Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rip Off Artists Now Hitting Tanka Poets -- which offers writers the dubious opportunity to possibly earn pennies for their writing submitted to their site (but only if you pony up a monthly fee), is now targeting tanka poets. They define tanka as being sanjuichi form (5-7-5-7-7) in English ONLY -- and will not accept any other form of submission. Since this is a common error in neophyte sites, I wrote them a nice short explanation about tanka in English and pointed them to some reliable sites online that would be useful to their poets. They wrote me back a very patronizing note claiming that they did 'research' tanka, and that the 'majority of sites' agree that 31 syllables is the norm for tanka in English.

That ticked me off sufficiently that I wrote them the following response:

Obviously, you did not research the Tanka Society of America, Tanka Canada, The Japanese Tanka Poets Club, or the Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society which are national organizations dedicated to tanka in their respective countries. In each case, their journals publish tanka in English in a variety of five line formats. Gusts, the journal of Tanka Canada's editorial guidelines explicitly ask for tanka of 19-26 syllables -- the editor-in-chief, Kozue Uzawa, is not only a university professor, tanka poet, and native Japanese speaker, but, along with co-editor Amelia Fielden, the recipient of the Donald Keene Award for Translation of Japanese Literature for their joint project, Ferris Wheel : 101 Contemporary Japanese Tanka.

Amelia Fielden is one of the most respected contemporary translators, tanka poets, and editors working in the West. She's translated a dozen or so modern Japanese tanka books. She advocates as 'short-long-short-long-long' pattern; she is a co-author with Denis M. Garrison and Robert Wilson of an article 'A Definition of the Ideal Form of Traditional Tanka Written in English.' Garrison, is of course, the publisher of Modern English Tanka Press, the most prestigious English-language publisher of tanka in the world. Robert Wilson is the managing editor of Simply Haiku, a Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry, which is one of the most widely read journals for Japanese short form poetry, including tanka, in the world.

You're obviously not familiar with the works of Michael McClintock, an eminence gris in the fields of both tanka and haiku, who happens to be the President of the Tanka Society of America, as well as a contributing editor to Modern English Tanka (the journal), and an admirable poet and editor of many books of tanka. Since I mention it, Modern English Tanka is the most widely read and most prestigious journal of tanka in English. You will find very few sanjuichi tanka with its pages.

You have not obviously not read Prune Juice : A Journal of Kyoka and Senryu (humorous tanka and haiku), edited by Alexis Rotella, nor any of the books she's published over the last thirty years; she does not write or publish sanjuichi form tanka, either. She's co-editor with Denis Garrison of the Ash Moon Anthology, one of the best tanka anthologies of recent years.

You haven't read American Tanka which is the grand old dame of tanka in English--and which is one of the most conservative of the tanka journals (or was, until Michael McClintock became the new editor). You haven't read Eucalypt, the foremost tanka journal in Australia, nor Kokako (NZ), Time Haiku (UK), Presence (UK), Blithe Spirit (UK), nor visited the 3 Lights Gallery online, nor read Atlas Poetica : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka.

You clearly haven't read any of the canon, such as Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka, Fire Pearls : Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart, In the Ship's Wake, Countless Leaves, Full Moon Tide, Wind Five Folded, Streetlights, Landfall, Ash Moon, Sounds from the Unknown, or apparently any other well known, well-respected, and authoritative anthology.

You haven't visited reputable sites like, TankaOnline, TankaSocietyofAmerica, Tanka Canada's website Anglo-Japanese Tanka Society's website, nor read any of the reputable journals online.

You haven't read the winners of the International Tanka Contests, the Haiku Poets of California's Tanka Contests, the Saiygo Awards, the Tanka Splendor Awards, the Kokako Tanka Contests, the Yellow Moon Tanka Contests, the Moonset Tanka Contests, or the various other contests.

In short, your are displaying an ignorance that is astounding in its arrogance.

If you refuse to educate yourself on what tanka in English is and has been for more than 100 years, what all the national organizations dedicated to it teach, and what the major journals, websites, anthologies, and other works present as tanka, then you have absolutely no business hosting a tanka contest.

