenty-first century reveal cultural and artistic roots not only in the ancient Japanese waka/tanka tradition, but equally in the subjective realism of the Impressionist painters and the short works of such Imagist poets as Adelaide Crapsey, the early Ezra Pound, T. E. Hulme, Amy Lowell, H.D, and Wallace Stevens.

THE DREAMING ROOM — Intended as a companion volume to The Five-Hole Flute, this collection presents further examples and explorations of a special kind of “dreaming room.” Denis M. Garrison described it as the “. . . empty space inside the poem which the reader can fill with his personal experience, from his unique social context. . .” and where we may, as readers, directly involve our minds and hearts in “. . . the property of words to react to one another, interact with one another, to be fungible and suggestive. A multivalent tanka is one with dreaming room.”

In these compositions, autonomous short poems are integrated into new, coherent, interactive patterns that break free of the conventional stanza forms that typify most Western narrative, epic, and lyrical verse. We think that the “dreaming room” experience results from the layering of images with lyrical content and meaning within each assemblage. Additionally, we think that the poems comprising that assemblage, whether as collage or montage, are in themselves singularly whole and complete.

Garrison writes: “They have been composed with the technique of understatement, of suggestiveness, of open-endedness. Words and details which limit the universality of the tanka have been omitted with careful attention to what is not said. What remains is a poem that is a framework upon which readers from widely different contexts can hang their own experiences and values and discover meaning, experience epiphany. . .” The tanka sequence or group of tanka is by no means a new thing, but our understanding and appreciation of these compositions grows as the literature itself burgeons. Our use of the terms “collage” and “montage” to describe the work we present here is fairly simple:

Tanka collage: an assemblage of tanka with other short forms (haiku, senryu, cinquain, sijo, etc.) composed as a set and intended as an aesthetic whole. In tanka collage, the tanka form is numerically dominant in its number of lines.

Tanka montage: two or more tanka composed or arranged as a set, intended as an aesthetic whole. Usually, these sets are given a title. . . .

In selecting the material for this book, we desired to identify work that appeared best to illustrate or exemplify the special dynamics that seem to be essential in such constructions for achieving a longer or more sustained poetic experience or development without recourse to the usual progression of Western-style stanzas in either linear (rational, Modernist) patterns or the modes and patterns that characterize and frame the anti-rationalist arguments found in post-Modern, “language,” and de-constructionist Western verse. We were looking for poetry that was experiential rather than ideological, more existential than doctrinal in its content and rendering of human experience, thought, and emotion. We sought poetry that did not require of the reader agreement or acceptance of ideological values, frameworks, or argument.

LANDFALL deals with rural life; it is about the lands we live in, the highlands and the lowlands, prairies and forests, deserts and wetlands, farmlands and wilderness, the vast continental interiors and the lands bordering the seas, and the waters of the earth. As such, it is inevitably a book about ourselves.

Through tanka, the short poetry of our time, this book is intended to rediscover the mood, temper, and diversity of the infinitely varied and nuanced places where we live our lives, and to reacquaint the reader with all those landscapes that have imprinted us with their forms and colors, their scents and sounds, and that have their parallels in each of us, in our consciousness and spirit. Every generation makes anew its own landfall, discovering for itself its special, abiding relationship to the natural world. With these fine tanka, pastoral poems of a new kind for a new day, the greatly prized moment of making landfall becomes, also, an irrevocable moment of personal epiphany.

