September 2014
Featured Poet


Debbie Strange
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 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:

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

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.

a thousand jellyfish
in an ocean of sky

a slate sky
knows the calligraphy
of trees

the swollen bellies
of feral cats

credits *1

on the tundra
caging a winter sky
caribou bones

credits *3

red-tailed hawk . . .
on a telephone pole
the prairie listens

credits *5

broken spider web
drifting between the roses
you caress my face

credits *7

collide and shatter
in silence
you taught me to speak
with interplanetary lies

tarnished teaspoon
stirs memories
in bittersweet cups
I swallow her tears

a starling
m  u  m  u  r  a  t  i  o n
sifting the sky
she recalls the moment
her life changed shape


they called us
to collect her things
not knowing
what to do with her teeth
we left her smile in the trash

credits *11

of the earth
you sang to me
until harmony
sprouted on my tongue

credits *13

on father’s coffin
the cowboy hat and polished boots
of a prairie Gael
the skirling pipes
that sing him home

credits *15

when I began
to lose my hair
I wove
a shirt of myself
for your shroud

credits *17

in the hat you gave me
I am undone
by faded ribbons
and the scent of lilies

credits *19

at the jubilee
bohemian waxwings
eating cherries

white bells
ringing the changes
lily of the valley

night drive...
a deer leaps over
the moon

credits *2

a bleeding heart
in the surgeon’s garden

credits *4

blood-veined leaf
on your upturned palm . . .
these life lines

credits *6

at dock’s end
a yellow ladder
steps in sky

credits *8

small songs
rolling off your tongue
like fog
weaving between
the bones of my heart

slipping between
midnight’s torn pages
the morning
rewrites our story
in slanting light

the lake’s black skin
tattooed with starlight
and aurora
remember that night we dipped
ink-stained hands into the moon

credits *10

the seeds
of forget-me-nots
I planted
in her mind’s wilted garden
could not recall her blooming

credits *12

blue glacier
calving into the narrows
a bloodless birth
our letting go of progeny
that too soon drift away

credits *14

at the stoplight
she squeegees
car windows
her scrawny arms tattooed
with poetry and addiction

credits *16

blood moon
and dwarf star
how red
the dimming day
settling in your hair

credits *18

with ink stick
and wolf hair brush
on rice paper
I paint the unlikeliness
of my married name

credits *20

credits *21

credits *22

credits *23
credits *24

credits *25

credits *26

credits *27

credits *28

credits *29

Publications – Tanka, Sedoka, Haiku, Senryu, Haiga & Tanka Art:

Acorn – a journal of contemporary haiku
      Number 32 Spring 2014
A Hundred Gourds
     3:1 December 2013, 3:2 March 2014, 3:3 June 2014, & forthcoming
All the Shells: The Tanka Society of America 2014 Member Anthology
     (edited by M. Kei) forthcoming
Atlas Poetica – A Journal of Poetry of Place in Contemporary Tanka
     Special Features: September 2013, October 2013, February 2014 & June 2014
Number 17 & 18 2014
brass bell: a haiku journal
     April, May, June, July, August & September 2014
Bright Stars – An Organic Tanka Anthology
      Volumes 1, 3, 4 & 5 2014
cattails – Collected Works of UHTS
     January & May 2014
      Number 14 October 2013 & Number 15 April 2014
Chuffed Buff Books – Kigo: Seasonal Words
Gems – An Anthology of Haiku, Senryu and Sedoka
     (edited by Steve Wilkinson) July 2014
GUSTS – Contemporary Tanka
    Number 19 Spring/Summer 2014
Frogpond – The Journal of the Haiku Society of America
      37:3 Autumn, forthcoming
inner art journal – An Online Poetry Journal Dedicated to Perception
     February 2014
Jars of Stars
     February 2014
     June 2013
Leaf Press
     August 2013 (Riding Mountain Haiku)
      – a leaflet of 5/7/5 sketch of life poems reflecting upon my experiences
exploring nature through the seasons in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba)
LYNX – A Journal for Linking Poets
      28:3 October 2013, 29:1 February 2014, & forthcoming
Lyrical Passion Poetry E-Zine
      August 2013
Moonbathing – a journal of women’s tanka
      Issue 9 Fall/Winter 2013 & Issue 10 Spring/Summer 2014
Moongarlic E-Zine
     Issue 1 November 2013 & Issue 2 May 2014
More Grows in a Crooked Row:Tanka Exchanges with 15 Canadian Poets
     (edited by Angela Leuck) forthcoming
NeverEnding Story – First English-Chinese Bilingual Haiku and Tanka Blog
     December 2013, January & July 2014, & forthcoming
Notes from the Gean
     August 2013
One Man’s Maple Moon 2013, Selected English-Chinese Bilingual Tanka
     (edited by Chen-ou Liu) September 2014, forthcoming
Poetry Nook
     Volumes 1, 3, 4 & 5 2013/2014
     Number 49 February 2014, & forthcoming
Prune Juice – Journal of Senryu, Kyoka & Haiga
     Issue 12 March 2014 & Issue 13 July 2014
red lights
     Volume 10 Number 1 January 2014 & Volume 10 Number 2 June 2014
Ribbons – Tanka Society of America Journal
      Volume 9 No. 2 Fall 2013, Volume 10 No. 1 Winter 2014, Volume 10 No. 2 Spring/Summer 2014
Skylark – A Tanka Journal
     Volume 1 Number 2 Winter 2013, Volume 2 Number 1 Summer 2014, & forthcoming
Skyline – A Journal of Modern and Experimental Tanka
The Bamboo Hut – A Journal of Contemporary English Language Tanka
     Vol 1 No. 1 September 2013, Vol 1 No. 2 January 2014, Vol 1 No. 3 April 2014, & forthcoming
The Bamboo Hut Press
     2014 – ongoing
The Heron’s Nest
      Volume 15 Number 4 December 2013
The Mustard Grain – journal of global micropoetry
     Issue 1.1 August 2014
The Zen Space – a space for zen words
     Autumn 2013 Showcase & Winter 2014 Showcase
Under the Basho
     Autumn 2013
Undertow Tanka Review
     Issue Number 1 August 2014
     2013 – ongoing
World Haiku Association
     WHA 120th, 121st, & 122nd, Monthly Haiga Contest, May, June & July 2014
Writers and Lovers Café
Spring 2014, & forthcoming

