Articles/About

Affiliations


British Haiku Society
Haiku Canada
Haiku Society of America
Manitoba Writers' Guild
Tanka Canada
Tanka Society of America
United Haiku and Tanka Society
World Haiku Association
Writers' Collective of Manitoba


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portage and slain

Interview with Catherine Macdonald

The Tanka of Debbie Strange




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hedgerow: a journal of small poems

Poet/Artist in Conversation



I have been a word weaver for five decades. The exercise of writing has helped me navigate not only through turbulent periods in my emotional world, but also through countless moments of grace in the natural world. Most of my works are inspired by personal experiences, and the remainder are rooted in my imagination.

The discovery of the welcoming short form poetry community on Twitter in 2013 has narrowed my writing focus, yet has expanded my publishing opportunities much further than I thought possible. I now mainly write Japanese short forms in English (tanka, haiku, senryu, and tanshi - the phrase for short poetry, which I believe was coined by Yosano Tekkan, a Japanese poet in the 19th century), and my haiga and tanka/tanshi art is created to complement the words either directly or indirectly.

I have been making photographs since I was a teenager. I began by shooting wide-angle landscapes and seascapes, progressing to the use of a zoom lens for wildlife portraits, and finally to employing a macro lens to illustrate nature's minutiae. I have an affinity for the small and often overlooked things in nature, such as dewdrops, lichen on stones, frost, fallen feathers, torn leaves, and also for the effects of rust on items that have been broken and abandoned.

The four parts of this resident artist series (Glass, Watercolour, White spaces, and Altered Reality) are only a small sampling from many different galleries of my SOOC (straight-out-of-camera) photographs and enhanced images.

The Japanese concepts of komorebi (light filtering through trees), kintsukuroi (more beautiful for having been broken), wabi (subdued and austere beauty), sabi (rustic patina), and mono no aware (the pathos of things) influence my writing and photography.

My daily practice of writing and creating art feels like coming home to a place of peace after a long and difficult journey. I think the day of the small poem has come. Life can be overwhelming in this technological age, and so it makes perfect sense that in order for our words to engage busy readers, poems must become both tiny in format, and large in scope. Many of us loved poetry and learned to recite it as children, and perhaps if we reflect upon that past joy, we might be moved to fill our future with the music of these little songs.

I appreciate this opportunity to share my creative passions with you, and offer my thanks for taking the time to read. I am excited to announce that my book of triptychs, Warp and Weft, Tanka Threads is forthcoming this summer from Keibooks. You are invited to view further examples of my images and words at the following sites:





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cattails

Featured Poet

September 2014




Debbie Strange
Canada


I am grateful to an’ya for inviting me to be the featured poet in this issue of cattails. She was the first editor to whom I submitted work, and I was thrilled when an artist of her calibre chose to accept my haiku! This encouraged me to take the plunge and begin sending out my work. As a neophyte in the world of writing Japanese short form poetry, I was concerned that I might not have anything of value to add to the wealth of information provided by much more knowledgeable writers. Then, it occurred to me that perhaps my positive experiences with this genre over the past year might inspire other poets to embark on a similar adventure.

The Pulse of Poetry

I make my home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I have also lived in Saskatchewan and Alberta, the other two prairie provinces, as well as on the west coast of British Columbia. Both the prairie and the sea play integral roles in much of my writing.

Photography and art are important aspects of my creative life. An exhibition of my abstract photographs was recently held at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory in Winnipeg. A gallery of these images may be viewed on crated.com. I am currently assembling a collection of haiga and tanka art, and I often post these creations on Twitter. You are welcome to visit me online at: https://twitter.com/Debbie_Strange

My other interests include singing, playing guitar and writing songs, tending a huge perennial flower garden, and exploring nature with my husband and our dog in a lime-green 1978 VW camper named Ludwig Van. Our camping trips provide wonderful inspiration for my photography and writing.