Landfall is to be a companion anthology to Streetlights: Poetry of Urban Life in Modern English Tanka, due for release in Fall 2007. It is the third volume in the Modern English Tanka Press’ series of special edition tanka anthologies. We hope that these last two anthologies will, together, furnish a well-rounded sample of poetry of place from both rural and urban perspectives. The poems herein are “poetry of place,” specifically, nature-centered tanka in contemporary non-urban settings. They are idylls describing rustic life, natural, rural or pastoral scenes, set in the farms and fields, forests, swamps, prairies, mountains, seaside and countryside, at sea, on lakes and rivers, where the poets live, work and play. But don’t look for rosy fantasies of an antique peasantry. This is the 21st century and millions carry on their daily lives in both urban and rural settings. Even a hiker in the deep woods may have a GPS system in her pack. The deserts, prairies, steppes, and savannahs of the world are crisscrossed with motor highways and the development that follows. In even the most socially and culturally conservative communities and countrysides, one cannot help but stumble over tourists. In the most desolate waste, airliners pass above. The world is not what it used to be, nor what it will one day become. In the tanka of some of the younger poets in Landfall, one may detect a certain comfort level with the interpenetration of city and country. In the tanka of some poets who have lived long enough to witness the sea-changes of generations, one can feel their sense of loss. The tanka for this anthology were not selected to be a homogenous collection; quite the opposite, the variety of local experience was valued highly. The tanka were chosen on the basis of how each one opened a window upon a particular place in an idiom native to that place.


“‘May you be awake one moment before you die’ The Buddha said. If readers can absorb the joy and the intensity of this book, they will be more alive than ever before in their lives. I am stunned by the precision of emotions and the variety of feelings. I want to read one page each day, to be in touch with everything that is truly, vividly alive.” — Grace Cavalieri, Producer/host, The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress

“The Zen aesthetic of wabi-sabi demonstrates the recognition that things are often more beautiful, more treasured, more emotionally significant when they are somewhat broken, slightly worn out, aged by human use, subject to the natural laws of decay or uniquely unfinished. In the Ash Moon Anthology, contemporary tanka poets explore the aesthetics of aging, the wabi-sabi of the human experience. These tanka examine the feelings and psychological insights that can only come with a lifetime of surviving into old age, when we recognize the impermanence and transitory nature of our bodies, our minds, our selves. These English tanka of aging celebrate and explore a wide range of moments conveying the feelings of being fully alive in our imperfect, broken, unfinished bodies, minds and souls.” — Dr. Randy Brooks, Millikin University

STREETLIGHTS — A companion anthology to Landfall: Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka (Modern English Tanka Press, 2007), Streetlights goes beyond the customary polemics of “urban hell” literature to convey the human dimensions of life in the city, town, and suburban “forest”—the tones, moods, attitudes and emotional velocities of the present day. . .

The poems found here weave into their lyrics the places and things of modern city life—its harmonies and dissonance, its quiet sanctuaries and noisy intersections, its headlines, politics, popular culture, and enduring issues about who we are and where we might be going. . . Fully exhibiting the power and range of the tanka as a short poem in English, here are song and image that may stand beside the great urban poetry of Whitman and Hart Crane, Carl Sandburg and Langston Hughes, the Harlem Renaissance and the Beat Generation.

EDUCATIONAL USE NOTICE — Modern English Tanka Press
MODERN ENGLISH TANKA PRESS, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, publisher of the quarterly journal, Modern English Tanka (2006-2009), is dedicated to tanka education in schools and colleges, at every level. It is our intention and our policy to facilitate the use of Modern English Tanka Press publications to the maximum extent feasible by educators at every level of school and university studies. Educators, without individually seeking permission from the publisher, may use Modern English Tanka Press publications, online digital editions and print editions, as primary or ancillary teaching resources. Copyright law “Fair Use” guidelines and doctrine should be interpreted very liberally with respect to Modern English Tanka Press publications precisely on the basis of our explicitly stated intention herein. This statement may be cited as an effective permission to use Modern English Tanka Press publications as a text or resource for studies. Proper attribution of any excerpt to the source Modern English Tanka Press publication is required. This statement applies equally to digital resources and print copies of journals, anthologies, etc.. Individual copyrights of poets, authors, artists, etc., published by Modern English Tanka Press are their own property and are not meant to be compromised in any way by our liberal policy on “Fair Use.” Any educator seeking clarification of our policy for a particular use may email the publisher at dengary@protonmail.com. We welcome innovative uses of our resources for tanka education.
—The Publisher, Modern English Tanka Press, https://tankainenglish.com/