razor sharp
with his divisiveness
the border wall
in concertina wire

20 Responses

  1. Azathoth Says:

    Citizen masons and roofers
    chatting amiably
    in the unemployment line

  2. Alan Summers Says:

    Why is it called concertina wire?
    It is called concertina wire, named after the musical instrument and its expanding and contracting bellows. It resembles barbed wire that's commonly used to corral cattle, but it comes in flat coils that can quickly expand like its namesake, making it easier to store, transport and install.
    MILITARY TIMES website

    China, Mexico, and Spain lead the world by number of barbed wire exports overtaking Wales (U.K.).

    razor sharp
    with his divisiveness
    the border wall
    in concertina wire


    "The Devil's Rope" how the spread of barbed wire helped redraw the map of the USA.

    Being "razor sharp with divisiveness" was how Claudius was the first Roman Emperor to defeat the wild British Isles. Lucille would be proud of its uses and name all tyrants as 'friends' and "We Are All Negan".

    Tough tanka, but then it's a robust genre.


  3. Autumn Noelle Hall Says:

    Appreciate the illuminating references (origin of concertina and "The Devil's Rope" article). RE. the latter, my husband and I drove for MILES in all directions from your cabin trying to find somewhere (other than a fenced dog park) where we could let our Australian Shepherd run and be free. In the nine years he was with us, we never came across a single segment of land that wasn't barb-wired, privately owned or otherwise forbidden to unleashed dogs. Considering we live in the mountains, in close proximity to acre upon acre of rural lands, this is a particularly sad statement. "Land of the Free?" Show me THAT map…

  4. Alan Summers Says:

    I think I'd remember if you were at our cabin! :-)

    We did rent a farmhouse in rural Queensland, but it was mostly Blueheeler cattle dogs, and just one Kelpie. :-)

    All that barbed wire makes me think of Kirk Douglas!


  5. Autumn Noelle Hall Says:

    I've no idea how "our" became "your." Makes for an interesting undercurrent regarding property rights, though! :D

    Now I'm going to be hearing harmonica in my head all day… ~.~

  6. Peggy Hale Bilbro Says:

    Thank you Don Miller!

  7. Mojde Says:

    Reticently agreed line,


    divides and rules.


    Concertina Wire

    Sparrow sits and sings

    Delicately …


  8. Arlene Teck Says:

    Your sparrow is a lovely image here – evokes the line from a song: "His eye is on the sparrow, so I know He watches me . . ."

  9. Autumn Noelle Hall Says:

    a mind to march
    down to the border
    to leave
    wirecutters alongside
    blankets and bottled water

    I am officially declaring Don Miller our Border Laureate. His powerful poems are antidotes to fake news and a salve for all the hands trying to hold down the wire so others can step across. Keep 'em honest and keep 'em coming, Don!!

  10. Alan Summers Says:

    Great comment! I know tanka, as well as haiku, are robust enough to cover any topic, and politics and other atrocities are ripe for being captured in memorable verse. :-)

    warm regards,

  11. Autumn Noelle Hall Says:

    "Robust"–great word! I recently told someone tanka is a tough little bugger. These little poems are infinitely capable of holding the BIG issues of today. So why aren't we seeing more such poems in print…? Seems to me, that's an excellent question for the self-appointed gatekeepers out there.

  12. Alan Summers Says:

    All I can say is that the poets on our various tanka courses bring out extraordinary work, and one of them, a former student, is now Vice President of the Tanka Society of America, and another is the new TSA journal! :-)

    And it's worth checking out Bleached Butterfly journal (as well as Femku) both edited by Lori A Minor.

    There will be more robust tanka out there, but not always in the usual places. :-)

    And everyone, it's worth checking out Autumn Noelle Hall's Atlas Poetica Special Feature this month (November 2019) called:

    Turn the Other Cheek : Nonviolent Resistance and Peaceful Protest Tanka

    Great work!

    Alan Summers
    Call of the Page

  13. Autumn Noelle Hall Says:

    Many thanks for ALL of this Alan, especially the nod to my Peaceful Protest Special Feature on ATPO. The official release announcement is supposed to go out tomorrow (11/9), so I didn't even realize the Special was up on the website already! You truly are the crystal ball wizard of the short form community!

    I will definitely be checking out Lori A. Minor's journals–thank you!

  14. Alan Summers Says:

    It's my job, almost 24/7, to know the latest and the bestest in haiku and tanka. :-)

    The only crystal ball I have is one with me inside as Santa. :-)


  15. Robert Kingston Says:

    glass wall
    he lets them see
    what’s missing
    wow! I attempted to capture this in haiku when news first hit us here in the UK. Those two extra lines clearly make all the difference.
    Thanks for sharing your great poem Don Miller.

  16. Don Miller Says:

    Thank you Autumn and Alan for this lively and refreshing, yet provocative discussion on the width, height and depth of tanka; a discussion that is absent in today's tanka realm. Tanka is at a crossroads; will it retreat back into its "courtly" roots capturing traditional images, or will it grow upon the reform Tekkan Yosano, Shiki Masaoka and Ishikawa Takuboku (to name a few) established in the late 19th and into the early 20th century and continue to push boundaries filling these lines with tough issues of the day! There is room for both so long as we understand and respect the history of tanka and from where it came, as well as understanding and respecting the ebb and flow of where it is going. Deciding this in the here and now will be our challenge!

  17. Alan Summers Says:

    Cheers Don! :-)

    I have to say that on our courses we have very strong tanka, and I'm pleased that in the Tanka Society of America anthologies that I've had tough tanka accepted. I've never submitted to the TSA journals, but delighted on more than one occasion to have several of my tanka in more than one anthology.

    And we know that medieval tanka was often coded messages whether for illicit relationships, or for passing on covert intelligence. As a kind of poem though less than half a sonnet, it can pack a punch, and we have had some amazing tanka writers on our courses, including the one just about to conclude. :-)

    I know when my wife was tanka editor for a journal, there was a swathe of rose-tinted or purple prose poems, but there was also gold glinting, hard-eyed gold. :-)


  18. Autumn Noelle Hall Says:

    Thanks for expanding–not to mention provoking–this discussion, Don. I just wanted to affirm what you've said here while also adding this thought:

    Just as the tanka poets you mentioned (and the Imperial Court poets, for that matter) were writing in and of their own times, it is imperative for us to do the same–blue jeans to kimonos, semi-automatic weapons to Samurai swords, carbon counts to cherry blossoms. Being present means being HERE and NOW. When/if future readers look back on the tanka of the 21st century, they will not do so with an eye to how well we mimicked the poets of the past, but how well were were able to capture our own times in a meaningful, relevant way.

  19. Don Miller Says:

    and thank you Azathoth, Mojde, Peggy and Robert for your input and acceptance of the challenges we face today! If not writers and artists, then who! If not now, then when!!


  20. Arlene Teck Says:

    If this is meant to be a tanka, I think the first two lines should be the bottom two lines – and pared down to remove the qualifiers from "divisiveness":

    the border wall
    in concertina wire
    razor sharp

    This way, it becomes a very strong tanka, expressing a universal emotion in reaction to the scene at the border wall.

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