Between the Lines (a responsive tanka sequence)

This is the second responsive tanka sequence I’ve written and published with poet David Terelinck. A big thank you to editor Claire Everett for publishing this sequence in her beautiful journal, Skylark.

My thanks to David Terelinck for writing with me and guiding me all the way. You are the best mentor any poet could have.


Skylark Summer 2017, Volume 5, Issue 1

A responsive tanka sequence with Mary Kendall (USA) and David Terelinck (AUS) 


Between the Lines

the conversation
turned so quickly
that morning in Paris . . .
your disapproval palpable
as you walked away


despite phrasebooks,
maps and interpreters
how often
we still lose our way
to understanding . . .


you sketch
a stranger’s likeness
with such ease –
how I hoped you could learn
to read between the lines


days spent
rehearsing a response –
why do those
who direct my life
now want to write the script


your practised words
sound right, but feel so wrong . . .
sifting through
shattered pots and ashes
left in an empty kiln    


dementia steals
my name from her lips –
visiting hours,
relatives complete
the latest jigsaw


piecing together
from rumour and gossip
her final days –
I snake through minutiae
to make some sense


they contest
the unsigned will
. . . promises
we make to each other
but don’t intend to keep


© 2016 Mary Kendall & David Terelinck

Note: to my friends unfamiliar with responsive writing, David’s contributions are all in bold face type while mine are in ‘normal’ type.


Into the Wind (a tanka sequence)


Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick, Cumbria, UK


This tanka sequence was recently published in Ribbons (Journal of the Tanka Society of America), Fall/Winter 2016, Volume 12, Number 3:



Into the Wind



the sparrow hawk
swoops down in silence …
shiver of surprise
seeing death come
so quickly



from a distance
the boulders look small
. . . there were times
when you seemed
almost harmless



mountain colors
shift as rapidly
as the wild weather
deep shadows
of unexpected fear



on a barren plain
the stones are silent
… why did I surrender
when faced
with rage?



a lone pillar
stands so tall
. . . facing into the wind
I finally learn
about resistance



out of nowhere
two young kestrels
soar above . . .
my voice
can now be heard



 Mary Kendall,  (c) 2016




Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick in Cumbria, UK

When the Light Departs (a responsive tanka sequence)



Earlier this year, Australian poet and friend, David Terelinck, invited me to create a responsive tanka sequence with him. David is a poet I greatly admire, so it was a real honor to write with him. It was the first time I’d attempted anything like this, but under David’s very gentle and skilled tutelage, our sequence grew and grew. In creating this piece with David, I learned as much about trust as I did about the nuances of writing tanka.

When we finished our sequence, David asked, “Now where shall we send this sequence for publication?” I was dead silent, being a bit in shock that he felt this piece should be published. At his suggestion, we submitted it to Skylark, a Tanka Journal edited by Claire Everett.  Claire is one of the world’s finest tanka poets and editors. She herself has written responsively with David, and he has provided the forward for her last book. Two of my favorite poets alive discussing publication and minor edits. What a wonderful thing to happen.

This month, Skylark, a Tanka Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, Winter 2016 was published.Here is our tanka sequence, When the Light Departs. My thanks to you, David Terelinck, for being my teacher, mentor and friend.


[Note: David’s verses are in regular font and mine are in italics.]

Responsive tanka sequence between David Terelinck (AUS) & Mary Kendall (USA)

When the Light Departs


this alloy
of clouds & winter light –
it’s not what you said
but how you looked
as you said it . . .


still unable
to explain why the world
seems darker now . . .
all the frozen buds
on the camellia bush


days and days
of endless rain that swells
the window sills –
only two weeks left
in her first trimester


a sudden
knowing of what
may never be . . .
the silence of snowdrops
pooling on the lawn 


not the way
she expected to wear
all white . . .
the greying of her thoughts
following sedation


winter storm,
a young dove lost
in a sea of mist
. . . my empty arms
grow heavy


she spends the morning
filling freshly turned beds
with crocus bulbs –
what else can a woman
of a certain age do?


when the light
departs, I put down
my paintbrush . . .
this world of colour
between earth and sky 



© 2016 David Terelinck & Mary Kendall

Published in Skylark, a Tanka Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, Winter 2016


Note: both photographs are from the public domain