LIST of REPORTS
Report #2 not available
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop No. 21 - by Colleen Keating
Congratulations. The Bowerbird Tanka group, which convenes at Pearl Beach, has come of age. This is the 21st Tanka workshop. Thank you to Beverley for her constancy and dedication. I am a fairly newcomer but am amazed at her focus in the midst of so many other activities. The tanka date on our calendar is very special. And thanks to the delegates some of whom traveled from as from Tamworth, Canberra, Newcastle and Bathurst to share in the love of tanka.
Of course the drive to Pearl Beach is a journey in itself. One can notice the burdens being left behind as you drive down into its calm repose, cradled between forest and sea. When I arrived, there was already a buzz of friends meeting at Crommelin Cottage in the sanctuary of the Pearl Beach Arboretum. The tankaists so gathered were Beverley George, Michael Thorley, Carole Harrison, Beatrice Yell, Catherine Smith, Julie Thorndyke, Kent Robinson, Anne Benjamin, Dy Andreasen and Colleen Keating. Unable to attend – Marilyn Humbert, Hazel Hall, Kathy Kituai, Gail Hennessy, Samantha Hyde, Carmel Summers, Margaret Grace and Yvonne Hales .
Despite the pall of smoke that covered most of NSW, the Arboretum continued to have its own ambience with a brush turkey that scratched through the leaf litter for its insects and bugs, mostly nearby the cottage as if it was eavesdropping on us.
The first session on the programme – Share a favourite tanka written by someone you have never met but which had an influence on how you came to tanka. The presenters were Julie Thorndyke on a most appropriate tanka for the fire haze and acrid air we have been breathing, written by Debbie Strange, Canada.
Carole Harrison appraised a tanka by Sandi Pray [USA]
Kent Robinson appraised a tanka by Claire Everett. [UK]
Taking the time to focus on a tanka and listen to the insights of one who has pondered on it for some time is a valuable and enriching exercise.
These sharings are available on the Eucalypt website under Bowerbird.
In the second session everyone then had the opportunity to share ‘a tanka which lingers.’
For this, each of us stands and shares a tanka without comment. The silence between each, is like the silence between breaths. A moment of time to let the tanka resonate and become part of you. For me the power is like the collected wisdom of a group doubled, as we read and reflect on what another has reflected on and written.
The next hour we were really spoilt with the presence of Tomoko Oka, a Japanese Calligraphy Artist. Tomoko-san gave us a very gentle introduction to Calligraphy which was a practical exercise in brushing several kanji. It was an honour for all of us to be in her presence. We all entered into the spirit of the exercise, which was centering and some of us found ourselves in a meditative state. This is one of the many arts that is done as only the Japanese know how.
To finish off our morning, a local artist and musician Philip Rich played his guitar and sang a song he wrote and composed himself. It was inspired by an acknowledgement to country he once heard. The refrain was ‘If you’re a friend of mother earth you tread softly on this land’. During our lunch it was time to share with each other and be serenaded by Phillip singing for us some of the work of Nobel winning poet, Bob Dylan and our own Casey Chambers.
his long fingers
weave sounds to soothe
our burned land
this silver-haired minstrel
singing love songs to the earth
A highlight for all of us was the afternoon workshop given by Michael Thorley.
The title of his workshop was ‘shasei – Where Tankaists Fear to Tread? Let’s Go There’.
And go there we did, lead by Michael’s skillful presentation. For some of us, ‘shasei’ was a new term, a new concept and a very interesting style of writing Tanka. It originated with Masaoka Shiki whose home some of us have had the honour of visiting in Matsuyama City on Shikoku Island, Japan.
It is a style of writing tanka where you emphasis 'a sketch from life’ – writing of what one observes however mundane, so that the reader also experiences the scene and understands what has moved them. We had the sanctuary of the Arboretum to walk around and find our moment to try out writing our idea of shasei. We gathered again and shared our thoughts and words.
The day ended with several reports from other tanka groups and our plan to regather in the Autumn of 2020.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop No. 20 – by Michael Thorley
This is the 20th Bowerbird Tanka Workshop.Our thanks are due to Beverley for her drive, persistence, hard work and inspiration over the last ten years, and to all the participants for their presentations, insights, companionship (and travel) in the pursuit of tanka excellence.
