First published in Woodnotes #16, Spring 1993, page 32–33.
Tanka Splendor 1992, edited by Jane Hirshfield. AHA Books, 1993, 48 pages, paperback, 5¼ by 8½ inches. $5.00 postpaid from AHA Books, P.O. Box 767, Gualala, California, 95445. [address no longer correct]
It should be an honor for any poet to have his or her tanka selected by Jane Hirshfield for this collection of 31 tanka chosen from 615 entries to the 1992 Mirrors International Tanka Contest. Indeed, it is an honor. As for the resulting book, however, at least one writer’s name is misspelled, and the rust-colored cover and interior text looks too similar to the 1991 and 1990 contest books for any of the books to establish its own visual identity. Also, as Sanford Goldstein notes in a recent issue of Frogpond (Vol. XV, No. 2, p. 45), the term “splendor” is too narrow a term for the topics tanka can and should cover. On the other hand, many poems in this book shine. The tanka parade through the book at one poem per page, and show great variety in style and mood. At least half of the winning poems are by members of the Haiku Poets of Northern California. This book is recommended for its quick review of tanka being written in English today.
The judge of the 1992 contest, Jane Hirshfield, cotranslator of The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems of Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, also includes an interesting essay on tanka, and publisher Jane Reichhold adds an afterword. Reichhold should be encouraged and congratulated for continuing this worthy contest. Its success is one sharp indication that American poets are ready to publish a regular tanka journal, as Goldstein suggests in Frogpond, or, as I suggest, to also form a “Tanka Society of America.” Are we ready to jump together into this new pond?