What's New. Information on upcoming reading performance, newly issued books and more. Mariko Kitakubo

Mariko Kitakubo Profile

Mariko Kitakubo

Born in Tokyo.
Living in Mitaka-city, Tokyo
Japan Writers' Association,
Japan PEN Club,
Association of Contemporary Tanka Poets,
Japan Tanka Poets' Society,
Tan-Ku Co-Founder,
Tanka Society of America.

In commemoration of
15 years of tanka reading
The Latest Tanka Sequence
Original Tanka presented at
Spoken World Live

Contemprary Tanka Poet Mariko Kitakubo.

I am pleased to report that my new English tanka has been published in TSA Ribbons Spring/Summer 2024 Vol.20 No.1 in its "Selected Tanka" and "Tanka Hangout: Relationships" sections.

Also, Ms. Peggy Hale Bilbro wrote a wonderful book review about "DISTANCE" in this editon.

Thank you very much.



Selected Tanka

are you, dear Zami,
melody ... your piano
in Israel

Mariko Kitakubo, Tokyo, Japan


Tanka Hangout: Theme: Relationships

calls me Mrs. K
which was
my ex's name ...
Xmas wreath

Mariko Kitakubo, Tokyo, Japan






An Invisible Thread Between Them
Peggy Hale Bilbro

Distance: Tan-Ku Sequences & Sets, Mariko Kitakubo and Deborah P Kolodji. Duarte, CA: Shabda Press, 2023. ISBN: 978-1-7377113-6-0. 93 pages, 6 x 9 inches. Paperback, U.S. $18, Amazon.com.

Distance, a lovely book of alternating tanka and haiku poetry, which the authors call Tan-Ku, is an entrancing read. Mariko Kitakubo and Deborah P Kolodji open their collection with an introduction to their collaborative writing process. When the pandemic struck, all travel between them ended. Thus began their cross-ocean exchanges as Kitakubo in Tokyo and Kolodji in California closed the distance between them with poetry. Kitakubo describes their Tan-Ku poems as "a string of words from our souls uttered while gritting our teeth and overcoming hardships." Their words are so in sync that they easily and naturally play off one another. As Kolodji states, once they started their poetry conversations, they "found it addicting, the differences between tanka and haiku expressed as two voices, complementing each other." In this collection, Kolodji writes the haiku, and Kitakubo the tanka.

The book is divided into seven sections, each with an underlying motif that supports the collection's overall themes of birth, rebirth, recovery and the connection of souls through poetry. Each set (one tanka and one haiku) or sequence of Tan-Ku is titled, with every other verse in italics to set off the second voice in each poem.

The poets have distinct styles that reflect the traditions of haiku and of tanka. Kolodji tends to follow the haiku and senryu tradition of more concrete images often closely anchored to nature, while Kitakubo continues the tanka tradition of moving from human nature into a more universal image, exploring the cosmos and the ocean as sources of life.

In the first section, titled "we hold virtual hands," the following set beautifully illustrates both the distance separating the poets and the connection between them.


Connecting Souls

there is
an invisible thread
between us ...
quietness of
the pearl oyster

closing my eyes
I see your face
Vermeer's earring


The link between the pearl oyster and Vermeer's earring is simply lovely-this last line referring to Johannes Vermeer's painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and the novel and later film of the same name. Perhaps Kolodji sees Kitakubo as the girl wearing the earring, or perhaps she is telling her friend that she is as cherished as Vermeer's girl must have cherished her pearl. This link typifies that "invisible thread" that unifies their writing. Even though their styles differ, they come together to create a deftly honed set of poems that read as one, yet are filled with individual character.

Deborah Kolodji has an unspecified illness that is a presence at various points in the collection and both serves as a catalyst for the poetry and contributes to the narrative with mentions of an IV bag dripping, a PET scan, and the COVID wing of a hospital. This illness theme also figures in the first words of Kolodji's introduction to the book: "It's 4:30 a.m. in Los Angeles and I'm in the hospital for overnight observation. A nurse comes in to check my vitals and I'm wide awake, in an unfamiliar room. Everyone I know must be sound asleep. Then, I realize that it's early evening in Tokyo, so I message Mariko." The message she sends is the opening haiku in this set:


University Hospital

lab specimen
the bar codes
on my wrist band

open to
escape from
the research unit …
waterfall sounds
washing my ears


Here we see the delicately poetic way the two poets approach the question of living with an illness. While Kolodji may feel that she is simply a specimen identified by bar codes, Kitakubo sees her humanity and responds with an offer to escape through the cleansing waters of nature. She seems to grasp Kolodji's unspoken desire to get away. I believe that Kolodji refers to this Tan-Ku in her introduction to give the reader a greater understanding of the relationship that carried her through her illness.