On a cool damp morning, after overnight rain, Beverley George welcomed us again to Crommelin Cottage in the Arcadian setting of the Pearl Beach Arboretum. A young kookaburra and a glossy raven joined us for lunch. Mischievous trees showered the iron roof with nuts and berries from time to time in a vain bid for attention.
Tankaists present were: Beverley George (convenor), Anne Benjamin, Kathy Kituai, Catherine Smith, Julie Thorndyke, Hazel Hall, Margaret Grace, Beatrice Yell, Kent Robinson, Colleen Keating, Gail Hennessy, Carole Harrison and Michael Thorley. Apologies from Carmel Summers, Marilyn Humbert and Yvonne Hales.
The day followed the sequence that has proved so successful in previous Bowerbird workshops, beginning with three poets sharing a favourite tanka, with an explanation of why that tanka appeals to them. This session always provides insights into the reader, the tanka, and tanka in general. It also gives richness to our understanding of dreaming room. The readers today were Catherine Smith on a tanka by Claire Everett, Colleen Keating on a tanka by Kirsty Karkow and Beverley George on a tanka by Dorothy McLaughlin. These appreciations will be available on the Eucalypt website under Bowerbird.
Everyone joined in the second session, where a favourite tanka is read, twice, with no background, response or comment. The tanka stands on its own merits entirely.
Anne Benjamin presented the first workshop entitled Being Present in the Past which opened the vast possibilities in writing tanka about events in history. Anne suggested that doing so is a two-way activity: that we can derive inspiration from history for our tanka, but also provide inspirations into history for others. Anne displayed a range of historical material around the room for our inspiration, as well as tanka written by others for us to use as stimulants. She also gave us a detailed and interesting handout to take away. The activities and discussion were involving and challenging.
At this point we congratulated Hazel Hall on her new book of tanka, tanka prose, sequences and rengay Moonrise over the Siding. Hazel and Kathy read one of the rengay they had composed together, as did Hazel and Beverley. Beverley George read a section from Carmel Summers launch speech and preface to Hazels book.
A relaxed lunch outside followed in the sunlight of the afternoon, with the kookaburra and raven as guests. In the worst tradition our modern culture, there was a momentary culinary dispute between these two, but peace quickly returned and Our Tanka Ruled.
Kathy Kituai presented the afternoon session Say That Again on deriving inspiration from the tanka of others. She worked us through a number of intriguing exercises where we responded to initial and ending lines of others tanka. The results of this exercise were often surprising. Kathy emphasised that this is not plagiarism, that our tanka need to be our own, but we can build on the work of others in an original way. Kathy also shared some of the secrets of her own excellent skill with tanka: sit with the tanka and give it time to reveal itself, and always ask yourself what is the essence of the tanka, what is it centrally saying.
The final session, reports from other tanka groups, showed a continuing flowering of interest in this small form and a stimulating variety of activities in the groups. We heard news from Moonrise, Tanka Huddle, Bottlebrush, and Limestone. Contact details for these groups are available on the Eucalypt website under Bowerbird.
After a brief discussion with those present Beverley decided that for the immediate future the Arboretum will be the setting for Bowerbird meetings.
The meeting concluded at 3:30pm.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #19 2018 by Kent Robinson
On Saturday the 27th of October 2018, Beverley George welcomed twelve avid lovers of tanka to Crommelin Cottage, Pearl Beach Arboretum.
Crommelin Cottage nestles among statuesque stands of eucalypt and the many botanic species that comprise the arboretum. This was our first meeting at this idyllic venue.
Present were; Carmel Summers, Hazel Hall, Michael Thorley, Marilyn Humbert, Margaret Grace, Beatrice Yell, Catherine Smith, Yvonne Hales, Anne Benjamin, Kathy Kituai, Colleen Keating, Kent Robinson and Beverley George.
Appraisal of a Favourite Tanka
Two poets opened the days proceedings with a tanka each had chosen by someone they had not met, a tanka they had read and admired.
Yvonne Hales appraised:
in a place with
no network coverage
the misty light,
the sound of water
Beatrice Yell appraised:
Im going out to count
if you wait up for me
I might bring back a few
And Michael Thorley read a series of tanka, gleaned and cleverly linked, pertaining to trees, from Eucalypt a Tanka Journal issue 1, 2006
Sharing Poems which Linger
Next on the agenda was a session in which every delegate was invited to stand and read a tanka that especially appealed to them
Each person read or recited the tanka, stated the poets name, read the tanka again, then resumed his or her seat.
