Mythic Tanka: Call for Submissions

Submit to: Send submissions to with the subject line: “Submission – “Myths and the Creative Imagination.” Complete information below.

IN CONTEMPORARY TIMES A MYTH IS PERCEIVED AS A FALSEHOOD, SELF-DELUDING, SOMETHING THAT IS NOT TRUE. However, myths have been a part of human civilization from the earliest times.

The Scottish anthropologist James Frazer saw myths as pre-scientific attempts to explain the natural world.

Mircea Eliade, a historian of religion and myths, took a wider perspective. He defined myths as stories of origins, of how the world and everything in it came to be. Therefore, myths are basic tools humans use to make sense of our world and who we are.

Joseph Campbell extended this creative aspect of myths, when he said that the first function of a myth is to reconcile waking consciousness to ‘the mysterium tremendum et fascinans of this universe’. In other words, myths point people to the metaphysical dimension of their existence – the origins and nature of the cosmos.

The psychoanalytical interpretation of myths as expressions of the human psyche in the works of Freud and Jung was one the most influential theories of the 20th century.

Freud focused on the ritual significance of myths. In his study, Totem and Taboo (1912-13) he compared taboo beliefs to neurosis and concluded that individual neurosis and social taboos have psychological roots.

Jung’s interpretation of myths has particular significance for the creative imagination. According to him an individual is on a quest for self-realization. He called this the ‘individuation process’. Myths provide the blueprint for this quest. Myths emerge from the unconscious and contain archaic truths about existence and are our fundamental source of inspiration.

Jung argued myths contain messages to the individuals, not the group, no matter how many people are involved in retelling and listening to them. ‘Myths are first and foremost psychic phenomena that reveal the nature of the soul.’

The power of myths to open up the world of imagination (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) is undeniable. However, the fate of myths has not been a happy one. Ironically, the critique of myths began in Greece, where myths inspired epic poetry, tragedy, comedy and visual arts. The Greeks subjected myths to a long and penetrating analysis as a result of which myths were radically demystified. This was influenced by the rise of schools of thoughts like Ionian Rationalism and the Materialists. Democritus criticized the gods in the works of Homer and Hesiod as being “capricious, unjust, immoral, jealous and vindictive”.

Christianity continued this demystification to undermine paganism. However by destroying myths as pagan falsehood, Christianity damaged the belief in the interaction between the cosmic and the natural world.

The steady disjunction between myths and the individual took a particular turn in modern times as disenchantment. It forced poets and writers to create their own private imaginative worlds and present it to a frequently uncomprehending public.

Rilke was one such disenchanted poet who resurrected the myth of Orpheus in his 55 Sonnets to Orpheus (1922).

WB Yeats similarly turned to the ancient Celtic myths for inspiration. TS Eliot drew on James Frazer’s study of comparative religions and myths, for his Waste Land.

How important are the religious/sacred aspects of myths to your own inspiration?
Do you think that these are relevant in our times for poets and writers?
Do you draw on any mythic traditions to write?

Myths and the Creative Imagination will be published as a Special Feature on the Atlas Poetica website at: The general guidelines for Atlas Poetica apply. Myths and the Creative Imagination will publish spring, 2015.

Please submit up to five of your tanka about myths that have a special resonance for you. Only one tanka per individual poet will be selected, so please send us your best poems. The poems must be original, previously unpublished and not under consideration by any other journal. Poems posted in social media fora like twitter, facebook or personal blogs will be considered.

Send submissions to with the subject line: “Submission – “Myths and the Creative Imagination.” Please send your tanka in the body of the email and include a brief (not more than 5-lines) bio-note about your writing. Do not send attachments, which will be deleted.

Submission deadline: 1 December —28th February 2015.

Acceptance or non-acceptance of submissions will be notified as soon as possible after the deadline.

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