   In addition to the connection between two friends through their poetry, the overarching themes of birth and rebirth provide unity for this collection. In the following two verses in "Distance 2020," the book's first Tan-Ku sequence, the reader is taken from the nourishing waters of birth to distant galaxies, both of which are unified through undying and infinite music.


of unfinished lives
we were
born from water
undying melody

distant galaxies
the infinite music
of stars


That same theme of birth from the waters of the ocean is found in this passage from the sequence, "The Wide Sky."


the amniotic fluid
of Mother Ocean
let's sing
the deep tide song
with coelacanths 

open seas
a juvenile humpback whale
flips its tail


These verses bring to the fore the two different styles of these poets. Kitakubo carries us to the depths of the ocean and the ancient coelacanth fish, which has existed since the Paleozoic era and was once thought to be extinct. Kolodji returns us to the surface and the vigor of a young whale. It's a melding of these two voices into a unified message that life and birth still exist even as they have for eons.

   The fourth section, "the traces of us," gives us yet another window into the intimate friendship of these two authors as they deal with the pain of wars, violent weather and, as we see in the next set, domestic violence.


End of the Tunnel

no one knows...
I escaped from
his violence
silent night
holy night

no more scarves
to hide the bruises
New Year's resolution


   I leave you with the book's final set, a poem of hope discovered through their shared poetic journey of growth and survival.



milkweed in bloom
a caterpillar hidden
under a leaf

who can
recognize me
the joy
or loss ---


   As I read Distance, I was drawn into that "invisible thread" connecting these two. They are poets, but also women, and while an ocean apart, they share the unique relationship of female friends. What an offering they've given us, to follow their path as they suffered, grew and changed, with loving support even at a distance. I highly recommend Distance, not only for the exquisite writing, but also for the delicate beauty of their experience.

Friday, May 10, 2024

"HUBRIS," a Tan-Ku co-authored by Ms. Deborah P. Kolodji and me, was published in Rattle #83. Now, it is available on their website along with our reading audio.



Thursday, April 11, 2024

On March 24, 2024, I hosted an online Tanka workshop via Zoom organized by Ms. Flavia Garcia in Montréal.

It was the second workshop, and the content was the same as the one I did at La Livrerie the day before.

During the workshop, I presented Tanka reading in Japanese and English and introduced the attendees to the art of Tanka. I also explained the percussion instruments I used during my reading performance for background music. After that, the participants created their Tanka and presented them to the other attendees.

I thank those who participated in the workshop on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It was delightful to hear that some participants attended this online workshop because they missed the previous day's workshop.

I hope this event will be an excellent opportunity for people to get familiar with Tanka poetry.


Move to "Reading Performance"

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The weather in Montreal, Canada has turned cold this morning after being mild until last week.

However, despite the powdery snow falling since morning, I was delighted to see many people attend the tanka poetry workshop organized by Ms. Flavia Garcia at La Livrerie. The audience filled the venue.

After my brief presentation on Japanese-English reading performance and lecture, I answered questions from the attendees. We ended the event with an open mic session where attendees shared their tanka and enjoyed playing percussion I brought from Japan.

It was an afternoon filled with gratitude and appreciation for the great interest in Japanese literature among the younger generation, not only English speakers but also French speakers.


Move to "Reading Performance"

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Ms. Flavia Garcia, a poet residing in Montreal, Canada, kindly invited me to take part in the Poetry Event called "Soirée de poésie et traduction" held on March 21, 2024, at La Sala Rossa, a live music club located in Montreal.

It was an extraordinary evening with 12 performers presenting their unique style of poetry in various languages.

I was deeply impressed by the attention to detail of the organizers. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who commented after the performance that they were "moved" and "deeply healed."

I extend my special thanks to Mr. Osvaldo Rabunal, the musician who added the tongue drum background music to my performance.

Thank you all very much.


Move to "Reading Performance"

Sunday, March 24, 2024

I am pleased to share that Rattle, a well-known American poetry magazine, has published in the Collaboration section in its latest volume (83) a new Tan-Ku titled "Hubris," co-authored by Ms. Deborah P. Kolodji and myself.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the editor, Mr. Tim Green.