The aim was to share the resonance of tanka. To arrive at this goal no commentary or analysis was necessary.
Tanka a Short Song
The main morning workshop was presented by Hazel Hall.
Hazell is a Canberra poet and musicologist.
In Hazels presentation, we listened to two pieces of music;
Spring Sea by Michio Miyagy
Death of an Angel by Astor Piazzolla.
These pieces inspired us in our writing in this exercise and the group produced some fine tanka and images as a result. It was an indeed, rewarding session.
Lunch was an informal affair in the shade of the verandah of the cottage.
The bushland all about was vibrant in the spring air. We were visited by brush turkeys, a family of magpies and in the canopy of the trees above, there rang a cacophony delivered by the resident kookaburras.
Tanka as Medication
The afternoon workshop was presented by Carmel Summers.
Carmel is a Canberra poet who wishes she had more time to write.
Participants were asked to bring along a tanka that in some way stirred their feelings, a tanka that to which they reacted emotionally.
Carmels presentation was interactive. After the presentation, Bowerbird delegates were left with a heightened awareness of the way ones sense of well-being, might be lifted through writing or reading generally and specifically in regards to that of the short form. This was a most revealing and enjoyable presentation.
The presentations by Hazel and Carmel and the appraisals by Yvonne, Beatrice and Michael, in our new surroundings, just made the day. All appreciated how much thought and planning had gone into the body of work that was shared.
News from Tanka Groups
It was now time for the leaders/conveners of various tanka groups to update Bowerbird with each groups latest news.
Kathy Kituai and Marilyn Humbert were on hand to read their own reports from Limestone and Bottlebrush. Anne Benjamin presented a brief report for Julie Thorndykes Tanka Huddle
Some delegates travelled great distances to convene at Crommelin Cottage, Pearl Beach Arboretum and the general consensus was, although missing Wirraminna, all were delighted with the new surroundings.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #18 March 17th 2018 -- by Gail Hennessy
On 17th March 2018, fifteen poetry lovers were welcomed by Beverley George to her home in beautiful Pearl Beach. This was the first Bowerbird meeting of the year and the eighteenth in the series. Many delegates travel long distances, to be present at these meetings, to appreciate and be inspired on their tanka journey.
The morning opened with presentations from three members: Jo Tregellis, followed by Hazel Hall and M.L.Grace. Each had chosen a tanka by someone they had not met but whose tanka they had read and admired. Each shared their response to the poem and focused on the aspects that appealed to them whether it was language, construction or as Michael Thorley was to remind us later in his afternoon session, 'its ring of truth',(Beverley George) or its 'dreaming room'. (David Terelinck quoting Garrison and McClintock). All three excellent appraisals may be read on this website.
(At this point Beverley and David's resident magpies carolled from the outside deck adding music to our appreciation of words.)
The appraisals were followed by a "grounding" feature of the meetings. Each poet reads slowly and carefully a tanka they have chosen and then repeats it. The recitations help immerse us in the tanka world and we may often feel that ah ha moment of recognition, when someone reads one of our favourites. Unsurprisingly two of Michael McClintock's featured in this session as well as another of his later in the day.
Unfortunately Carmel Summers was unable to present the main morning segment but we look forward to hearing her paper at the next meeting. While we missed Carmel, Beverley George and Julie Thorndyke, past and present editors of Eucalypt, gave us stimulus for active tanka writing with a workshop titled: The enrichment Japanese genres bring to the writing life. The session opened with a discussion of Judith Wright's poem 'Brevity', with its praise of haiku, and of the Japanese masters; Issa, Shiki, Buson and Basho. We looked at haiku and tanka and discussed their over-lapping similarities and differences, noting not only the importance of the chosen word but also the spaces between the silences. 'Being in the moment' applied to both and the importance of capturing essence in succinct words.
We then formed small groups and were given the task of streamlining two verbose tanka (not written by any of us we hoped!). A lively discussion followed with very individualistic responses. I found it interesting that most of those who are editors (and there were five present that I knew of)) expressed a special care for the writer's words, which I, as a submitter, found reassuring. A feature of this session was to write our reworked tanka on large sheets of paper stuck to the walls allowing us to read aloud and compare our work.
