University of Guam School of Education professor of Foundations, Educational Research and Human Services Dr. Yukiko Inoue-Smith recently received the Certificate of Merit for a poem she submitted to the 8th International Tanka Festival 2016.
The Festival, held in Karuizawa, Japan from June 4 to 6, 2016, brought together nearly 300 people from around the world who appreciate and write tanka, an ancient style of Japanese poetry that requires the writer to develop a five-line lyric poem utilizing as few words as possible. In the Japanese language, the poem should consist of 31 syllables in one line.
Out of 300 total entries submitted, Inoue-Smith’s poem was one of 13 to receive the Certificate of Merit—the event’s highest award.
“Writing poetry is my religion,” Inoue-Smith said. “It’s a way of life.”
Aya Yuhki, one of the panel judges for the competition, commented that Inoue-Smith’s poem “excellently expressed her feeling” [of loneliness] arising in a moment of change and over the course of many years, skillfully using the tanka form to record both “an instant inspiration” and “emotion spanning…half one’s life.”
Inoue-Smith has published nine poetry books, the latest titled “The Shape of Love,” which expresses her innermost thoughts and feelings about her life.
Inoue-Smith started writing poetry during her undergraduate studies and has developed her tanka writing skills over the years—exploring topics of struggle and loneliness to document her life’s journey of learning to adapt in a new country.
“For a part of my life, I struggled, but I was constantly making efforts to improve,” she said. “Improvement is the key to surviving.”
Inoue-Smith said she enjoys the tanka because it forces the author to be meticulous in word choice and succinct, which creates a greater impact for the reader.
“It’s short and to the point,” she said. “It takes time, but I enjoy the challenge.”
Read the poem below.
Rain brings the color
Of pearls to foreign skies—
I have lived hard here
As food for the spirit