Friday, September 20, 2013

The Music Room (tanka prose)

It was her punishment for chatting after "lights out." Marched out of the bedroom by Mrs. M., one of the watchful house staff members responsible for the boarding students' care, she knew full well where she'd be taken. There, she'd spend time alone, in pitch blackness, to contemplate her transgression. 

how she'd hide 
from Bach and Mozart—
their busts 
on the piano
their ghosts in the dark 

~ Girls school, Surrey, England

Atlas Poetica, No. 14, Spring 2013 

Note: For those who missed my other school-related tanka prose, posted earlier, here's a link: Ad Vitam Paramus.


  1. I enjoyed this tanka prose form. The prose lays down the old draconian punishment for non-compliance to the school rule, with Mrs. M.’s expectation that there would be contemplation of the transgression. It is followed by the tanka that moves from the response Mrs. M. had intended to a more personal response (and one which the reader more readily identifies with): hiding from the ghosts of Bach and Mozart. The prose has a dark, unsympathetic authoritarian harshness to it. The tanka which follows is very childlike, in comparison, and really highlights the ineffectuality of using punishment as a means to elicit a specific response. Very thoughtfully put together.

    1. Wow, Wendy, what a thorough, helpful account. I'd gotten a bit of feedback earlier on the poem portion but not the whole thing - and I wondered about it. I actually wrote this based on posts in a closed Facebook group for alumni of the school. This WASN'T the first time that particular girl went to the Music Room, so apparently she never learned her "lesson." But she WAS afraid of that room.

  2. Yes, as Wendy expressed it so well, a very effective juxtaposition of two different points of view. What stupid things "grown-ups" do to children--how sad & self-defeating to make a child fear Bach & Mozart! This piece does go very well with your Ad Vitam Paramus--you could write a collection of pieces about that school, or childhood more generally . . .

  3. Thanks, Jenny. I'm glad the jux works; I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make the two parts - prose and poem - different enough. The prose actually was twice as long originally, with some of my favorite details in the part I ended up removing (err, that I removed AFTER I'd submitted it - bad!). But I decided those details weren't helping.

    Well, I don't know about that collection! But you never know ... For a long time, I've been wanting to write a tanka about our school seances, but I can't seem to.

  4. Just goes to show that some punishments don't bring out the expected effect.


  5. that's true, adelaide. thanks for stopping by.

  6. Yikes...the music room sounds like a horror now. Excellent tanka as always Janet.

  7. Love this, Janet . . . In public school, it was the "cloakroom" I visited. Hmm . . . Maybe we could collaborate on school day horror stories!

  8. Thanks, Maggie, and glad you could stop by. It was in the "cloakroom" where we did seances at lunchtime until someone caught on to such escapades. Maybe we should collab on our cloakroom experiences in particular. ;) (Except, for some reason, I've been unable to produce a tanka I like on that subject.)