Second Place, Annual Tanka Contest at Mandy’s Pages
Before I provide commentary, let us see what the judge of the contest, Christine L. Villa, said about this tanka:
The poet’s perfect choice of metaphor proves that humor can be used effectively in tanka. The verdant hills implies lushness which is in contrast to his growing bald spot. To emphasize the decreasing loss of hair, words are placed in descending order. A hint of annoyance about the poet’s aging is implied with the word “scratch”, but using humor in this tanka shows us his/her acceptance of this human condition. I enjoyed the surprise ending. Brilliant tanka!
To add, I would like to say how relatable this is. Men all over the world must feel this way, but don’t express it. To have poetry that is instantly relatable is always a plus for readers.
Also, note how fresh this tanka sounds compared to the court tanka of old. With the exception of the word “verdant,” the tanka is direct, rather than dependent on flashy lyricism. This makes for a much more communicable tanka and one that connects to the masses easily.
I also enjoy how the two last lines interact. It is expressing a paradox: emptiness is growing. But as we know, there is no space that is completely empty, and maybe he is reflecting that in older age, he has gained something within to compensate for that physical emptiness.
In terms of sound, the letter “l” in the first two lines give a sense of dignity to his childhood, and the letters “t” and “o” make the bald spot stand out more.
Combining humor with reminiscence and optimism, this tanka showcases a feeling that many have, but often do not put into words, helping readers come to terms with their own aging.
– Nicholas Klacsanzky