Friday, October 12, 2018

One Man's Maple Moon: Microbiology and Hospital Bathrooms Tanka by Hazel Hall

English Original

her degree
in microbiology
from Nepal
how carefully she cleans
hospital bathrooms

Editor's Choice, Cattails, 2017

Hazel Hall

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Hazel Hall is a Canberra poet, musicologist and convenor of the School of Music Poets. She has published in a wide range of local and overseas journals and anthologies. Her publications include Sugar Loaf and Humming Birds with John Collard (2013), Eggshell Sky (2017) and Moonlight Over the Siding (forthcoming).


  1. This tanka by Hazel Hall brings up so many emotions. It is sad and poignant, heartfelt. It aches with unfulfilled dreams. Yet it is also full of simple pride. The poem contains so much dignity and self-respect. All of these feelings can be found in this tanka, but they are never stated. Hazel expertly shows these through action, word choice and structure.

    It is an unassuming tanka that says so much about resilience and cross-border qualifications. About how we see ourselves. How we see others. Through Hazel's words we can visualise this woman, feel her values, and be physically moved by her plight.

    Hazel has structured this tanka to include a very effective pivot in line 3. And the tanka builds, line by line, to paint a vivid scene where we can empathise with this woman. The tanka flows gently, is unhurried, careful to unfold in due course. Much like the careful and unhurried approach this woman has to her cleaning. She takes care not to rush, to ensure it is done to the best of her ability. How "carefully" she cleans because she understands the nature of infection through her education. How carefully Hazel structures her poem because she understands the sensibilities of tanka.

    -- excerpted from Tanka Editor's commentary, pp. 66-7, accessed at

    1. Hazel's heartfelt tanka reminds me of one of my tanka dealing with a similar issue:

      "Politics/Poetics of Re-Homing," XXII

      he whispers
      "life is best understood
      backwards …"
      side by side two engineers
      working at Tim Hortons

      Atlas Poetica, 15, July 2013


      1 "Politics/Poetics of Re-Homing," a sequence of 40 tanka, was first published in Atlas Poetica, #15,July 2013.Based on the principles of progression and association employed in Japanese court poetry (for more information, see "To the Lighthouse: Principles of Progression and Association in Tanka Sequences," Politics/Poetics of Re-Homing is the first English language tanka sequence about diasporic experiences. In the sequence, I adopt an intersectional approach to exploring a wide range of issues related to immigration, English learning, racialized identity, racism, job seeking, colonization, acculturation, ...etc.

      2 Tim Hortons' prevalence in the coffee and doughnut market has led to its branding as a Canadian cultural icon. For more information, see Double Double: How Tim Hortons Became a Canadian Way of Life, One Cup at a Time by Douglas Hunter.