Anne Benjamin treated us to a brief description of her attendance in January at "The Hindu Literary Festival, Lit for Life" in Chennai, India, a free three day literary festival, sponsored by a large national newspaper. She was struck by the number and enthusiasm of young performing poets practising Nazm and Ghazal poetry and their interest in social, political and ecological issues.
With a dramatic flourish Beverley presented us with a hatstand draped with a variety of hats food for thought as we ate lunch together in Wirraminna's beautiful lagoon-side garden. Hats prompted memories of garden hats, travelling hats, one worn on the Camino trail, a child's hat stored away on the top of a shelf, to musings on hats as being indicative of character: "Hats maketh the Man". We were left with possible tanka 'to be written…'
Following lunch the final session was given by Michael Thorley who took us through a focused checklist to apply to our tanka before submitting for publication. Detailed criteria under the general headings: Feeling, Form & Rhythm, Taste and Sound. Drama and Effect guided us through a comprehensive number of criteria to enhance our finished poems including vital questions to ask ourselves, such as "Does it express what you are trying to express? Does each line play its part?" There was discussion on length of lines, placement on the page, whether or not there should be a pivot line, number of syllables, freedom to include an extra space between lines and the importance of the last line. There are rules but as in Art, they are often there to be broken.
On the reverse side of the list Michael printed examples of tanka, both ancient and contemporary, to illustrate his salient points. Here we met many Eucalypt poets, Lisa M Tesoriero, Barbara Curnow, Barbara Fisher, Beatrice Yell, Catherine Smith, Carmel Summers and Nola Borrell. Also one by Beverley George who did not include her own work in Eucalypt, while she was editor.
Carmel Summers was present in her powerful:
heart-deep in water
past the gentle lap of water
into breaking surf
the breathlessness, the fear
of loving one more time
Eucalypt 20 2016 p. 3, edited by Beverley George
I feel Michael Thorley's checklist will prove invaluable for focusing us on that final countdown as we polish our tanka.
The meeting finished with reports from the leaders of tanka groups around the southern States. Julie Thorndyke (Tanka Huddle), Marilyn Humbert (Bottlebrush), Kathy Kituai, (Limestone Group), Dawn Bruce (Moonrise Tanka Group), Lynette Arden (Bindii Group) with each group reporting dynamic meetings and connections.
Thank you all for a very richly satisfying day
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #17 November 25th 2017 -- by Beverley George
It was a delight to welcome 14 Bowerbird members to "Wirraminna," our home in Pearl Beach, on Saturday 25th 2017. Present were Dy Andreasen, Carolyn Eldridge-Alfonzetti, Beverley George, Margaret (ML) Grace, Gail Hennessy, Marilyn Humbert, Julianne Jameson, Karen Lieversz, Kent Robinson, Catherine Smith, Michael Thorley, Julie Thorndyke, Jo Tregellis and Beatrice Yell
After a brief welcome and the chance to enjoy a cuppa following the long drives involved in getting here, our workshop opened with appraisals of favourite tanka written by someone whom the presenter had never met. Gail Hennessy chose a poem by Lorraine Haig; Kent Robinson one by Helga Stania and Michael Thorley one by Alexis Rotella. These thoughtful appraisals are each available here:
A regular segment of Bowerbird programme is 'Sharing Poems which Linger'. In this session every delegate is invited to stand in turn and read, or recite, a tanka that has meaning for them. There is no commentary, either by the person reading the poem or by those listening to it. The aim is to immerse ourselves, without analysis, in sharing resonant tanka read in the diverse voices of our friends and fellow writers. Around the room, we simply read a tanka followed by the poet's name; read the tanka for a second time: and sit down.
The main morning workshop was presented by Marilyn Humbert with the subject: Travel Tanka - Spirit of place. Weaving spirit of place into our travel tanka and some tools to consider when writing them. Participants were invited to bring a photo or brochure of a favourite place they have visited, either within Australia or overseas.
Marilyn Humbert's tanka and haiku appear in international and Australian journals, anthologies and online. Marilyn is the leader of Bottlebrush Tanka Group and a member of Tanka Huddle and of Bowerbird. She also writes free verse and is a member of Youngstreet Poets and of Willoughby Poets which forms part of North Shore Poetry Project.
