The Way of Tanka
by Naomi Beth Wakan
The Way of Tanka is an approachable yet comprehensive examination of the Japanese form of poetry known as tanka. The author, Naomi Beth Wakan, discusses its roots in early Japanese courts where it was considered the poetry of lovers, as well as its adaptation to western culture and the characteristics that separate it from the more popular form of Japanese poetry: haiku. Throughout, Wakan weaves her story of personal self-transformation as she moved from the more disciplined writing of haiku to the more metaphorical and philosophical writing of tanka. Numerous examples of tanka are provided, and the rich explanation of the experience of writing tanka encourages readers to write their own tanka while remaining open to the possibilities it provides for personal growth.
"Part history, part poetry collection, part memoir—Naomi Beth Wakan's trilogy (The Way of Haiku, The Way of Tanka, and Poetry that Heals) is a gift to writers, educators, students, and anyone interested in learning more about Japanese literary forms. These books should be in every school and public library across North America. Wakan's clear prose is an invitation to self discovery and personal creativity."
"Anyone with the slightest curiosity about Japanese forms of poetry in English could not find a better place to start than this trilogy, which leads the reader through haiku, tanka, haiga, haibun, and forms of renku (linked verse) by a series of playful, incisive, enlightening essays that make learning a delight. The works also contain mini-anthologies of poetry by some of the best writers of the Japanese forms today. It is not only the newcomer who will find these books a treasure; Wakan’s never failing access to “the beginner’s mind” opens it also for writers who are experienced with the forms. No one will read this trilogy without being inspired to write for the first time or to write more."
ISBN: 978-1-941830-60-4 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Naomi Beth Wakan is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Nanaimo (2013-16) and the inaugural Honorary Ambassador for the British Columbia Federation of Writers. She has published over fifty books. Her essays are in Late Bloomer: On Writing Later in Life; Composition, Notes on the Written Word; Book Ends: A Year Between the Covers; A Roller-Coaster Ride: Thoughts on Aging (all from Wolsak and Wynn Publishers); and On the Arts (Pacific-Rim Publishers). Her poetry books include Sex after 70 and Other Poems and And After 80 . . . (Bevalia Press) and Bent Arm for a Pillow (Pacific-Rim Publishers). Wakan is a member of The League of Canadian Poets, Haiku Canada, and Tanka Canada. She lives on Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, the sculptor Elias Wakan.
"What a wonderful and delightful work! My sincere congratulations to you on your significant accomplishment in producing a text that I believe will quickly become a standard in tanka education. Having read it, I felt as if I had taken a personal seminar with a great teacher who cares deeply about the subject.”
“ . . . a long-awaited addition to the world of tanka. Bringing her extensive experiences as a tanka poet together, Wakan invites you to learn about the art of writing tanka. For beginners, it will serve as an indispensable introduction to tanka, and for experienced tanka poets, it will provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on their tanka writing. You will also simply enjoy reading a fair number of tanka poems by several poets, including the author, dispersed throughout the book. . . . Wakan’s book not only helps budding and experienced poets to learn and review the basics of tanka and keep writing tanka of their own, but also, at the same time, it will be used as a basis for evaluating tanka written by others to keep current with movement in the contemporary tanka world in which they are placed. This is an excellent book, and I am delighted that I have encountered it.”
"This book is a comprehensive introduction to tanka. I recommend it to experienced tanka poets who might consider buying it, reading it, and then perhaps passing it on to a poet new to the form. The Way of Tanka has a crisp, authoritative, confident touch. It is an explanation of tanka at its best, expertly tuned to the personal, in which every chapter is the mot juste in the melody of the whole. It is a collection that richly satisfies eye, ear, and heart.”
"While the English-language market has offered tanka collections and academic-leaning books about Japanese poetry, this is the first comprehensive guide to writing tanka. Wakan packs a lot into 144 pages, and it is delivered with characteristic Wakan 'tone': honest, up-front, often witty, and playful. This is a book I recommend you read all the way through, as Wakan takes the reader on her journey in search of the essence of tanka."
"Naomi Beth Wakan brings us another ground-breaking book, The Way of Tanka. The first book of its kind in Canada, it attempts to get to the heart of this developing form and includes not only the author’s insightful commentary, but also quotes from some of the most eminent scholars, publishers and writers of the form today. This comprehensive introduction to tanka includes an in-depth look at contemporary tanka through the author’s explication of tanka written by a number of poets, along with many other fine examples and commentary. This is Naomi Beth Wakan at her best, as teacher, motivator and therapist. At last, a comprehensive guide in one book, sure to inspire both beginners and seasoned poets."
"Written in a lucid and readable style, Naomi Beth Wakan's The Way of Tanka is a highly practical guide that instructs readers on how to write tanka. She not only provides a good sampling of published tanka that represents a broad spectrum of stylistic and thematic varieties, but also includes her detailed comments on some of the tanka that are thematically or structurally significant. I particularly like the section on “Pivot Lines and Last Lines.” Her book gives readers a renewed appreciation of this minimalisitc yet highly expressive genre—tanka, 'the perfect vehicle for capturing the swift, direct pulse of emotion.'"
"Naomi Beth Wakan, a very talented poet, and eager reader of poetry books and journals, is intelligent, and always curious, so it’s no wonder her new book, The Way of Tanka, is simply brilliant."
"Naomi Beth Wakan casts her fiendishly curious and observant mind to the world of tanka. In her witty, conversational way, Naomi guides us through the many possibilities and permutations English-language poets have brought to the tanka tradition."
"Overall an excellent book by Naomi Beth Wakan, marked by her humility, openness, and deep insight. This handbook is as useful to experienced practitioners as it is to a novice. A must have!"
Naomi Beth Wakan, “Something from Nothing,” Inspired, April 27, 2022.
Renee Cassese, "Opening the Doors to Poetry," A Marriage of Poetry and Art, April 12, 2018.
Beate Conrad, "The Way of Tanka—A Review," Chrysanthemum, October 17, 2017.
Phyllis Reeve, "It Takes One to Tanka: Naomi Wakan Venerates Human Contact in a Cold World," BC Bookworld, Autumn 2017.
"The Way of Tanka by Naomi Beth Wakan," Graceguts, August, 2017. Ultimately, this is a groundbreaking book . . .
Phyllis Reeve, "It Takes One to Tanka," The Ormsby Review. 6-8-2017
Marie Marshall, "Review of Naomi Beth Wakan’s ‘The Way of Tanka,’" The ZenSpace. 4-29-2017
Chen-ou Liu, 劉鎮歐, "Cool Announcement: New Release, The Way of Tanka by by Naomi Beth Wakan." 4-9-2017.
Rachel Stern, "Inaugural poet laueate Naomi Beth Wakan honoured with first poem on Nanaimo’s Poetry Walk," Nanaimo News Bulletin. 3-28-2017.
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