Considering Tankas and Haiku | Review of “Shouting Your Name Down the Well” by David W. McFadden (2014) Stuart Ross/Manfield Press


I seem to be recalling a lot of the poetry I learned from my youth recently. Many teachers made us write little bits of verse for assignments and then made us move on to something else. I can’t help wondering if I had continued to at least read some more poetry – least of all continue writing it – would I have been a more enlightened person? This is one of the many introspective thoughts I had while I was reading Shouting Your Name Down the Well: Tankas and Haiku by David W. McFadden.

Page 33

The five tulips have

Spread their petals and displayed

Five dust-black stamens

And one tripartite yellow

Pistil in the heart of each.


When I see things I

Always want to draw them. I

Forget I can’t draw.


She was depressed. I

Was smitten. Now she’s better

And I can’t stand her.


There’s a smokestack on

My television set. How

Strange, how droll, how – oops!

It’s not a smokestack, it’s an

Empty toilet paper roll.

Both tankas and haiku are Japanese-styles of poetry. A tanka consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all and giving a complete picture of an event or mood. A haiku usually contains three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, respectively. Both were introduced to me in some English class in the fog of my schooling and promptly forgotten. But McFadden has been working with this style of verse for a while. And it shows.

Sunday afternoon

As I read you sweet and

Tender passages

From Breakfast at Tiffany’s

You give me a pedicure.


Woke up last night with

Someone squeezing my hand. It

Was my other hand.


Even holding hands

Is an ambiguous act,

More sour than sweet. It’s

An act of desperation,

A political statement.


We know the entire

Universe is nothing but

A mirage, but still . . .

McFadden has clearly mastered these forms well. His imagery is clear, bright and certainly unique. (Certainly these verses are more pronounced than anything I produced in my media career.) And there are deeply profound moments too.

Page 103

I would follow you

Like a ripple follows the

Breeze on Demon Pond.


Even in my dreams

I find I have to pretend

That I don’t know you.


My morning glories

Are hiding this morning. What

Are they ashamed of?


Throw yourself in front

Of a train, what a waste! But

If you get a cop

To shoot you you’ll become a

Martyr and a cause célèbre.

Shouting Your Name Down the Well: Tankas and Haiku by David W. McFadden was for me a great re-introduction to a style of writing that I had  long forgotten about. His phrases were clear and profound and were a pleasure to read.

Link to Manfield Press’s website for Shouting Your Name Down the Well: Tankas and Haiku

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