Marilyn's presentation was carefully prepared and interactive, giving Bowerbird delegates plenty of ideas to take away and further develop. It was also inspiring to see the disciplined way in which Marilyn uses three notebooks for writing; gathering information and facts, and for jotting ideas when she travels frequently in rural and outback Australia.
During an enjoyable lunch- break on our back deck which overlooks a large freshwater lagoon there was time for fun and laughter and informal exchanges of ideas. We were joined by Pim Sarti, the talented illustrator of Eucalypt, who was warmly welcomed by all.
After lunch the second main presentation of the day began. The presenter was Julie Thorndyke, the current editor of Eucalypt and her topic was Fuel for the fire: harnessing emotion in your tanka.
Julie Thorndyke has written two collections of tanka poetry, Rick Rack and Carving Granite. A graduate of the Master of Creative Writing program at the University of Sydney, her stories and poems have appeared in literary journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas. Details of her writing achievements may be read on her website
During her presentation Julie discussed the notion that 'emotions provide authenticity in poetry, and offer a range of writing exercises to enhance and develop your tanka writing repertoire.' Her presentation was stimulating and invited shared small group, plus individual, participation. A generously-sized handout provided plenty of scope for delegates to jot their own ideas. It explored ideas of the role of poetry in our lives in the words of several outstanding, mainstream poets and also encouraged delegates to assess for themselves why certain tanka have far stronger emotional appeal than others.
The presentations by Marilyn and Julie and the appraisals by Kent, Gail and Michael each contributed to another wonderful Bowerbird day. At one point I looked around the room at those Bowerbirders present, all speaking quietly, listening attentively to each other and I felt a surge of gratitude for the added dimension to my life that the sharing of Japanese poetic genres has granted.
News from Tanka Groups
Next it was time for news from various tanka groups, contributed by their leaders/convenors. It is always interesting to learn what is going on in each and thank you to each leader for sharing and keeping us informed.
Julie Thorndyke and Marilyn Humbert were on hand to read their own reports from Tanka Huddle and Bottlebrush respectively and Catherine Smith who is a member of the Moonrise Group read a report sent by the leader of Moonrise and Ozku, Dawn Bruce.
We also greatly appreciated receiving reports to read aloud and share from Kathy Kituai, convener of Limestone group in Canberra and from Lynette Arden, leader of Bindii Group, Adelaide
Thank you everyone. I look forward to us sharing tanka once again at Bowerbird next March.
Convenor: Bowerbird Tanka Group
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #16 - 11th March 2017 - by Carmel Summers
On 11th March 2017, 15 tanka poets gathered at the lovely home of Beverley and David George at Pearl Beach to participate in the 16th Bowerbird Tanka Workshop. Poets travelled from far afield, with one attendee from USA, several from Canberra, others from Tamworth, Lake Macquarie and Sydney.
The day opened with three attendees reviewing a favourite tanka by a poet they had never met. We were moved and delighted by the tanka chosen by the three presenters: Carol Judkins, Catherine Smith and Dy Andreason. The presenters sensitively read the tanka and shared their insights into why each worked so effectively. The tanka were:
with no roots
on my birthday
I miss that phone call
from Mom and Dad
Ken Slaughter USA / Ripples in the Sand
north by northeast
a splinter of geese flies
far from this heat
I too ponder
how I'll leave this earth
Tanka extracted from a haibun by Margaret Dornaus, in her new collection, Prayer for the Dead.
catching and releasing
clouds passing by
all day long
learning from a mountain
how to let go
John Quinnett, Eucalypt 11, 2011.
All participants then read a tanka, twice, acknowledging the author. This is a time when we become immersed in the world of tanka. No commentary takes place. We all stay in the moment of each tanka.
Carol Judkins then presented each of us with a postcard containing some of her selected tanka, with my favourite:
as if you might know
who I am
in aubergine ink
Thank you Carol.
Beverley George and David Terelinck presented a workshop on writing tanka to a prompt provided through the senses. Each participant received a bag, prepared with a number of items. These included a lego block, a feather, a length of wool, a tea bag, a shell, lavender, gum nuts, a clove of garlic and a piece of celery. We were able to smell and feel the items, but not look at them to identify what they were. The piece of celery was a challenge to most.
