On May 5, 2023, the world of tanka lost a beloved icon, Sanford Goldstein, for whom the Tanka Society of America renamed its annual tanka contest in 2015. He died at the age of 97 in Niigata, Japan, in a house he’d built himself, where he had lived for the last 23 years with his companion, Kazuaki Wakui. Sandy was a pioneer in English-language tanka, and a translator of key 20th century tanka texts by Ishikawa Takuboku, Akiko Yosano, and Mokichi Saitō, among others. He was a tanka mentor to countless poets, in addition to being a professor of English at Purdue University and later Keiwa College in Niigata. It is hard to imagine anyone writing tanka in English, past or present, who has not been touched by Sanford Goldstein’s abiding and always nurturing influence.
The Tanka Society of America is remembering and celebrating Sanford Goldstein in several ways. The first, in this issue of Ribbons, is part one of a two-part essay by Randy Brooks, who was a student of Sanford’s at Purdue. I had asked Randy to write this essay long before Sandy passed away, but now this premonition is an especially fitting tribute to this tanka legend. The essay’s second part will appear in the next issue. In both essays you will learn a great deal more about Sandy’s varied and storied career as a tanka poet, translator, and educator, and how he “spilled” his honest record of tanka for most of his adult life. Randy will also be delivering a concentrated version of his tribute at our Tanka Monday event on July 3 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition, Sandy will be included in the 2023 Haiku North America conference memorial reading, slated for June 30, 2023, also in Cincinnati.
Another celebration of Sanford Goldstein will take place on Zoom on August 26, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 4:00 pm Pacific Time. Watch for more details about this reading and how you can participate with favorite poems by Sandy, your own tribute tanka, and any memories you’re able to share. We may also be able to present selected poems from this event on our Facebook page.
While we are saddened at Sandy’s passing, we are also excited to have our special Tanka Monday conference at Cincinnati’s historic Mercantile Library on July 3, immediately after this year’s Haiku North America conference. Events will begin the evening before at the Netherland Plaza Hotel with readings by Mariko Kitakubo and Deborah P Kolodji, plus an open-mic reading. On July 3 our speakers will include Randy Brooks, Tish Davis, Marilyn Shoemaker Hazelton, and Michael Dylan Welch, among others, and we’ll also have an anonymous workshop and a series of writing exercises, plus a tanka book fair and silent auction. You can see the complete schedule on the TSA website. This conference will already be over by the time you read this, but as I write this message, I am greatly looking forward to our latest gathering of the tanka tribes. Because of the pandemic, we hadn’t met together since the summer of 2019, so this event feels like another step beyond those challenging times.
Finally, I am also pleased to report on the society’s latest elections, with all incumbent officers reelected for the 2023–2024 term. A deep bow of gratitude to all our officers for their work in recent years and for their willingness to continue. In addition, we are very pleased to welcome Ryland Shengzhi Li to the new position of second vice president. We look forward to his fresh ideas for society activities, such as a tanka mentorship program that is already under consideration.
We have much to be thankful for in our organization. The Tanka Society of America would not be what it is today without the influence of Sanford Goldstein. To give him the last word, here’s a tanka by Sandy, which won first place in TSA’s 2003 International Tanka Contest:
from my hospital window
I see across a bare field
in the morning rain
a yellow silk umbrella
on its solitary way