Season 2 Episode 43: Elizabeth Gauffreau on Tanka Poetry

Wilderness Tanka

snowy wilderness
cold winter sun, soaring trees
a small lone figure
for a time she stood fearless
my protector, my mother

Elizabeth Gauffreau, Tanka Poetry

Welcome to Tea Toast & Trivia.

Thank you for listening in.

I am delighted and thrilled  that my dear friend,  writer and poet, Elizabeth Gauffreau, has come back to share her insights into an ancient style of poetry.  We are once again bridging the 3897 kilometers, as the crow flies,  between New Hampshire and Vancouver. 

Several months ago, Liz introduced me to Tanka poetry. In a few words, emotions, memories, and intentions come together. This is going to be an exciting conversation. So put the kettle on and add to the discussion on Tea Toast & Trivia.

Liz holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is the Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont.

Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.

Thank you for joining Liz and me on Tea Toast & Trivia. And a special thank you and shout out to Liz, who continues to inspire me.  You are only an internet click away from  Liz on lizgauffreau.com. It is a place where stories dwell. Until next time dear friends, stay safe, be well.

For more information about different forms of poetry, Liz recommends a visit to Colleen M. Chesebro’s website.

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54 Comments Add yours

  1. Love the poem! It so captures the heart of a mother. The world can be a wilderness and the blinding snow can be relentless; still so, the heart of a mother remains steadfast; blinding love that is without end.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you Linda for a poignant reflection. “Blinding love that is without end.” So very well said.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Thank you, Linda! I’m glad the poem resonated with you.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Jean-Jacques says:

    Excellent Podcast… as usual Rebecca, but then again you had an interesting guest in the talented Liz Gauffreau, writer and poet. I noticed as well that Tanka Poetry really caught your interest and understandably so. I agree wholeheartedly that its philosophy of economy of words is ever so appealing, and has for the most part been a strong pull on me, to attempt to say more with less verbiage. Most of my books have far more short than long poems. Listening to the exchange in this excellent interview, served me well to return to the pursuit of short poems I so much prefer. In spite of this, the beauty of Tanka, for me has a certain rigidity with the structure limits, as in maximum number of words to certain lines etc. that which is contrary to the writing freedom I cannot abandon. This freedom is too well anchored in my ever aging psyche, thus so from my very early attempts at poetry, when one was taught the strict rudiments of poetry expression and writing, from which I quickly fled, and like a stubborn goat remain.
    Bravo to you Liz, and indeed write on with Tanka that may follow your work and so enjoy your relatively new discovery…!
    À la prochaine, ma chère Rececca…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Oh, Jean-Jacques, I laughed out loud when I read “like a stubborn goat remain.” What an interesting thought on the length of poems. Think of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and Tennyson’s “Godiva” when compared with Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” and your “A Story”

      “You want to tell a story
      And hold the attention
      Of one who’s in a hurry
      Will give short mention,
      Idea of matters worthy
      Offers contemplation,
      On fixed happy or chary
      Whatever choice deems,
      To evade a needless tarry
      Save in lonely man’s dream,
      Whose existence by anomaly
      In life born to live tapestry,
      When a story of love, finds poetry!”

      Here’s to your commitment to freedom, Jean-Jacques. I find that goats (I am a goat in the Chinese Zodiac) make excellent friends.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Jean-Jacques says:

        Thank you Rebecca, ever dear friend, for coming to my rescue and for understanding and not misinterpreting my response to Liz’s beautiful Tanka poem and her love of this Japanese poetic medium. I too as you and most others love the poetry’s completed work. Its the someone else’s imposed rules, one must follow to achieve the acceptable creation. Maybe my stint in the Navy gave me the final push to my now goatish streak of stubbornness against rules, limiting me to strictly self-imposed rules, in my writing and everything in my life, save of course the breaking of rules that gets one behind bars… However I do admire, love and enjoy Liz’s Tanka poetry, which has me looking forward to her next one published…!

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Thank you for your comments, Jean-Jacques. My experience with poetic form has been the opposite of yours. I was never taught “strict rudiments of poetry expression and writing,” so I never needed to break away from them. I came to tanka because the structure enabled me to express emotions and experiences that I couldn’t with free verse.