We each found a creative space in which to write tanka based on our reaction to the objects we could feel in the bags. After writing, we shared some of the resulting tanka. The variety of responses and quality of the raw tanka was impressive. We all have quite a few tanka and interesting ideas to work on.
This was followed by reports from each of the tanka groups.
Moonrise Led by Dawn Bruce
Moonrise has had one meeting so far this year. Here we read examples of ancient tanka from "A Girl with Tangled Hair", translators: Jane Reichhold and Machiko Kobayashi. We wrote to a picture of a squirrel gathering nuts. We looked at a new publication, "The Way of Tanka" by Naomi Beth Waken. Moonrisers brought tanka about the news, food and colour for workshopping. We studied a paper by Patricia Prime about metaphor in tanka.
Bottlebrush Led by Marilyn Humbert
Bottlebrush members continue to meet each month where we share and review our set homework under the gentle, firm and informed leadership of Marilyn Humbert. Tanka prose continues to be a special interest for the group. We share publication success stories, reminders of submission deadlines and most importantly, enjoy each other's friendship and support.
Tanka Huddle Led by Julie Thorndyke
Tanka Huddle meets to critique poems on the first Saturday afternoon of the month at Pennant Hills, after the Eastwood Hills meeting of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. We meet to review poems written either on a designated writing prompt, or just any tanka on which the poet would like to gain feedback. This year, so far, our prompts have been "school days" and "polished to perfection". The Christmas chapbook we produced in 2016 has been greeted with many positive comments from people both in and out of the tanka world.
Limestone Tanka Poets Led by Kathy Kituai
Limestone Poets are planning for their annual writing retreat at Blackburn Homested. Limestone Poets meets on the 4th Sunday of the month at the Friends' House at Turner. At the February meeting, members read their tanka from A Temple Bell Sounds.
Bindii Led by Lynette Arden
Bindii members were approached by Curator, Anne Griffiths and willingly participated in the activities of the Adelaide Fringe, "Words" seeing, feeling, listening exhibition and event. As part of the activities, a Haiku Day was held at Lobethal Woollen Mill in conjunction with the art exhibition, "I", held in that space. Anne provided very positive feedback on the contribution of the Bindii poets to the event.
In April, Bindii will hold a ginko in Adelaide Botanic Gardens, led by Lee Bentley. Our ginko traditionally do not confine themselves to composition of haiku as members write in several other Japanese genre, such as tanka. The ginko will be followed by an email workshop run by Lynette Arden, for those who have attended the ginko and wish to participate.
After lunch David Terelinck presented a workshop, "A Thousand, plus 5". We have all heard the saying 'a picture paints a thousand words'. This workshop let us explore what happens when we add five lines of poetry to a picture. In groups, we discussed our responses to: a picture on its own, a tanka on its own, a picture and tanka combined (tankart).
By combining the picture and the poem, we go to a place that we are not taken to by either component on its own. We learned that a picture shouldn't just illustrate the tanka or vice versa, but must add another dimension.
We then spent some time with our cameras in search of pictures to take home and write to.
The gifted and generous David Terelinck provided us with excellent handouts in a binder for future reference, as well as other examples in an extraordinary slideshow of tankart examples for our inspiration, and a copy of the handouts on a flash drive.
Thank you once again, to all the presenters for an excellent workshop, to all the participants for your friendship in poetry, and to Beverley George, not only for opening her house to welcome us, but for her encouragement of tanka poetry in Australia.
The Bowerbird tanka workshop is a much-loved event held twice yearly at Pearl Beach. Bowerbird # 15, held at the home of Beverley George on Saturday 19 November, was no exception. Sixteen participants, coming together from as far afield as Sydney, Canberra, Bathurst, Tamworth, Jamberoo, and the Gold Coast, enjoyed a full-day workshop outdoors, with views of the lagoon and to the pleasing chorus of waterfowl and other birds.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #15 - 19th November 2016 - by David Terelinck
As always, the day opened with a wonderful session of a favourite tanka written by someone the presenter has never met. These insightful critiques and discourses immediately move the participants into a creative right-brain mode of thinking and appreciating tanka. Detailed critiques were given by Kent Robinson, Carole Harrison and Samantha Hyde. The poems these presenters chose to share and comment on were:
have a special routine
of their own:
he juggles them in his left hand,
peanut-tosses them one by one
. . . will my end too
leave a night pool
that holds the moon
[Linda Jeannette Ward]
on an old oak
now faded -
he recalls a slight
from thirty years ago
[Sondra J Byrnes]
The intelligent and sensitive analyses delivered showed new ways to interpret and appreciate these tanka gems.
