Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mike Montreuil and Maxianne Berger: Five Co-Written Tanka

Some years back, over the course of a few months, Mike Montreuil and I co-wrote some tanka. We traded prompts -- two-to-three very brief lines that were not cast in stone, but served, rather, as malleable ideas. For the five below, I’ve provided the prompt alongside the poem for those who might be interested.   mb

fading ink
all about the trenches
the smell of mud
reading between the lines
love kept grandpa warm
to read in between
the lines

sugared almonds
my mother's cookbook
opening up
that sweet crunchiness
yesterday so long ago
recipe book open -
my hands travel
to a time in the past
lace swirls
over deepest blue
our Earth
lying under the sun
one never looks sick
one never looks sick
lying under the sun

my firstborn daughter
was wed
in the morning light
the hills seem far away
the hills seem far away
in the morning light

look out, world
'cause here I come
a woman
walking with a smile
and a springtime urge
spring time urge
the woman walking
with a smile

Montreal poet Maxianne Berger and Ottawa poet Mike Montreuil co-edit the on-line periodical Cirrus : tankas de nos jours.
For more about Cirrus


  1. These are lovely.
    between the lines is brilliant.
    Sharon H.

  2. The prompts seem to be lines that serve with some but little variation as the closing lines of the tankas - is that deliberate? It seems similar to writing renku, though the previous verse is the 'prompt' in a sense. I enjoyed reading these!

  3. thanks, Mary. It's more a variation on tan-renga, though. In tan-renga, one person composes the upper part (first 3 lines) and the second adds the final 2 lines .. but yes, with a link and shift as in renku. Sort of. Here, though, the goal was really to compose a tanka, with all its baggage, er, properties :-) .. so the first 3 lines were not cast in concrete, and it all could be molded, reordered, changed in any way to best "tanka" effect. Hope that helps.