Unless stated otherwise, all poetry on Swimming in Lines of Haiku is Copyright Kirsten Cliff and may not be reprinted in any form without written permission from the author. kirsten(DOT)cliff(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The SILOH Tanka Contest: RESULTS

Firstly, my thanks to all who participated in The SILOH Tanka Contest. What an honour to have read and collected these tanka from across the world to celebrate my birthday and the Winter Dream theme. The process of running this contest throughout July has definitely been an enjoyable one as I've connected and reconnected with poets near and far, some new to me, as well as those I call friends. I always feel there is a generosity of spirit in sharing poetry in this manner. We put our hearts into these pieces and then give them away, let them out into the world without us. It has lifted my spirits to have so many of you choose to share your tanka on Swimming in Lines of Haiku. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to each and every one of you.

There were so many good, healthy tanka submitted that it was very hard to choose a winner. I received many more submissions than I could have imagined. A total of more than the age I'll be turning this birthday! Entries came from the USA (18), UK (6), New Zealand (3), Canada (2), Philippines (2), Australia (2), Singapore, Serbia, France and Japan, totalling 37. After finally making a short list, and then over repeated readings, there was one that kept springing from the page, one that pulled an emotional and musical chord within me that wouldn't quit. But before I reveal the winning tanka, I want to share some of my favourite lines from the poems entered, in no particular order:

I grasp the edge of my dream Chen-ou Liu (Canada)

the choices I didn’t make Asni Amin (Singapore)

to the last beat of my heart Claire Everett (UK)

the full thunder moon Andrea Grillo (US)

Cicadas scream love songs Charles T. Whipple (Japan)

Thank you for sharing these wonderful words with me, dear poets. Of course, you can read each of these tanka in full on the entries page

In the winning tanka, I was looking to be deeply moved. Tanka is a very emotional experience for me: the reading and the writing of it. So much so that I find I can't read too many in one sitting, and that I most often write them myself when I'm feeling low physically, emotionally and/or spiritually. The power of the poem has a strength that I know can carry me away, beyond my immediate surroundings and current mood, into a place that's often easier to keep hidden. Tanka perhaps stay with me longer than haiku as more of my self is needed to fully be present with the poem. The shift I feel with a stunning tanka is immense, and the winner here had to take me on a journey.

But I'm greedy: I also wanted lyricism. Tanka is, after all, poetry. I wanted words and phrases that flowed, that fitted to perfection, no flaws or missteps present. No punctuation or line breaks that stuck out as not sitting right with me. I wanted words that sat together comfortably and exquisitely as a whole, as well as individual lines and images. And I found it...

my dream is one
of winter long ago...
my cold father
whom first I met late in life
helps me build a snowman

André Surridge (New Zealand)

Author's statement: I love the versatility of tanka. It allows you to write about anything, real or imagined. As with haiku, every word counts but tanka allows a little more breathing space. I always feel that writing tanka is an opportunity to get closer to the essence.

André's tanka has me right from its beginning two lines “my dream is one/ of winter long ago...”. I love how it is phrased and sets the mood so well, as if in a child's storybook, “Once upon a time, long, long ago...”. Dreams are by nature elusive, but to believe that their symbolism (and the symbolism of fairy tales, for that matter) has no meaning for our everyday lives is to dismiss the cries of the soul. This tanka says, 'come here, sit and listen, I welcome you to my world, see what you make of it'. The phrase “cold father” is again perfectly worded, succinct and strong. The economy of language throughout this tanka is superb, so much has been said in so little, without any loss of flow or musicality. Then with the last two lines – the twist – I'm left wondering, is this a dream during sleep? Or is this a daydream, an imagining, a wish? Is this true, and if so, what are the implications to him emotionally, mentally, spiritually? What are the implications of it as a dream image? The symbolism of the “cold father” and the “snowman”? To end on such a simple, childlike image, “helps me build a snowman”, is part of this tanka's magic. I'm completely moved, taken over by the words, and sent on a journey to any number of places depending on where I begin personally with each rereading. It has such depth without losing its lightness of touch. A stunning tanka and I'm so pleased to award it as the winner. Richard von Sturmer's DVD 26 Tanka Films will be coming to you soon!

Runner up:

winter dreams
how they always show me
the same thing...
you waking from your sleep
in the graveyard

Tracy Davidson (UK)

A close second. I love the melody of the first three lines, which really draws me in. And the imagery of the final two lines had me captured – so simple and yet so powerful. Great work, Tracy! A copy of the latest Eucalypt: a tanka journal will be heading your way.

Special mentions:

the transparent weave
of this vintage tea-cloth
my fragile dreams
still hand-dried and polished
by the faded green linen

Julie Thorndyke (Australia)

This one took longer to fall for, but once I realised its beauty, I couldn't let it go. Fine tuned lines, attention to detail and strong images. Thank you, Julie!

by the fireplace
the crackle of our laughter
melting into a dream
only the winter moon knows
how long is forever

Christine L. Villa (USA)

This reminds me so much of hubby and I these winter evenings sitting by the fire that I loved it from its first reading. “only the winter moon knows/ how long is forever” - extremely poignant, and excellent imagery. You have a great tanka future, Chrissi!

‘brass monkeys’
don’t care about origins—
the wind
coming off the North Sea
pulls tight on my scrotum

Colin Stewart Jones (Scotland)

I really enjoyed Colin's take on my theme. There were a few tanka that made me smile and this is the one that stood up to repeated readings. A strong voice along with the strong winds. Keep it up, Colin!

Congratulations to you all! I'll probably do this again come July 2013, maybe a haiku contest next time. For anyone that wants to purchase 26 Tanka Films please get in touch with Richard von Sturmer, who can be contacted through his Haiku NZ Showcase page or you can look him up on Facebook. To find out more about the beautiful tanka journal Eucalypt (AUS) edited by Beverley George head to the website. And lastly, a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped promote this contest, either through your blog, Facebook, Twitter, website, or just letting your friends know about it!

I am also gearing up to run a poem(haiku)-a-day (PAD) challenge here at Swimming in Lines of Haiku, which I hope you'll all get involved in. I'm looking towards September 2012, so stay tuned for updates about this fun project, which I think will be the first of its kind! :)

Kirsten Cliff
31 July 2012 


  1. Congratulations to Andre! :-)

    I was told about your special mentions. It was surprising to see my haiku as one of them. Thank you so much for the encourage ment nd the comment you wrote here. It inspires me to start writing more tanka.
    Tanka gives me more freedom to express my emotions. It's liberating and therapeutic. :-)

    I'll be checking out your haiku project in September. It sounds so exciting!

  2. Congratulations to André Surridge!

    Thank you for the mention, Kirsten. You are most kind.

    This was fun. Thank you for letting me join in among these tanka stars.

    I hope you are having a beautiful day.


  3. Chrissi - Congratulations!
    Yes, I agree about writing tanka - much more freedom of movement re emotions and content. I felt the same way when I started writing them, and wondered what had taken me so long, as I'd always enjoyed reading them!
    I look forward to seeing more from you in the future.

  4. Asni - You're most welcome. I enjoyed your tanka very much, and am so pleased you entered.
    I hope you'll take part in my upcoming haiku project!

  5. Congratulations to all the winners! Happy birthday also Kirsten and Chrissi !

    - Angelo B. Ancheta

  6. Thanks, Angelo! And thanks so much for your entry, which definitely made me smile :)

  7. what a great way to celebrate your birthday..
    btw thanks for the special mention
    glad it made you smile

    my birthday today, 2nd August :)

  8. Happy birthday to you, Colin! Another Leo :) Congratulations again on your fine tanka. A pleasure to read!