      I ran across this video tonight featuring a poet I took a poetry slam workshop with several years ago. About a minute into the video, he talks about writing a haiku; I think you will appreciate his perspective. (He’s also a very entertaining fellow.) https://youtu.be/KXVA2JCr3gM

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Jean-Jacques says:

        What a wonderful gift to awaken to, Liz, and so totally unexpected, makes it all the more worthy.
        As that worn out saying goes, a man after after my own heart, in part at least, as he gives the impression of comfortably speaking his mind with no holds barred.
        In a way it is kind of reassuring, as in not having been too far from doing something right now and then with my stubborn approach to my way of writing my scribbles that have come to be known as poetry after more than half a century. Can’t believe I just wrote that, it being such a long time.
        Once again l thank you, thus so for such a thoughtful and wonderful gift

        Liked by 4 people

      2. I’m so glad you enjoyed Geof’s video, Jean-Jacques!! He is an absolute delight and very affirming of other poets.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Clanmother says:

        It was a great video. Will be subscribing to Geof’s YouTube channel.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I’m glad to hear that you will be subscribing to Geof’s YouTube channel, Rebecca! I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I first met Geof when my 10th grade English teacher brought him to class as a show-and-tell. (Look, class, a real poet!!)

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Clanmother says:

        LOL!! What a great show-and-tell idea!!! Fabulous.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Thanks! We weren’t sure quite what to make of him, this poet.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Ms Frances says:

    Thank you, both of you, for introducing me to Tanka poetry. This has been a enlarging experience for me–first time ever hearing about Tanka poetry. And, it has not only been a new experience but enjoyable one, as well. Reading poetry has always been more difficult for me, than other form–short stories and novels. Music added to poetry has always given added depth. I was interested that music was introduced in this conversation. Also, I found the introduction into Japanese literature very important. We can learn so much from other cultures their vision and contribution to the world. I have tried to write a poem several times with disappointing results, so I have a respect for poets.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I was excited to learn that Tanka was an ancient form of singing and oral tradition. Tanka was a new experience for me too, Frances. I remember when you first introduced me to poetry. I was 4 years old when Dad purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica which included the Encyclopedia for Children. The first volume of the the children’s version was devoted to poetry. My favourite poem was “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” by Eugene Field. There is so much to learn about poetry and how this form of communication was experienced in different cultures over the centuries. You must write poetry!!! I do not believe that you had disappointing results. Hugs!!!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I remember “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod”! Two poems I remember asking my dad to read me over and over and over again were “The Highway Man” by Alfred Noyes and “Jonathan Bing.” (I couldn’t find an attribution for “Jonathan Bing.”)

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        “The Highway Man” was a favourite. It was in the Children’s Encyclopedia Britannica. And was featured in an Anne of Green Gables production. https://youtu.be/YMQMwAO3uI8

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Thanks for sharing the clip, Rebecca! I just watched it.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Thank you for your comments, Frances. I’m glad you found the conversation enlarging and enjoyable. Rebecca is a consumate interviewer. (My husband said so, and I agree!) I wonder if the reason you’ve found reading poetry more difficult than reading short stories and novels is that the conventions of fiction (with the exception of the highly experimental and avante guard) are more consistent than they are with poetry. With fiction, we expect characters that will encounter a conflict of some kind and a narrative arc that ends with a resolution of the conflict. We know the rules of the road when we get in the car, in other words. With poetry, the rules of the road can vary so much, it’s almost as if we need to learn how to drive again for each poem. I agree that it’s so important to experience the literature of other cultures. My only wish in that regard is that I could be omnilingual to read everything its original language. I find that writing poetry takes a lot of trial and error. I’m still going back and revising poems I wrote twenty years ago.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Clanmother says:

        Frances really enjoyed our podcast on Tanka. I will be meeting up with her this weekend and will read you comments to her – she will be so pleased. Thank you!!!

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Thank you for letting me know how much Frances enjoyed our tanka conversation, Rebecca!

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Ms Frances says:

        Thank you for your reply. I hope we can connect again. I agree, i wish I could understand and read fluently in other languages. I can do this a little in Portuguese because my husband and I lived in Brazil gor a few years.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. I hope we can connect again as well, Frances. I particuarly enjoy your stories of life on the farm.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for the conversation, Rebecca! I greatly enjoyed it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      We are on a marvelous journey, Liz.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Indeed we are, Rebecca.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Such lovely, heartfelt poem, Liz. Reminds me of my dear mom too. I enjoyed the conversation very much. I really admire people who can write poetry. My limit is the occasional haiku. 😅

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I love haiku, Sylvia. I had never heard of Tanka before I discovered it on Liz’s blog. It is older than the better-known haiku poetry. I understand tanka is a quiet, meditative form that focuses on the natural world and the poet’s emotions. There is another form that I would like to explore, having just discovered it – also through Liz: Senryu, a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction that speaks about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature. I continue to learn and learn and learn. Sending many hugs your way.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Hugs back to you, dear Rebecca. xxx

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’ve seen Tanka on a few blogs, but haven’t really thought much about where it originated from. Senryu sounds like it could quite good fun . 😅

        Liked by 4 people

      3. Clanmother says:

        I think that you mother would have loved the humour!!!