M. Kei

Friday, June 12, 2009

HMS Victory Firing a Broadside

If you are a regular (or even an irregular) reader of my blog, you know of my interest in nautical history of the 18th and 19th centuries. While I'm more interested in smaller vessels, especially fore-and-aft rigged craft, the sheer impressiveness of a British battleship in action cannot be denied.

The link above will take you to a web page with a video of HMS Victory firing her first broadside since Trafalgar. Even loaded with salute charges, its an impressive display of power. Note that it takes 56 seconds to fire a rolling broadside. Imagine that you are on the receiving end of that barrage, in a ship made of wood . . . Hollywood does not do justice to the reality of naval combat.

Which leads me to a pet peeve with Pirates of the Caribbean: Remember the climatic battle between the Flying Dutchman, the Black Pearl, and the British battleship? The ship in the movie was a triple-decker like Victory. The models are not to scale; the Flying Dutchman and the Black Pearl would actually have been only about two thirds of the size they appear in that scene. The guns they carry, judging by the size, are about nine-pounders (capable of throwing a nine pound shot), which was common and normal for vessels of their size. The battleship would have been armed with eighteen-pounders, and a great many more of them. The hulls of the two smaller vessels would have been anywhere from about 2 - 6 inches in thick; the hull of the battleship would have been 10-14 inches thick. In short, the British battleship should have blown the two smaller vessels to hell.

Armament for the HMS Victory: 30 42-pounders, 28 24-pounders, 30 12-pounders, 12 6-pounders (mounted on the fore and stern castles). Total armament: 100 guns. Total weight of metal in a single broadside: 1146 pounds. She was the biggest ship of her day, and the movie battleship isn't quite that big, but still . . . Even if she were only a 88 gun ship, she was still throwing in excess of 900 pounds in her broadside.

Compare that to a privateer of similar size and armament to the Flying Dutchman or Black Pearl: 10 - 12 guns in broadside, with 9 pound shot. Total weight of metal per broadside: 96 pounds. Times 2 vessels: 192 pounds.

Maybe they got lucky and had 12 pound shot in something as big as a large frigate: Total weight of metal in broadside: 240 pounds. Times 2 vessels: 480 pounds. Explain to me how a pair of small vessels throwing half the weight of metal beat a battleship?

I forgot: it was magic!

When I watch that scene, I see lots of courts martial for the various British officers for total incompetence and cowardice. And don't tell me they were taking orders from the East India Company guy -- since when do civilians command battleships?

Go watch the HMS Victory thunder out her broadside and tell me who you think would REALLY win that match up!


Saturday, June 06, 2009

My Very Gay Wedding

Tanka poet 'Andrew' has established a blog that is one giant personal ad, tanka venue, and blog on gayness, love, and relationships. I admire his hubris, and the blog (unlike most) is actually interesting to read. I'm tired of 'gay blogs' that are nothing more than ads for porn sites, or else the rants of the political disaffected. Being gay means being more than a political penis. It means being human, and that means looking for love and having positive relationships, including the Big One: marriage. With all due respect for those who chose singleness, relationships matter. Humans are a social animal.

As for myself, I admit to having harbored the notion that somebody reading my blog might have liked what he read, drop me a line, we chat and find ourselves to enjoy it, and progress from there. Well, I have had some of those enjoyable chats, but we have not 'progressed from there.' Maybe I should be blatant about my desire to obtain a partner?

Here I am, all grown up, the various crises of life safely behind me. All thee things that sapped my energy over the years are resolved and cleared away. I'm comfortable with who I am and how I live. My health has never been better. My children are grown. (Maybe I shouldn't say that. I makes me sound so very old....) My car is paid off. My debts are paid. I'm decent in the looks department. I have a brain and I'm not afraid to use. I can construct a grammatical sentence. I'm employed. I have hobbies that don't involve embalming fluid or insurance waivers. If you're interested, or just morbidly curious, look kujakupoet at

Good luck to us both, and everybody else looking for love in a wired world.