Results of  Annual Tanka Contest 2020

ATC 2020It gives me great pride to announce the winners of the Annual Tanka Contest 2020. I thank ALL of you who contested in this competition. Your skill at writing tanka, as well as your generous contributions towards this contest makes it possible for me to host this every year.  I thank Neal Whitman for being the judge, and for taking on this challenging task of choosing the winners. (Thank you, my dear friend).  He has lent his poetic skill and intuition into selecting these winners, and, over the past few months, has also inspired me to write more poetry. (HUGS), Neal.  Thank you! My deepest gratitude goes out to all those who also supported and promoted this contest via social media.

My heartiest congratulations to the winners and the honorable mentions of these outstanding tanka. It is wonderful how life can inspire you to capture a-ha moments in just five lines and convey them with deep emotion and room for interpretation.  You prompt the reader to connect with your tanka to bring their own untold stories to life.  

The Prizes

First Prize : USD 100.00 + e-Certificate

Second Prize: USD 50 + e-Certificate

Third Prize: e-Certificate

(Cash prizes originally sponsored by Mandy's Pages. However this year, the amount was contributed by the contestant themselves, for which I am immensely impressed and grateful. )


by Neal Whitman

What a daunting, but welcome, task: 105 tanka! I read each one in my Poetry Room with the door closed. I printed the submissions, and as I previewed on this website, I recited each one. The closed door shut out distractions and gave me a feeling of a private meeting of two minds: yours and mine. For me, reading your tanka was not like a game of solitaire, but more like a two-handed card game. You dealt me five cards - five lines - and I did my best to play them.

 It is said that no two people read the same poem ... different sets of eyes and ears make sense of what had been written, and to borrow a notion from Ralph Waldo Emerson, at play here is “subjectiveness” in which I personally inhabit your tanka as if it were mine. I am placing a bet on it being a winning hand. I could imagine Mandy knocking on my Poetry Room door, peeking in, and prompting me to get on with it and pick only three winners and plus honorable mentions. So, here they are:



“I am delighted

that soon we’ll be landing

on Mars,“

said my neighbour

ninety two years old


Dragan J. Ristić

 I love a surprise! Doesn’t everybody? Line 5 was not expected. I did not need to look on the Internet to fathom that, when we eventually head to Mars, it will take a long time to get there. I found charm in the notation that this neighbour who has had a long life is still so engaged that she included herself  in the “we” of this journey as humankind explores new worlds. A mentor told me that good poems make good teachers. This tanka is a master teacher of how to write a delightful tanka. I was as delighted see this tanka as the neighbor was to see the future with the  optimism that it will work!




one last conversation

with mother –

her words always

so carefully chosen


Anne Louise Curran

Each word sounds carefully chosen; thus, there is congruence between the how the tanka was written and the subject of the tanka. In only five lines, I feel as if I have met this woman and her offspring. Perhaps the poet has learned the art of concision from her/his mother enabling this tanka to be written with such precise diction. This tanka motivates me to take more care with each word in my tanka … not too many, not too few. For me, this tanka was just right!




a smell of sea salt

in gale winds

mussels hug the pilings

and gulls plant their feet



The poet here welcomes us to use our physical senses of smell (of the sea), touch (of the wind), and sight (of mussels and gulls) to allude to something outside the tanka. The mussels and gulls in the face of forceful winds bring me to my own challenge to hang on in the face of difficult conditions.  The pandemic is an immediate one, but forces outside our control challenge each of us in personal ways though out our lives. I confess that for me this tanka was a much needed dose of medicine.




empty nest

my father cleans

the bird feeder

these sparrows call

three times a day


Sneha Sundaram

In this tanka, I found a story that invited me to fill in the details. When children grow up and leave home, we have coined the term for the parents as “empty nesters”. I imagine here parents who keep a room ready for return, which nowadays is not uncommon. At the least, they hope for their children to stay in touch. Whether by a landline, a cell phone, email, or even by FaceTime, I felt the father’s wish for connection to be as regular as the sparrows who can be depended upon to keep to a predictable schedule.



sunset time . . .

the steady squeak

of a porch swing

cicadas perfect their pitch

to a double Dutch beat


Marilyn Ashbaugh

I could sense the rhythm of jump ropes rotating in opposite directions that by magic are in sync with the sounds of nature. This tanka brought me to that time of the day when children are still at play and the alliteration of the tanka for me was a gift with its song-like quality as recited it. As I read this tanka, I thought about the times when my mother had to call for me more than once to come in … her voice also in rhythm as she called out my name in two syllables that sounded like a bird: NEE – ULL! NEE-ULL!



blossoms falling

deep inside my dream

I wear my pink dress

whisper your name


Maureen Virchau

Repetition if one of those tools tanka poets do not use as often compared to other forms of poetry that have more length. It worked for me here as it lent a hypnotic falling into sleep and dreamland. We have no idea what in this poet’s life experience conjured that pink dress and her calling a name. Don’t we all have dreams that seem to disappear as soon as we wake. There is something there we cannot quite grasp. That is the wispy sensation that flooded me after I recited this tanka.



a twilit lake

with wispy mares' tails clouds

twisting about

in the deepness of sky--

my worries seem shallow



In these clouds that are generally sparse and thin at high altitudes, there is movement in natural phenomena that personify the flux in our own lives. I could relate to this perspective-taking pause in the day that I fathom other readers might, too, at low points in their lives. This tanka prompted me to take measure of priorities. A bonus: this tanka is a model of lyricism.




with a blade of grass

between his thumbs

my father taught me

the music of what happens


Jenny Ward Angyal

The musical quality of this tanka brought me into my own childhood, as I anticipate that readers, if not “grass-whistlers", might recall other “lessons” learned early in life. This tanka brought me a smile as I recalled childhood experiences at home that, growing up, grew in importance. A “take-away” for me is that “growing up” does not mean out-growing the importance of family.




emerge from our barn

into dusk . . .

how short the wingspan

of this perfect moment


Debbie Strange

Reading this tanka, I experienced a natural flow in the image of small bats that feed on flying insects in the dark. This poet brought me into a single moment of time that I have never personally experienced, but it invited me to recall other moments that are perfect in that moment. This transcendent expression of ideals made this tanka worth mention.