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Thank you, Sylvia! I’m glad the poem reminded you of your dear mom. That has been the reaction of most people, which I find so gratifying.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Dave Astor says:

    Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” It’s hard to write concisely, but Liz has mastered that in her wonderful family-photo-inspired Tanka poems. An interesting and thoroughly enjoyable podcast conversation about a 31-syllable, 1,300-year-old form of expression. Thank you, Rebecca and Liz!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      We are so glad that you joined the conversation Dave!! Very much appreciated!🤗🤗🤗

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Thank you very much, Dave! I appreciate your kind words. I love the Mark Twain quote.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Mary Jo Malo says:

    Rebecca and Liz, I can’t tell you how serendipitous it is to listen to this podcast this very morning, the next day after finishing a recent poem. The stricture of form truly is liberating for best expression, which seems oxymoronic but isn’t. The discipline of writing minimalist poetry is fortified by another writing virtue, namely patience. After finally reading Faust recently, I learned Goethe didn’t write its finale until about 50 years later, and certainly not putting myself in such august company, I took comfort in knowing that as our personal philosophical and spiritual attitudes change, so can a final version of a poem. As a an inveterate chatterbox, I find the quiet and carefully chosen words of tanka, haiku and other such forms, contemplative and restorative. I love how you, Liz, recognize that the right words just come through the practice of the form. Rebecca, your devotion to poetry has been an inspiration! And Liz, your well educated and generous support for other writers is rare and deeply appreciated. There are so many brilliant and tender gems in this podcast, I will return to it often.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you so much for your profound and poetic words. In my search to understand poetry – something that I am finding is more of a intuitive nature – I have turned to poets to define poetry. Words create pictures in our mind and recall long-forgotten memories. What I am finding is that, whether the structure is free form or strict form, there is precision. Julian Barnes says it much better. “Everything you invent is true: you can be sure of that. Poetry is a subject as precise as geometry.” I am so proud of you finishing Faust. I am still at the beginning. Many hugs coming your way.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I love the Julian Barnes quote: “Poetry is a subject as precise as geometry.” Precision of language is actually a little easier to achieve with nonfiction than with fiction and especially with poetry. With poetry, precision has to include the denotation of the word, the connotations of the word, the sound of the word, the duration of the word, and the shape of the word, how it feels in your mouth.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        This is a little off subject – I have been reading poetry that is in public domain and have found that poetry hold nuances of time and place. This is another excellent conversation.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Speaking of which, you might be interested in my “Unexpecte Victorian Kinship” post: https://lizgauffreau.com/2017/08/16/an-unexpected-victorian-kinship/.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Clanmother says:

        I remember Helen Hunt Jackson from high school days!!! Thank you for the reminder!!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. You’re welcome, Rebecca!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mary Jo. I’m touched and humbled. I’m glad to hear that you also recognize the virtue of patience in writing. Recently, I’ve gone back and revised poems I wrote a good twenty years ago. Thank you again for your kind words. I look forward to our next conversation.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Mary Jo Malo says:

        You are so very welcome, Liz.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Resa says:

    Liz, Rebecca, I enjoyed this immensely! Liz’s Tanka at the end was a vision.
    Liz, did you just love listening to Rebecca read your Tanka. I sure did.
    Rebecca has a great voice for reciting, reading and narrating.
    thank you both of you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I am delighted that you joined Liz and me on Tanka poetry. Thank you for your encouragement and support over the years, Resa. We have had so many exciting adventures together virtually – and there is more coming our way. Hugs!!!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Resa says:

        MORE!!! {{{hugs}}}

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you so much for listening and commenting, Resa! Yes, I did love listening to Rebecca read my tanka. It was quite a thrill, in fact.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Resa says:

        Your welcome! Rebecca has a fab voice!

        Liked by 3 people

  9. Liz says:

    I first listened to this podcast when it was published and held back from commenting immediately because I wanted to absorb all the many insights and wisdom that you both cover. I listened again this morning, with a pot of jasmine tea in celebration, wallowing in the beauty of Liz’s poetry and fascinated once again by the Tanka form and the discussion it prompted. I’ll be back again, I’m sure. But meanwhile, thank you both so much for a wonderful listen! 😀💕

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      And thank you, Liz for your wonderful and heartwarming comments. I can smell the fragrant aroma of Jasmine tea coming through the WIFI. I think I will join you. Off to put the kettle on – I’ll be right back! Hugs!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Oh, my goodness, Liz, thank you so much for your kind words!! I’ve just subscribed to your blog, so that I can learn from you as well.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Liz says:

        And I’ve done the same with your blog! 😀

        Liked by 3 people

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