Last year, I was selected to be the Erewash Harvest Moon & Festival of Light commissioned writer for 2020. I had big plans of involving Erewash allotment gardeners, using Ultra Violet paint to write poems and exhibit them at a street party, where I would produce a community poem, black-out poetry workshops, poems suspended from lanterns- it was going to be dazzling and sparkly… and then coronavirus came and turned the light off on all of my plans!

The Coronavirus lockdown has impacted on peoples lives in various ways; some people were able to enjoy the opportunity to lay in, to spend time in their garden, others had no garden and were cramped in doors on the 8th floor, some had to juggle home schooling with working at home, whilst some had to find ways to cope with grief and bereavement.

I’m offering a free online poetry workshop via Zoom that will focus on writing tanka and Ode poems, offering participants the chance to depict and encapsulate their experience of the lockdown.

This online workshop will take place on Saturday 10th October 2020, 1pm-3pm (GMT) Due to funding stipulations, the workshop is only open to Derbyshire & Erewash residence, but below is some guidance on how to write tanka poems if you fancy a go!

So what is a Tanka poem?

Tanka means short song and has been an important literary form in Japan for thousands of years. The original Japanese form had 31 syllables and was written as one line. Most Tanka poems written in English are structured into five lines each having a limited number of syllables;

Line one: 5 syllables 

Line two: 7 syllables 

Line three: 5 syllables 

Line four: 7 syllables

Line five: 7 syllables 

What’s a syllable again? a syllable is how the word is divided into sounds e.g. the word garden has two syllables gar-den, Derbyshire Der-by-shire has three syllables.

 Ioney’s Lockdown Tanka Poem

My Neighbours Hedge During Lockdown

The hedge grows wild

uncut, black birds nest safely

unlike my neighbour

screaming again trapped indoors

with him and she’s out of sight

 Looking at this example, you will notice that there is no end punctuation used and it doesn’t not rhyme, these are two more features of Tanka poems. Also, there’s something special about the third line, ‘Unlike my neighbour’. This is called a pivot/turn, which means a change in direction or turning point in the poem. The pivot divides the Tanka into half, separating two different ideas but at the same time acting as a bridge to join them. Together the two halves tell a story with two images.

Harvest Moon/ Festival of Light orgnaisers are keen to celebrate poems submitted by the community, possible in a zine or an Ebook, more info to come on this.

For more information on this project or the online workshops please email;

Huge thank you to Matt Black who has mentored me through this project- find our more about his work by visiting

This project is funded by Arts Council England