Though I’ve been a word weaver all my life, I am not a prolific writer. When I finally allow a fully-fledged work to leave the nest, I worry that its feathers might be singed, but I also feel hopeful that this might be the creation that takes wing and soars. I do not have a stockpile of perfectly rendered poems in my flock to send out into the world, but I do have a flourishing collection of fragments. This is my treasure trove, and within it are the pinions I need in order to fashion the wing of a new poem. I hope that words will always be thrumming in my blood through the pulse of poetry.

Turning Points

In 2000, I became a member of The Writers’ Collective of Manitoba. I entered their annual contests, and was thankful when I was lucky enough to receive recognition. I also sent in work for evaluation, and the constructive criticism given to me was invaluable. Through my association with this group, I gained a newfound confidence in my writing. As I learned to read my work aloud in public, my voice began to emerge from its cocoon, and this was the beginning of my metamorphosis as a writer.

I entered into retirement earlier than planned, due to the after-effects of an injury. The silver lining behind that cloud is that I now have more time to devote to writing and learning!

In 2013, I made a promise to my inner critic to answer calls for submissions, and to begin sharing my work, no matter how apprehensive I was. The first step I took in that direction was to join Twitter. Before long, I was a member of a thriving online short form poetry community, with too many excellent poets to mention here. That being said, it was serendipitous for me that the first two writers of Japanese short form poetry I discovered on Twitter were the well-known M. Kei and Chen-ou Liu. I admire their work, and I am grateful for the vast knowledge they share, as well as for their support and encouragement. They have helped change the course of my writing life.

Journeying into Haiku and Tanka

M. Kei is an esteemed tanka poet, novelist, and Editor of Atlas Poetica, as well as many other publications. I had never heard of tanka, and encountering this form has been life changing for me. M. Kei published 100 of my traditional and experimental tanka in the Bright Stars Tanka Anthology series, and I am indebted to him for leading me on my journey into tanka. The singer in me has fallen deeply in love with these short songs, and the practice of writing tanka daily feels like coming home.

Chen-ou Liu is an award-winning poet, and Editor and Chief Translator of Never Ending Story – the First English-Chinese Bilingual Haiku and Tanka Blog. I had been introduced to the “traditional 5/7/5” haiku in school, and Chen-ou has expanded my perception and understanding of this form.


My first published haiku: 

sere grasses...
summer threads
unraveling


kernelsonline 2013


My first published tanka:

on sagebrush prairie
the whirring grasshoppers
and trilling larks
sing a lamentation hymn
for my sister’s stone ears

Notes from the Gean August 2013
Looking back on my first publications, I see how my work has evolved. Brevity is a difficult concept to grasp for a self-confessed “adjective addict”, but I’m learning that less is more. The minimalist nature of Japanese short form poetry appeals to me. I like to see the black bones of a poem on the page, with nothing distracting from, or confining the words. The general lack of capitalization, punctuation, and complex line breaks makes for an austerity and starkness on the page that I find aesthetically pleasing.

I also discovered haiga and tanka art on Twitter, and this has become another new passion. Blending my photographs and art with my words satisfies both creative urges in me.

I am a member of the United Haiku and Tanka Society, Haiku Canada, Tanka Canada, the Tanka Society of America and the World Haiku Association. I subscribe to several journals, and as a result of this, I am continually being introduced to the work of a wide variety of poets with diverse styles. I have made some observations as I travel this road. I find it refreshing that most journal editors do not care who you are or what you have published in the past. The most important thing is the work, and the only prerequisite is quality. Also, it is interesting to note that self-publishing is celebrated rather than frowned upon, as is often the case with mainstream writing.

A short time ago, I could never have imagined that I would have my work published in international journals. Some of the pieces have been translated into other languages, and this is a source of amazement to me. In closing, I will quote from my thoughts regarding inspiration, which Steve Wilkinson, Editor of The Bamboo Hut, so kindly published:

My writing is mainly informed by experiences in both my emotional world and the natural world. Words are my solace and salvation. I am inspired by the very shape of words, their cadence, meaning and power. I breathe words, write words and sing words. In return, they bless me, heal me and save me.