Castles in the Sand Introduction

First published in Castles in the Sand (Press Here, 2003), the first Tanka Society of America members’ anthology, which I edited. My two tanka from this book also appear below, after the introduction. See also “What Is Tanka,” also published in this book.



shore alchemy

changing bored children

into water sprites,

bored adults into

builders of fine castles


The preceding poem by Art Stein not only gives this anthology its title but can remind us that, with our tanka, we are builders of castles. Yet we do not build our castles in the air, but in the sand. Our poems are down-to-earth, immediate, and, in short, present intense. What’s more, many of these poems will put the sandy grit of truth under your fingernails, even if that truth is tempered and scooped up gently.

        The alchemy of tanka is that this poetry changes us, making us more aware of the mundane and miraculous. Indeed, the practice of writing tanka increases our consciousness of emotions and perceptions, prompting us to build castles of words where others may see only sand. The poems that follow do an exemplary job of exploring the panoply of human existence—the relationships, locations, work, play, the lives we all lead. Nature makes her appearance with some regularity, yet the focus remains on people, as it so often is with tanka.

        But not only does tanka change us, it is a poetry about change, for in its scant five lines we record both the changes we see around us and, more important, feel inside us. By writing our tanka, we can share the transformations in our lives, commiserate on sad changes, and celebrate happy ones. These changes may be ordinary or extraordinary, but the changing is constant. We are fortunate to have poetry as a means to commemorate these transitions, and particularly fortunate to have tanka as a condensed medium of poetry that focuses on change and human relationships. As long as life continues to change, I believe that tanka will be a presence in our lives as poets, and will continue to grow and thrive as an English-language poetry genre for many years to come.

        We are all invited to explore the poems in this book, which, ultimately, is an exploration of ourselves. Welcome to this premier anthology of tanka by members of the Tanka Society of America.


Michael Dylan Welch

Sammamish, Washington



My two tanka from the book:



a snail has left

its delicate silver trail

on my book of love poems

left out on your porch




ringing phone—

don’t get up

you say

and pause to place

the broom by the door