Following this was the treasured sessions of sharing poems which linger. All sixteen attendees read a tanka they had chosen that had meaning for them. No discussion or commentary, just a deepening of the mood and an appreciation for the beauty of these small songs left hanging in the air.
Beverley George and Dawn Bruce then gave a brief insight into non-tanka venues and where to put work out there that is not in the traditional journals for Japanese poetic genres. They highlighted ways to inject quality tanka into a wider audience who may not be familiar with this work. This includes mainstream poetry journals, anthologies, poetry competitions, and the like. Many examples were given by those present in respect of publication and performance of tanka outside the genre itself.
This was followed by a fun session where delegates had to poem a photograph. In Beverley's pre-workshop notes, everyone was offered 6 different photographs. They were asked to pen a tanka beforehand to two of the images. The idea was to create a new medium of expression . . . to extend both poem and image and not necessarily replicate the photo in the poem. There was a great diversity of tanka created from this jumping-off point. Some poets used the photo to create something of a literal translation with a slight move to left or right of the image. Others used the photo as only as the vaguest inspiration and went off on interesting tangents that ended up miles away from the image on the paper. It was quite fascinating to hear the insights of how the photos inspired some, and how their imagination and creative process unfolded for them.
Lunch was a wonderful hour of networking, sharing and laughter. When poets come from such far reaches of the east coast it is often the only chance they get to see each other a few times a year. There is much camaraderie and a sharing of poetry and the spirit of like-minded souls.
The main workshop session commenced after lunch and saw Hazel Hall give a workshop titled "Silence, Sound and the Short Song: An Exploration of Tanka and Music". Hazel presented a highly stimulating workshop that was practical and very hands on. We commenced by sitting without talking, and explored what silence was and what we felt it meant to each of us. Some interesting dialogue and definitions arose, and each of these with intrinsic value. We explored and shared what we heard in silence and the notion that silence may never really be silent. Silence can often be viewed as the space in which we allow other sounds and music to come through to us.
Hazel, being a qualified musicologist and ex-lecturer in Asian Music, led us through an exercise of making sound with different percussion instruments she had brought along. We were encouraged to embrace the sounds we made, to examine them in detail, and review them as sound and music. We critically reviewed how these sounds made us feel, and looked at pulse, rhythm and tone. We took phrases we had written from this experience and worked them into poetry that was then performed with the percussion instrument. A fascinating exposure to the symbiotic relationship between music and tanka.
A comprehensive handout was prepared by Hazel and everyone got to take this food for thought home for a deeper analysis in our own time. There were also many useful exercises for home, and some invaluable web links to explore to extend our knowledge of the music of tanka.
Bowerbird #15 wrapped up with news and reports from the facilitators of the several groups that lucky east-coast Australian tanka poets have access to. Everyone went home at the end of the day richer for having shared in an invigorating day of quality tanka, enriching information, interesting workshop sessions, and the support and encouragement of passionate poets. A report from the South Australian group Bindii, led by Lynette Arden has also been circulated.
Our deepest thanks go out to Beverley George for opening her heart and home to the Bowerbird poets on an ongoing basis. Indeed, the entire Australian tanka scene is fortunate to have her as an advocate of quality and passion in regards to tanka. Without her, there would be no Bowerbird workshops that brings such joy with each gathering.
Beverley George warmly welcomed 14 Bowerbirders who had come from far and wide into her home once again. The heat of the day dissipated quickly in the cool room and delegates settled down, eagerly looking forward to another stimulating and satisfying day. They were not disappointed.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #14 - 12 March 2016 - by Catherine Smith
Marilyn Humbert, Kathy Kituai and Crys Smith each presented a favourite tanka written by someone they have never met. It was apparent that each poet had given much thought to their presentations and in doing so, able to convey thought provoking and fresh ideas to the meeting. Their presentations can be read on the Eucalypt Web-site and found under Bowerbird.
The next regular segment, sharing poems which linger, settled the delegates deeper into a tanka atmosphere. Each person was invited to twice read a poem that has meaning for them followed by the poet's name. There is no commentary by anyone during this time.
