Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 4


Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 4Book Name: Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 4

Author:  Compiled by M. Kei  and team

Genre: Poetry, Tanka

Paperback, First Edition: 259 pages

Published 2012 by Keibooks

ISBN13: 9780615597805


Rating: 5 stars

Short review: Rich, poignant and packed with poetic flair 


Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 4 is the sequel to Volumes 1, 2 and 3 from previous years. This is an annual compilation of tanka, ranging from 18,000 submissions to 180 venues. M.Kei and his team of eight editors, including names like Claire Everett and David Terelinck, have chosen approximately 350 tanka for this volume.

Take Five, Volume 4 starts with an introduction of how volume 4 came about, with special mention of various past and parallel projects. If you read through, you will find most of the tanka based on loss, grief and pain, perhaps from the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan. 

As you proceed along, the book takes you through commentaries on tanka, individual tanka, tanka sequences and tanka prose. There is much literary wealth in the collection of these tanka variations, and poets and readers of all levels are sure to appreciate the depth of emotion in each tanka, for the editors have carefully selected these tanka based on their richness and quality.   

What I enjoyed the most were the tanka sequences and tanka prose. In the ‘tanka sequence’ selection, Angela Leuck nails it with her tanka-story of a woman’s son taken to prison. Without much ado, she brings life to simple narration and thought about the subject at hand. Here are a few random verses from her sequence.

“angel” wall clock

with white wings

& halo

my son

in juvenile detention


leaving the city—

bright waving fields

of goldenrod

all the way

to the prison


pacing behind

the barbed wire enclosure

teenage boys

instead of panthers

and tigers


Connect the dots and you will find this story come to life.


I think one of the most poignant of all tanka in this selection is the tanka written by Naoko Kishigami Selland 

so proud

a girl on the front page—

the camera watching her

a radiation detector

sweeping over her tiny body


It is quite evident that hardly anything is indicative of her probable contraction of cancer or illnesses related to exposure to radioactive material during the nuclear meltdown. However, notice how ‘tiny’ she is in comparison to what she now encounters; the magnitude of the radiation described in one small adjective, ‘tiny’.


I would probably end up describing the book in its entity if I am to proceed.  Nonetheless, take the time to read this book, for it is a treasure chest of excellent tanka.  Buy your copy today.  It is worth the poetic investment.  

at the end

of the monk’s chant

bells ring

a little boy says

well it’s definitely tea time

(Owen Bullock)


Purchase your copy of Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 4

About M.Kei - the editor in chief of Keibooks

M. KeiM. Kei is a tall ship sailor and award-winning poet. He lives on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay (USA) and apprenticed aboard a skipjack, a sail-powered oyster dredge. He now serves with a fully rigged ship. His publications  include over 1500 tanka poems in six languages and ten countries. He is the editor-in-chief of the anthology series, Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka, and the author of Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack, a log he kept in verse form of trips aboard a skipjack which is Recommend Reading by the Chesapeake Bay Project. He has edited and authored several other books of poetry and a major journal, Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Contemporary Tanka. He is the compiler of the Bibliography of English-Language Tanka. He has also published a gay Asian-themed fantasy novel, Fire Dragon. 

Twitter: @kujakupoet

Visit AtlasPoetica.org to read the Special Features free online. 


Read the Take Five Book series

Book Review: Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 1

Book Review: Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 2

Book Review: Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, Volume 3