Sunday, April 5, 2009
M. Kei - Three Questions (Tanka)
M. Kei is an award-winning poet who lives on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, USA. He crews aboard a skipjack, a traditional wooden sailboat used to fish for oysters. He is the editor of Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka and the editor-in-chief of the forthcoming anthology: Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka. His second collection is Slow Motion : Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack (2008). Over 1000 of his tanka have been published in ten countries and five languages. He also writes scholarly articles about tanka and compiles the Bibliography of English-Language Tanka.
1) Why do you write tanka?
I find a tanka is very much like a sketch or snapshot that allows me to capture a specific image or moment, yet which implies a great deal more than it states. A tanka, like a good photograph, does not stop at the borders of the image, it invites, even requires, the viewer to walk outside the frame of reference and conduct their own exploration. In this way reader and writer are co-authors, and no poem is ever the same twice as a result.
2) What other poetic forms do you enjoy?
I'm a tanka loyalist. Although I have published several hundred haiku, tercets, free verse, and other forms, tanka and its variations, such as tanka prose and tanka sequences interest me greatly. I am also interested in scholarship about tanka. I have published over a thousand tanka. Although you didn't ask it, my other favorite subject for reading and writing is naval fiction and history.
3) Of the many wonderful tanka you've written, what do you consider to be your top three?
I'm a terrible judge of my own poetry. I'm frequently surprised when people admire poems that don't seem special to me, and fail to admire poems that I like very much. All three of the poems below reflect my love of the Chesapeake Bay and the time I spend as a volunteer crewman aboard a skipjack, a traditional wooden sailboat used to dredge for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
surrenders to dawn,
a slim mast
the mist of Red Cap Creek
Slow Motion : The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack. Baltimore, MD: Modern English Tanka Press, 2008.
shaking the bats
out of the mainsail
a cloud of night
by my hands
Ribbons : Journal of the Tanka Society of America, 2:4. Crescent, OR: Tanka Society of America. Winter, 2006.
she talks as she sails
the old wooden boat
of oyster days
and summer bays
and watermen grown old
Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake Bay. Perryville, MD: Keibooks, 2007.
If you've been enjoying this weekly series and have not contributed, please consider sharing your response - whether it be for haiku or tanka - to the three little questions that M. Kei answered. You must be a published poet in order to participate.
H. Gene Murtha will be our guest next week.