There were a number of strong entries for the 2011 Fremantle Press Online Tanka Competition. The judges, Wendy Jenkins and Andrew Lansdown, settled on a shortlist of three tanka and, after some to-and-fro, selected ‘Old Flame’ by Rose van Son as the winner:
all the candles lit
just a flicker now and then
the bowl tightly fits
what is left of you and me
murmurings behind closed doors
— Rose van Son
As Wendy commented in a recent post, ‘ “Old Flame” uses metaphor to evoke the passing of time and dying down of love’s first flame’. Both Wendy and Andrew felt that ‘Old Flame’ had a mysterious, open quality. It is an atmospheric poem, conveying both visual and emotional shiftings of light and shadow.
Rose van Son handles the tanka form skilfully, keeping the 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure, with each line consisting of a balanced phrase, and achieving a shift of thought after the third line. Rose also handles the title well, making it an integral part of the tanka, and using it to focus the reader’s perceptions. (Note: Using a title with a tanka is an acceptable innovation—for although traditionally tanka do not have titles, they are often accompanied by ‘headnotes’, consisting of a phrase or a sentence explaining the poem’s setting, etc.)
Two other tanka entries deserve particular mention: ‘Treasure’ by Annamaria Weldon and an untitled tanka by Gary Colombo De Piazzi.
portion of each breath
arrested within the throat
neither in nor out
words almost formed in the mind
struggle in the vocal chords
— Gary Colombo De Piazzi
Cupped by sand, three eggs
lustrous as black-speckled pearls.
Hooded plover’s nest,
set in samphire and limestone –
treasure trove at the tideline.
— Annamaria Weldon
Concerning Gary Colombo De Piazzi’s tanka, the judges’ comment in a previous post bear repeating: ‘This tanka is an excellent example of a traditional tanka following the 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure. The break of thought and rhythm at the end of the third line is in keeping with the poem’s theme of the difficulty of articulation and utterance.’
Concerning Annamaria Weldon’s tanka, the judges were particularly impressed with its visual richness. The location of both the eggs (‘cupped by sand’) and the nest (‘set in samphire and limestone’) are depicted with clarity and intensity. Indeed, the tanka illustrates how a poet can create vivid imagery simply through precise description and careful diction.
Well, to all the entrants: thank you for your entries. To Rose van Son: congratulations and happy reading!
As winner of the competition, Rose will receive copies of three poetry books recently launched by Fremantle Press: The Moving World by Michael Heald; The Argument by Tracy Ryan; and Two Poets by Andrew Lansdown and Kevin Gillam.
Wendy Jenkins and Andrew Lansdown