Silvia Kempen & Gabriele Hartmann, bon-say-Verlag

Companions - Foto-Tanka route

Year of publication: 2021

2021, booklet, 14,8 x 14,8 cm, 32 colored pages, bon-say-verlag, ISBN 978-3-945890-29-5, 6 €


Further information

Text samples, tables of contents, bibliographical information, sources of supply (not all elements available at the same time)

12 photos and 12 tanka by two authors are lined up next to each other. The rules of the chain seal (Link & Shift) were observed. Supplemented by detailed explanations.


Two reviews by Brigitte ten Brink and Rüdiger Jung

Review Brigitte ten Brink

“Companions” is the title of this partner project by Silvia Kempen and Gabriele Hartmann. They are also companions. For many years, SK and GH, so their author abbreviations, have devoted themselves to the Japanese partner poetry and have written Rengay, Doppel-Rengay, Tan-Renga and now this photo-tanka series. The loosely linked fixed points of this route are the photos and the tanka, each twelve in number, written alternately by the two authors and linked by the rules "Link" and "Shift" known in Japanese partner poetry.

The photos are presented on the left-hand side of the booklet, on the right-hand side the Tanka, inspired by the previous photo, followed by a photo by the same author: The starting point of the route is a photo by SK, with a Tanka and a photo of GH follows. SK replies to the tanka and the photo of her predecessor with a tanka and a photo and so on until the route in the last tanka comes to its end point, which creates a link to the starting photo and the first tanka connected to it.

the groove
this record - it too has
beginning and end
what I don't like to think about
in the middle of the song "Eternity"

GH (Tank 1)

Lockdown -
Music next door
through the gap
the new neighbor is training
with a bare torso

SK (Tank 12)
When looking at the photos and reading the Tanka, the reader also becomes a companion. He walks with the authors from photo to tanka to photo to tanka ... and on this path he is attracted again and again and surprised by the visual and linguistic ideas of the authors up to the end point, which can act as a guide back to the starting point for this walk to do it all over again (which I did immediately, for example). This possibility is also indicated in the cover photo “Labyrinth” by Gabriele Hartmann, which is kept in delicate gray tones. If it is the thread of Ariadne in Greek mythology that shows the way, in the book it is the links (links) of the progressively emerging levels (shifts) that open the reader to new perspectives again and again on this route, to other aspects point out until the circle closes at the end.

On the way along this route, the reader encounters wonderfully photographed impressions and impressively formulated texts with a wide range of content. It is written about emotions (the irreverence of being freshly in love), individually experienced (the observation of a boy who lets his father fly a kite), the current real social situation (googling incidence values) to social phenomena (the boom in online dating agencies) .
instead of a weather report
Googling incidence values ​​-
the stairs up
for the next months
our ark

I am sharpening my profile
because every 11 minutes
a single falls in love
on Parship ... and ask me
what about love in return
Each of these concise and expressive tanka can stand on its own. In the connection with the photos and in the connections between the photos and the texts, however, a poetic oeuvre emerges that leaves goose bumps, is an eye-catcher and that still leaves enough leeway for the imagination and interpretation of the reader - worth reading from the first to the last page.

In the appendix, Silvia Kempen and Gabriele Hartmann give an insight into their approach to the arrangement of the photos and the texts, their connection points, as well as an explanation of the change of levels and their topic bases. Interested parties can have an Excel table with a detailed list of the respective links and shifts sent to

Review Ruediger Jung

Time and again, Gabriele Hartmann - and her co-authors - succeed in bringing new and pioneering things to light in the field of short and partner poetry based on the Japanese model. This is also the case with this “Photo Tanka series”, which is accompanied by illuminating and inspiring lines on the construction and composition principle of this type of poetry. The reader is by no means nagged or patronized by this: The present tanka definitely have the strength to stand alone. Whereby they at least tend to enter into a close symbiosis with the immediately neighboring photos in the eye of the beholder. The attraction of joint writing and publishing is that different characters come together:

you are like fire
and I want my fingers
burn you say
- I lose my head and my heart
the otherwise so still water (GH)

In the following tanka, the fourth line fascinates me as the pivotal point: it can be related to the first three lines in the same way as to the last:

the boy's eyes
back and forth
on the leash of the father
sways a colorful kite (SK)

The labyrinth motif, which is very distinctive due to the cover of the "companions", culminates in the following tanka - on the side of an impressive photo:

at every intersection
I made a clear decision
but I turn around
the threads are tangled
that I'm attached to (GH)

Even the life-saving Ariadne thread can turn you into a puppet! The tanka, with which I would like to end my little contemplation, also has a special relationship to the neighboring photo:

in the dark
three days and three nights
until the end
the sun rises again
my name is Arielle (SK)

Apart from the final name of an air spirit in its feminine sound, the tanka is entirely in a biblical field of association: that of the Book of Jonah. The door handle in the photo shows the whale “fish” devouring Jonah. Matthew 12:40 reads the book of Jonah as a drawing for the cross and resurrection of Jesus. A thoroughly Easter motif when “at the end / the sun rises again”!

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