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Announcement of Winners - Where Tanka Prose Grows:2014

Where Tanka Prose Grows: 2014Susan Burch and I at Mandy’s Pages hosted our first tanka prose challenge ‘Where Tanka Prose Grows: 2014’ during the month of September 2014.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from our readers and fellow poets; nonetheless, the support and excitement of hosting our first ever tanka prose challenge was beyond fun.  Susan did a pretty good job of organizing the collection and distribution of entries, and tallied the scores to arrive at the winners.  Thank you Susan for taking over these tasks which I will have found tedious at the moment.

Eight contestants submitted their entries to the tanka prose challenge and all of them likewise judged their respective competitors’ submissions.   

Before we announce the results, we would like to thank you for your wonderful entries and good sporting spirit. 

The first place winner will be awarded a copy of the forthcoming winter 2014 issue of Skylark and the winning tanka prose will be published in the summer 2015 issue of Skylark (courtesy Claire Everett - editor of Skylark and tanka prose editor of Haibun Today)

Thank you Claire - for your support and generous contribution to the winner of this challenge. Your timing was perfect and I believe you will be pleasantly surprised to see who won this challenge. :) 

A special thanks also to my friend Kala Ramesh for her Foreword to our very first Tanka Prose Challenge Where Tanka Prose Grows: 2014’.  Kala, I love your friendship and willingness to support us even when you are pressed for time. And your spark and cheerfulness never fails to be contagious. 

And now for the winners  …

First Place:  Orbiting Grief,

by David Terelinck  with 16 points (2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3).



A soft breeze fashions halos of dust motes in the dawning light. The thick crop of lime-green leaves in the fields bodes well for a good harvest. Their prayers to Parvati and Manasa have been answered.

But no amount of prayer will help today.

Silence shatters on the anvil of morning as night’s kohl is quickly replaced with the cinnabar of day. The congregation shuffle about and look up, their footprints creating calligraphies of shame in the dust.       

on the branches

such an extravagance

of flowers . . .

the chill of seasons

spinning out of time


Who else notices the elder girl’s colouring would have been perfect for saris of gold silk trimmed with silver and purple thread? Instead she wears cotton, a shalwar kameez the shade of a mango that will never ripen. Her sister’s outfit is a rainbow of red and violet.  

But this is not the afterglow from a sun-shower. The storm is yet to come. The anger of the crowd is so densely woven that it cannot be rolled up and stored away until next time.

The morning breeze slowly twirls the bodies on the thin hemp ropes. Tomorrow it could be their daughter. Or perhaps their sister. Murmurs of shock and disbelief spill quietly from the lips of the onlookers. No one remains untouched by this orbiting grief. 

the sun

fades behind a shiver

of clouds –

a group of women

chanting Kali’s name 



[On Wednesday 28 May 2014, villagers gathered around the bodies of two teenage sisters hanging from a tree in Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state, India. The two teenage sisters in rural India were raped and killed by attackers who hung their bodies from a mango tree. This became the scene of a silent protest by villagers angry about alleged police inaction in the case.]

David Terelinck, Sydney, AUS


  • Very poignant. Prose is stellar.
  • This is a very strong piece and difficult to write on. Both poems and prose are cleverly written. Images such as 'the anvil of the morning' and 'calligraphies of shame' are lingeringly beautiful and strike home to the reader. Despite a story that had had much media coverage, the poet has almost succeeded in 'showing' us the story right until the end. Both tanka contain enough suggestion to stand alone. I'm placing it first.



Second Place: Starting to Corrode,

by  Hazel Hall with 13 points (2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1).




water marks

on floral patterned

wallpaper ---

an empty vase

once a wedding present


We live in the old double-fronted house where my mother grew up. Further down the street live the Thornes.  The two boys are wild and noisy.  We're afraid of them.  Mr Thorne keeps racing pigeons in the back yard. Mum informs us that he drinks.  Mrs Thorne is thin with hair like chaff and a rasping voice. She's not averse to a sweet sherry and usually has a cigarette perched between nervous fingers.


early morning

a cough grates over

the smell of toast ---

jam sandwiches

for lunch again


We've just arrived home from school.  Mum calls us.


i want to talk to you girls mrs thorne has put her head in the oven now if you ever feel like that get out of the house do something go to a park and look at the flowers feed the birds but get out of the house


for sale sign

starting to corrode ---

climbing roses

in an unkept garden

over empty cages


Hazel Hall, Australia 


  • Very strong images. Just a tad bit of proofreading needed, perhaps.
  • I wondered at first about the abandonment of punctuation and syntax in the last prose section, but decided that it worked well. 



 Third Place:  Lend Me Your Ears,

by Shloka Shankar with 9 points (1, 3, 3, 2)




My classroom looked larger and wider than usual. Fear does that sometimes. The professor looked intently at me and signaled for me to begin my speech for the rhetoric assignment. My palms and fingers left sweat marks on the A4 sheet that was kept before me. I stuttered out my topic and began to read verbatim from the notes I had made.


“Will books soon be old-fashioned?” I thundered with false confidence. Some of my classmates who were dozing off in the last row were rudely roused by this. Some others giggled and waited for me to go on. My eyes began to blur as I scanned the sheet for my opening statement. I took a deep breath and found my bearings.


Just then, the bell rang.


spring cleaning… 

boxful of books tumble                        

over each other                           

dog-eared and stained                           

with memory 

 Shloka Shankar,    Bangalore, India


  • This is a good example of how to effectively utilize the title of a poem. "Lend Me Your Ears," an emotionally charged rhetorical expression ("Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears," "Julius Caesar," Act III, scene II), not only carries the thematic significance ("my speech for the rhetoric assignment"), but also requests a closeness between the poet and readers that allows them to think this important issue -- "Will books soon be old-fashioned?" -- together. 

The tonal difference between the prose and the tanka sparks the reader's reflection on the fate of books, technological advancements, and memory. And the closing image adds emotional weight to the poem. 

lend me your ears and I'll sing you a poem 

-- paraphrasing The Beatles, "With a Little Help from My Friends", 1967


  • This is a nice study on performance anxiety, with various touches of the ironic. The title 'reminds' us of oration, later referred to in the poet's 'thundering'. S/he is totally dependent on paper to deliver a speech on rhetoric. The piece also has an effective visual link with the prose. The tanka is appropriately centred, reminding us that the character in the prose is anything but. The alliteration in 'boxful' and 'books' has appropriate undertones of stammering. 

Perhaps the second line of the tanka could be improved with a slight tweak? There seems to be a clash of syntax in 'Boxful of books tumble' and 'over each other'. Maybe: 

                       spring cleaning ...

                 boxes of books tumble

                       over each other (?) 

I also like the memory-stained pages --- a fitting end to a well worked piece. I'm placing it second. 


Please Note: The comments that you see above have been submitted by the reviewers of these tanka prose entries. 


The First Place winner will receive a Certificate of Excellence while the Second and Third Place will both receive a Certificate of Merit each.

Congratulations to the much deserving winners of this initial tanka prose challenge ‘Where Tanka Prose Grows:2014’.  Thank you for being part of this challenge and for making this exciting for both Susan and me.  

For those of you who would like to see more of this challenge next year or intend to share your thoughts on how we can improve this friendly challenge, or perhaps even sponsor a round, please stop by and post your comments at this thread or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  We’d love to hear from you. 


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