Awards for Short Form Poetry:

DIOGEN – Magazine for Culture, Art, Science and Education
     3rd place for haiga & Hon. Mention for haiku – 2013 Winter Contest
Lyrical Passion Poetry World Tanka Competition
     Hon. Mention – 2013
United Haiku and Tanka Society
     3rd place for haiku – 2014 AHA Awards

Other Published Writing and Awards:

Canadian Authors’ Association, Manitoba Branch
     Hon. Mention for poetry 1999 – published in Pentimes February 2000
Contemporary Verse 2 Thirty-fifth Anniversary Contest
     3rd place for poetry 2011 – published in CV2 Volume 34 Issue 2 Fall 2011
The Writers’ Collective of Manitoba
     2nd place for poetry 2000 – published in The Collective Consciousness December 2000
     Hon. Mention for poetry 2009 – published in The Collective Consciousness Winter 2010
     3rd place for poetry 2010 – published in The Winnipeg Free Press December 2010
     1st place for postcard fiction 2011 – published in Bright Stars 1 January 2014
     1st place for poetry 2011 – published on VerseWrights 2013
     1st place for fiction 2012 – excerpt published in Bright Stars 3 May 2014
     3rd place for non-fiction 2012 – published in The Winnipeg Free Press December 2012
     June 2013 – ongoing

I have self-published four photography books, a nature book for children, and a family history.


World Poetry Day Bash – McNally Robinson Booksellers 2012
Earth Day Celebration – Fort Whyte Alive April 2013
Library Out Loud – Millennium Library, monthly, ongoing – featured reader 2014
Thin Air – Winnipeg International Writers’ Festival – Say the Word Audio Archive – 2013
Speaking Crow – various venues, monthly, ongoing


*1        Acorn – Number 32 Spring 2014
*2        Gems Anthology – July 2014
*3        cattails – May 2014, AHA Contest, 3rd Place
*4        Prune Juice – Issue 12 March 2014
*5        The Heron’s Nest – Volume 15 Number 4 December 2013 & NeverEnding Story July 2014
*6        The Zen Space – Autumn 2013 Showcase & NeverEnding Story – December 2013
*7        Under the Basho – Autumn 2013
*8        VerseWrights – June 2013 & brass bell August 2014
*9        A Hundred Gourds – 3.3 June 2014
*10      Atlas Poetica – Special Feature: Geography and the Creative Imagination – February 2014
*11      Lyrical Passion Poetry – HM 2013 World Tanka Comp. & Bright Stars 1 – January 2014
*12      Chrysanthemum – Number 14 October 2013 & NeverEnding Story – December 2013
*13      GUSTS – Number 19 Spring/Summer 2014
*14      LYNX – 28:3 October 2013 & Poetry Nook – Volume 4 January 2014
*15      Skylark – Volume 1 Number 2 Winter 2013 & One Man’s Maple Moon 2013 Anthology – Sept. 2014
*16      Moonbathing – Issue 9 Fall/Winter 2013
*17      Presence – Number 49 February 2014
*18      red lights – Volume 10 Number 2 June 2014
*19      Ribbons – Volume 10 Number 2 Spring/Summer 2014
*20      Bright Stars 5 – August 2014
*21      GUSTS – Number 19 Spring/Summer 2014 (tanka only)
*22      World Haiku Association – 120th Monthly Haiga Contest May 2014
*23      LYNX – 28:3 October 2013 & Poetry Nook – Volume 4 2014 (tanka only)
*24      The Zen Space – Winter 2014 Showcase & DIOGEN – 2013 Winter Haiga Contest, 3rd Place
*25      inner art journal – February 2014 (tanka only)
*26       brass bell – May 2014 (haiku only)
*27      Poetry Nook – Volume 3 December 2013 (tanka only)
*28      The Bamboo Hut – Volume 1 Issue 3 April 2014 (tanka only)
*29      Gems Anthology – July 2014 (senryu only)