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Winter 2007, vol 5 no 4

Sixty Sunflowers
edited by Sanford Goldstein
A Review by Marjorie Buettner


Sanford Goldstein, who edited the 2006 Tanka Society of America anthology Sixty Sunflowers, says in the introduction that he wanted to have a collection of tanka which represented a "community of diversity with poems that are multidimensional and require thought and feeling." Truly, this new anthology fulfills Sanford Goldstein's desires. Each individual section is prefaced by a line from one of the member's tanka, and, like a tremor in a pond from a thrown pebble, each following tanka relates inextricably and uniquely with the other. When you finally sit down to read this anthology, leaving the stress of that daily grind behind you, the effect is extraordinary; the fundamental essence of this anthology is the fact that we are a diverse community and yet we are a community—a cohesive community—which corresponds with each other in a primary and essential way. Writing tanka, sharing tanka and reading tanka all are essential and primary ways we interrelate. And somehow—after writing, sharing and reading this poetry—the world has changed and is altered because of it. The daily grind is less stressful and that 45 minute drive to work less harrowing. Reading Sixty Sunflowers has reminded me of the essential quality of poetry and how much we need it to survive day to day, how much we need it to heal those hidden wounds, how much we need it to feel joy.

TSA members Carole MacRury and Maria Steyn speak of the beautiful yet transient nature of youth:

remember when
we picked green plums?
young and impatient
we never waited
for the ripening      C.M.
open car window—
wind tangles the scent
of spring sunshine
in my teen daughter's
loose, honey-colored hair    M.S.

Larry Kimmel and Karma Tenzing Wangchuk share a certain solitude which befriends:

in the light
of the hurricane lantern,
the walking stick
by the cabin door—
friend enough this winter night   L.K.
After sundown,
the cold begins to settle
around my hut.
I light the lamp for study,
boil water for tea.         K.T.W.

an'ya explores her visionary imagination—truly what makes us poets:

if there were only
a way to capture fog
in a pretty jar,
I'd leave it on your doorstep
and watch while you open it

Mariko Kitakubo—in a beautiful, poetic language—speaks to us of the many ways we learn from each other—even in absence, even in pain:

all you men
who have flown from me—
I feel you
less as sea winds, more as
glints of light on the waves

With age there comes painful disbelief, yet perhaps, if we are lucky, revelation:

whose hands are these
grown graceless, thick and slow;
not enough fingers
too many thumbs to use—
my god, whose face is this . . .

Denis M. Garrison
of her 80th year
she knits a shawl
all the colors
of the rainbow.

Pamela Miller Ness

And how many times have we been less attentive than what is demanded of us:

white butterfly
on my upraised palm
for just a moment
were you a teacher that came
before the student was ready?

Michael L. Evans

This reminds me of Rumi's marvelous invitation: "The morning breeze / has secrets to tell you / do not go back to sleep."

And we must ask ourselves do we dare?

fireflies and moonlight
this July night
plenty and perfect, yet
the current of something more
pulls through me

Tom Clausen

And, then, there are those times which cannot be shared but which define our existence deeply, inextricably:

On my daughter's birthday
I kneel at her grave
late spring wind
troubling the flags
but not the birdsong

Lenard D. Moore
this day
because of your death
deep within trees—birdsong
your life your life

John Rowe

And yet love lives on "past, present and years to come" giving us our reason for living:

on this hot night
we lie bare skin to bare skin
slippery with sweat;
past, present and years to come
are in this moment

Adelaide B. Shaw

But sometimes, after all is said and done, love without words, without poetry or music, seems empty and meaningless; only with them is our relationship with the world enriched:

in the meadow
where creatures pass at dusk
there is a wooden seat
for mountain gazing
and the stringing of words

Giselle Maya

Only then are we able to marvel at what we gaze at, bidding us to pay attention, bidding us to follow:

master cellist
plays a Mozart andante
with his eyes closed
shadows of summer leaves
flit across a young girl's arms

Margaret Chula

Once again this poetry enables us to live beyond mere survival—"past, present and years to come." It alleviates pain and teaches us as a teacher would a child; it gives meaning and order in the midst of chaos. It shepherds us into joy. Our unique community of poets articulates what Rumi bids us to do—day in and day out:

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.
Help someone's soul heal.
Walk out of your house like a shepherd.
—Jalaluddin Rumi

Sixty Sunflowers
edited by Sanford Goldstein
Modern English Tanka Press (2007)
PO Box 43717
Baltimore, Maryland 21236 USA
ISSN 1932-9083; $15
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