Chen-ou Liu's Translation Project: First English-Chinese Haiku and Tanka Blog

Monday, March 30, 2020

Syrian Child Refugee Tanka

the dervish
of first snowflakes…
a Syrian
child refugee talking
to the foreign sky

Runner-Up, 2019 British Haiku Society Awards

Judge's Commentary: This is a well-crafted tanka that begins with snow falling, identifying who sees it, where and their reaction to it. The use of “dervish” refers to the meditative movements of disciples of Sufism. The snow is moving and so is the child, a Syrian refugee in a new land. One wonders what the child makes of all this.

Note: The tanka could be read as a sequel to my poem below:

A Home Away From Home

where the sky
meets the winter desert ...
refugee tents

Arzu walks out of the tent to meet her friends, waiting in line with hundreds of others for water distribution. A wisp of cloud drifts by. It reminds her of the camp teacher's departing words, "Those puffy, sheep-like clouds you're looking at come from Syria. You will all return home one day, I promise."

Honorable Mention, 2015 United Haiku and Tanka Society Samurai Haibun Contest

Judge's Commentary: Amidst unceasing news of overwhelming number of people fleeing the conflict-torn regions in the Middle East, Chen-ou Liu’s Honorable Mention haibun is both timely and compassionate in his presentation of a young girl’s plight. The poet’s imagery of a ‘wisp of cloud’ is laden with significance. It evokes poignantly the fragility of Arzu’s hope for a safe return to her native land and also works as a ‘beacon’ of light in the otherwise drab and desperate tents-filled camp. What I find particularly powerful is how Chen-ou turns on its head, the largely negative media representations of how refugees threaten the civilizations of the host countries in which they seek asylum. There is quiet dignity in both Arzu and her teacher who holds out the promise of a return to their homeland.