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February 21, 2017

I’d never heard of Somonka until Kemal Houghton, our Chair at Chester Poets, invited members to submit Somonka poems for reading on Poetry Roundup, his show on Vintage Radio (Birkenhead) on Wednesday last week.

The Somonka is an ancient Japanese verse form, each poem comprising a pair of tanka on the theme of love (romantic or some other type), the first a statement, the second in response. Usually the first tanka is written by one poet, the second by another, but a Somonka may be written by a single poet assuming two personas.

Maureen and I gave it a go of course, and we had many a laugh over it. I wrote a solo Somonka first, about my much loved infants’ school teacher back in ’53, when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Then we did one together, the first tanka (the statement) by Maureen, the second (the response) by me. And we were delighted when both poems were included in the programme, Kemal reading the male verses, his co-presenter Linda Bradley reading the female, as they did so brilliantly with the other Somonkas too.

Below is my solo effort. We’ll reserve our joint-Somonka (quite a funny one) for publication elsewhere.


floral smock chalky
mistress of the scout hut school
she gave of her love
calmed this little boy’s fear
and let him sit with the girls

Coronation year
my sweetheart lost in the war
I gave of my love
to his brave comrades’ children
beneath a Union Jack

Paul Beech

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017


From → Poetry

  1. maureen Weldon permalink

    Yes my Paul, we did have fun writing our Somonka, and it was lovely and very interesting hearing it being read on Poetry Round Up, Vintage Radio. Also I should add that I love your Somonka about your past Schoolteacher.

    Your Maureen xx

    • Maureen, my darling – thank you!

      My solo Somonka was a trip down Memory Lane. Oh dear, my first day at the scout hut school! I could only stand petrified in a corner of the playground as the noise of all the raucous boys at their rough-and-tumble play battered my ears. Then Miss T took me gently by the shoulder…

      Our joint Somonka was our first collaboration and it was lovely to find how well our very different styles complement each other.

      Your Paul xxx

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