Debbie Strange was one of the finalists with the following concrete tanka. Here are some questions she answered about her poem and process:
This tanka was inspired by my experience with chronic illness and the resultant physical and emotional trauma.
My daily writing practice helps me to shift focus away from the things I cannot control to the things I can! I keep a file of words and fragments that spark my imagination and interest. The word “capsized” was the driving force behind this poem.
The first iteration of this tanka was written in the traditional five-line s/l/s/l/l form. Its final version emerged as a concrete poem because I wished to express the sentiment in a more dynamic manner. The scattered letters symbolize the feeling of being overwhelmed. Use of a lowercase “i” serves to emphasize loss and the myriad ways in which the marginalized and disabled are often made to feel small. The reflected letters are a metaphor for drowning.
Invisible disability is often misunderstood, much like tanka, so the dialogue between these two subjects comes quite naturally. Debates surrounding the definition of these topics continue to evolve, and I’m excited to lend my voice to the ongoing conversation!