Walking the Fence:
Selected Tanka of Randy Brooks

by Randy Brooks

Randy Brooks. Walking the Fence: The Selected Tanka of Randy Brooks

ISBN 978-1-929820-18-4 • 2019
142 pages paperback • $25.00 US

Brooks Books is pleased to celebrate the publication of Walking the Fence: Selected Tanka of Randy Brooks featuring the best of my published tanka. I started writing tanka under the mentorship of Dr. Sanford Goldstein in 1977 and have continued until the present. I hope my tanka open up your own memories and a few smiles as you join me on my tanka journey, walking the fence.

I am not interested in writing tanka that plod along counting syllables. I don’t seek flashy words to show off my vocabulary. Nor do I craft tricky linguistic gymnastics to show off a mastery of twisted language. I am not interested in turning my tanka into word puzzles. I am also not interested in writing waka, following the refinements of stylized beauty and traditional tropes of the aristocratic traditions. I am not interested in writing tanka based on an algebra of short-long-short-long-long phrases. I am compelled to write tanka out of the Modernist traditions of Takuboku Ishikawa and Akiko Yosano. I want my tanka to be raw and spontaneous expressions of spiritual or psychological journeys written with a playful voice of authentic, caring conversation between contemporary friends.

~ Randy Brooks

Walking the Fence: Selected Tanka of Randy Brooks is an unassuming and intimate archive of family, faith, and desire. The speaker recognizes his fallibility while also confessing his vulnerability. From childhood on the Plains to dean’s meetings on college campus, Brooks’s tanka embody the humor and sensibility of Midwestern poetics.

~ Aubrie Cox Warner

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the country album TRIO (Emmy Lou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt), but one of my favorite songs/refrains on it is “Feels like Home to Me.” After enjoying Walking the Fence for the third time, that particular refrain kept popping in my head whenever I tried pinpointing why this collection resonated with me so much. The tanka feel warm, inviting, humorous, playful, and vulnerable. They make me smile, tear up, and keep drawing me back . . . and feel just like home to me. Such a treasure!

~ Diane Tomczak

Enjoying this tanka collection — quite intimate, the sacred in the everyday. Thank you.

~ Edward Tick, PhD, LMHC

Hi Randy, Just a short note to tell you how much I enjoyed your tanka book, Walking the Fence. The book accompanied me on a very long road trip, 5200 miles, across Canada through Hurricane Dorian and down the coast of Maine through Massachusetts before returning home to Des Moines, IA. So many of your tanka evoked memories of my own life. Thank you for sharing your life in your tanka in such a poignant way.

~ Connie Meester

ISBN 978-1-929820-18-4

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The tanka in Walking the Fence are not arranged chronologically, but rather clustered into seven arenas of human experience. (1) I open with “Coyote Pup,” a collection of tanka from my childhood memories of growing up in Western Kansas. (2) It has been a deeply rewarding pleasure to be a father and grandfather. I have always enjoyed writing about the joys, surprises and challenges of parenting, so these tanka are collected in the second section titled, “Charms for Parents.” (3) Dedicated to my lifelong companion and inspiring wife, Shirley, the third section is called, “Small of Her Back.” This section features tanka that explore love and romance. (4) The fourth section, “Dusty Old Bones,” features tanka about aging and growing older. It happens. (5) As a college professor, I have enjoyed many years as a teacher, scholar and academic leader. “Campus Rituals” is a small selection of tanka on writing and teaching. (6) I’ve included a few of the tanka from my online collection, Black Ant’s Journey to Japan, first published by Jane Reinhold at AHA Books. (7) The concluding section, “Walking the Fence,” gathers tanka from my spiritual journey—a chronicle of dreams, prayers and meditations.

and my dad
walk the ranch fences
mending everything
by spring

three charms
against the dark arts:
sweet thoughts
just a movie

Route 66
one mile, two
how many miles
till I’m back
with you?

the reach
of February light
who asked me
to carry these
bones so long

after the Christmas
cookie party
the deans meet
for the New Year
budget cuts

green tongues
rise up
speak warm words
that cannot be said
by just friends