Thank you very much.





the distorted
he smiles to me
from the white limousine (M)

blue green shimmers
a peacock struts
his stuff (D)

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

On February 16, 2024, I had the pleasure of participating in a reading event by Drank Poets Tokyo at Garigari, a live house in Ikeunoue, Tokyo.

Among the members were individuals I had met at the publication celebration party for Tokyo Poetry Journal Vol.14 last December.

Today, I presented a reading in Japanese and English of my previously created tanka sequence, "BanyanTree," which I composed during my past stay in India.

I was grateful to share this experience with everyone. Thank you all so much.


Move to "Reading Performance"

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

I am grateful that Shot Glass Journal, an online poetry magazine, has published three new Tan-Ku works that Deborah and I co-wove.

* Click the images below to view the pages in Shot Glass Journal.



The Wait

by Mariko Kitakubo and Deborah P Kolodji

high tide
makes me
defenseless. . .
ancient blue of
the Pacific Ocean (M)

your ship shrinking
into the horizon
I wait ashore (D)



by Deborah P Kolodji and Mariko Kitakubo

morning sunshine
the snow where
you are (D)

invisible now
but I'm sure
flowering power
will surround us (M)



by Mariko Kitakubo and Deborah P Kolodji

this sunset
is only for today
step by step
I'll be able to
start a new life (M)

ocean swallowing
the remaining light
moonrise? (D)

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

I express my gratitude to Mr. A A Marcoff for his wonderful review of DISTANCE in Vol. 33 No. 4 of Blithe Spirit, the poetry magazine of the British Haiku Society.

In his review, Mr. Marcoff compared the book to the works of great musicians like Bach, Matisse, and Cézanne.

I would also like to thank the editors of Blithe Spirit for providing valuable space for the review.





Distance by Mariko Kitakubo, Deborah P Kolodji, Shabda Press, 2023, paperback, 94 pages,

Mariko (Japan) writes tanka. Deborah (California) writes haiku. After the pandemic brought them together on the internet, these two great voices are now become as sisters in poetry, linked across the ocean, and in their book of tanka and haiku in combinations (Tan-Ku), they have composed a magical, sublime duet, improvisations in realities and dreams.

Constructed with echo, counterpoint and reprise, this book seems like a Bach concerto for two interweaving violins. The two poets are dream- travellers, and at times touch the cosmos in a 'Music of the Galaxy'. But in this haiku, we are brought from the stars right down to earth:

of the universe
a boy and his dog

In mirrors of the soul, Distance offers us a little kaleidoscope of everything, in 'emanations' (Matisse) and 'realisations' (Cezanne), that takes us from Samarkand and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania (with its cradle or creation of the species), to Asakusa and the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo. Sometimes we are led through a Torii (Shinto gateway) that marks a transition from the mundane to the sacred. These haiku and tanka were created in the spontaneity of the moment out of an emotion heightened by the pandemic. Several times I heard reverberations of the Zen koan, 'show me your face before you were born'.

Both poets are seasoned practitioners, and both are well-travelled. Mariko in particular, by all accounts a deeply impressive performer of her tanka, has taken her art all over the globe, and has made tanka truly international, touching so many hearts and minds:

the antique glass
comes into the world

spring snow
or petals of sakura
falling falling
like ashes in Ukraine

Deborah, Moderator of the Southern California Haiku Study Group, has travelled to Tokyo to do a haiku presentation:

the sea pounding
even in my dreams

bees in soft petals
I open my arms
to the sun

Together they have given us the light of the stars, and the raw beauty and authenticity of things. They write with real flair, with the flow of things (they quote Heraclitus and his concept of 'Panta Rhei' ('Everything flows')), in spontaneous observations and essentials. We are left with the human condition, the way of life itself, couched in small poems that express the inexpressible with wonder. This is a book to love - absolutely. Absolutely in a relative world.

A A Marcoff

Monday, February 5, 2024

The Scarlet Dragonfly Journal, a net poetry journal, posted our new Tan-Ku set appropriate for the Christmas season.

We extend our gratitude to editor Ms. Kathleen Trocmet.
Thank you very much.




Far North

distant sleigh bells
sinking into a dreamland
Christmas (D)

St. Nicolas
left the reins
in the air
salmon pink
aurora (M)

— Deborah P Kolodji, USA / Mariko Kitakubo, Japan


 Move to "Media Coverage"

Monday, December 25, 2023