All About Love

First published in Ribbons 17:2, spring/summer 2021, pages 216–129 (I also have a tanka in this anthology). Originally written in January of 2021.

Love: The British Haiku Society 30th Anniversary Members’ Tanka Anthology, edited by A. A. Marcoff. Barking, England: British Haiku Society, 2020. ISBN 978-1-906333-13-3. 36 pages. £4.00 plus shipping from the British Haiku Society.

In introducing this collection, the editor reports, “When I was walking by the famous shrine at Kashima in 1980, I asked my friend Mr. Kudo which he preferred—haiku or tanka?—and he answered without hesitation, ‘tanka, because they are more romantic.’” And this may well be why this pleasing anthology has a theme of love. The British Haiku Society has always included tanka as part of its haiku journal, Blithe Spirit, but as a gift to its members in celebration of the society’s 30th anniversary the society decided to publish first-time anthologies for tanka and haibun in addition to its usual haiku/senryu members’ anthology—and this is the tanka collection.

Editor A. A. Marcoff notes that tanka “are perhaps closer to western poetry than haiku are,” and adds that “tanka may divide into two parts—‘the poet sees,’ and ‘the poet reflects.’” The book features 85 poets, chiefly from the United Kingdom, but with surprises from around the world. Poems are arranged alphabetically by each poet’s first name.

As a sampling, here is every tenth poem, illustrating the varieties of love in our lives:

what once was

must still be there

in our hearts

the whisper of wind

voiced by trees

Bob Lucky (Saudi Arabia)

the way the berths

of his sailboat curve

inward at the bow:

all night your breath

cool on my forehead

Dee Evetts (UK)

two herons

circle the lake

wartime romance

he clears away grass

from her grave

Graham Duff (UK)

my son shows me

a caterpillar cloud

in autumn-blue sky . . .

the way things change

in unexpected ways

John Barlow (UK)

along my spine

the touch of his piano

floats me to a place where

silence becomes butterflies

when the world’s hinge swings shut

Linda Jeannette Ward (USA)


his wife in a nursing home,

he lingers

over a cappuccino . . .

perusing lonely hearts page

Mary Gunn (Ireland)

by the old bridge

two lovers pause


lost innocence

play Pooh Sticks

Peter Morriss (UK)

enough now

just to know

you are here . . .

my fingertips seek

your night-warm skin

Susan King (UK)

Although the poems submitted for this collection were intended to be about love (without mentioning the word), it seems true that tanka itself is frequently a love poem. Love has been the most common theme in ancient Japanese tanka, and here we can see the theme’s continuing vitality in the book’s joyous, heartwarming, yet occasionally heart-wrenching poems. Here’s one more selection from this recommended book, about a kind of love at the end of life:

growing old

in a corner of my garden

her favourite flowers

seeds scattered with the ashes

and the evening breeze

Susan Spooner (Canada)