Saturday, April 4, 2015

One Man's Maple Moon: Hyacinths Tanka by Pamela A. Babusci

English Original

turquoise-blue hyacinths
the color of sky
i visit my sister
who just miscarried

First Place,  2013 Tanka Way Contest

Pamela A. Babusci

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Pamela A. Babusci  is an internationally award winning haiku, tanka poet and haiga artist. Some of her awards include: Museum of Haiku Literature Award, International Tanka Splendor Awards, First Place Yellow Moon Competition (Aust) tanka category,  First Place Kokako Tanka Competition,(NZ) First Place Saigyo Tanka Awards (US), Basho Festival Haiku Contests (Japan).  Pamela has illustrated several books, including: Full Moon Tide: The Best of Tanka Splendor Awards, Taboo Haiku, Chasing the Sun, Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, and A Thousand Reasons 2009. Pamela was the founder and now is the solo Editor of Moonbathing: a journal of women’s tanka; the first all women’s tanka journal in the US.


  1. Below is the judge's comment (which can be accessed at

    The reason this tanka stands out is because it is not overworked with adjectives and flowery phrases or description. It does not seek to lecture to us, but provides a clear picture that alludes to emotion. The poet does not tell us how to feel, but allows us to draw our own emotive conclusion from the tone of the tanka and word usage. In short there is much of what has widely become known as “dreaming room” within this tanka. There is the space for the reader to interpret, and perhaps even place themselves within the picture.

    We have a traditional format of short/long/short/long/long that is visually appealing on the page. But more importantly, when read aloud the tanka does not trip the reader up. There is no awkward rhythm or meter to be found. There are no redundant words to be found within this tanka.

    And like good tanka from the Heian Court masters, the tanka builds line by line to a satisfying conclusion. It starts in active mode with cutting of flowers. And we are shown turquoise-blue flowers that resemble the colour of the sky. It is revealed in the fourth line these are a gift for the poet’s sister. And the climax is reached in the last line as we find out the reason for the visit and the flowers – the recent miscarriage of a pregnancy. The lines are not disparate, but sensitively linked and each is relevant to the other. There is no random putting-down of lines with this tanka, but a careful structure that is ordered and logical.

    There is also no predictability about this tanka. It takes us from a larger-framed expanse – a garden and wide-open sky – into the smaller, private world of a woman who has lost an unborn child. This narrowing of focus draws our attention to the theme of the tanka – that of loss and grief. We do not need to be told either person is sad; we can see this in the act of flowers given as condolence. And even in the colour of the flowers – blue being a colour of sadness. Not only the hyacinths are blue, but the entire sky. This indicates a depth of all-encompassing grief.

    And although the tanka is about loss and grief, there is no mawkish sentimentality in how this grief is portrayed to us. There is empathy to be found in this poem. There is much that is not said, but that is one its inherent joys. Like a linocut, it is often what is missing that gives shape to the outline that remains. We know nothing of the miscarriage; why it happened, at what month, what the woman who lost the baby is feeling. Therein lies the beauty of allowing the reader to draw those conclusions, and allows greater access to this tanka for many people.

    Congratulations to the author of tanka #4. It is a fine tanka that embodies much of the essence of true quality tanka.

  2. As shown, this tanka builds, line by line to a powerful thematic and emotional twist at the end of the poem that carries a heart-wrenching theme of loss.