There were 3 presenters of News and Views. The first of these being Margaret Grace who showcased a perpetual calendar titled Those Special Days. This beautiful calendar is the work of Beverley George and David Terelinck. In Margaret's words, 'it is a work of quietude, wisdom and beauty. A perpetual Calendar to record meaningful events, deaths, marriages, births, family achievements etc. What a gift to hand to a grown child, niece or nephew where information they may not know is recorded and they can continue adding to it.' The calendar features sensitive photography and tanka by Beverley and David and there are still some available.
David Terelinck then told the meeting about a wonderful achievement for Beverley George who has had three of her tanka included as part of a music collaboration on an Australian jazz CD. The tanka are from her collection empty garden, recited and accompanied by music on the CD Travellers by Keller, Murphy & Browne. In David's words, 'the combination of Beverley's tanka with a strong reading voice and musical arrangement takes the listener to a deeper dimension than either art form alone.'
Finally in News and Views, Beverley George talked about her last trip to Japan where she led a group of travellers who visited spectacular places and tried new experiences. She also gave news of Eucalypt 19 review and a Windfall update.
Workshop #1 was presented by Julie Thorndyke and titled The end of the line: word arrangement and line breaks in modern English tanka.
In her introduction, Julie talked about progressing from a beginning tanka writer conforming to form and pattern, to a poet who must decide how to organise words on the page for the best effect and follow their own instincts. Julie then talked about what we can learn from Lineation of Free Verse. She presented a poem by William Carlos Williams To A Poor Old Woman expertly reading this poem showing how rhythm is vital. A lively discussion followed.
The meeting then split into groups of three and were challenged to change line breaks and line length to open up new meanings and points of emphasis in the poem FOG by Carl Sandburg resulting in some interesting ideas and much discussion.
Julie read a short article 'Where to draw the poetic line' by Judith Beveridge and mentioned that Judith recommends a book by James Longenbach 'The Art of the Poetic Line.'
The next poem looked at was 'Let Evening Come' by Jane Kenyon. Julie used this poem to show movement and how lineation is a powerful tool for creating this.
Two more exercises creating other versions of poems by changing line endings and line placements were undertaken and enjoyed.
Julie concluded by saying 'As tanka poets writing in English, we can draw on the knowledge and techniques of free-verse poets and adapt these for use in our tanka. Movement, surprise and discovery in a poem may be achieved by careful use of unexpected line-endings. Trying a different style of line endings may re-invigorate and refresh our tanka writing experience.'
After lunch, Anne Benjamin and Carmel Summers presented the second workshop Writing Travel Tanka. This workshop explored the issues of what makes travel tanka; is there anything different about travel tanka that sets it apart from other tanka; and provided awareness about the layering and richness possible when writing this form.
Anne and Carmel spoke clearly about definition of travel tanka, types of travel tanka and theme in travel tanka. We then examined 18 examples with Anne and Carmel expertly drawing our attention to the themes, eg. sense of place, relationships, history, values, missing home etc, etc. This was most informative. They then talked about reasons to write travel tanka which ranged from 'postcards from away' to 'managing challenges of fear, strangeness and isolation.'
This was followed by an exercise where we examined travel tanka and reported back with answers to set questions.
The final exercise was to write a travel tanka about an aspect of our journey to Pearl Beach that day. These were shared much to the enjoyment of all.
In concluding, Anne and Carmel suggested 'next time you travel, consider leaving your camera at home and travelling with just a notebook, pen and your poet's eyes.'
Latest reports from tanka groups were read by leaders present.
Beverley wound up the meeting thanking presenters and delegates and the Bowerbirders began their flight home filled with fresh ideas and enthusiasm.
<-- New Report -->
There must have been something in the air that ushered in the 19 Bowerbirds to Pearl Beach this time. Perhaps it was the cooler temperatures, or the friendly Butcherbirds on the back verandah. But the good humour, spontaneous laughter and willingness to share lasted all day. As always, Beverley George's hospitality was very welcome and delegates soon eased into the comfort of their Pearl Beach home. Beverley acknowledged the great distances that everyone travelled to be together (Tamworth, Sydney, the Newcastle region and Canberra) and the interest that we all take in contributing to Bowerbird and keeping it alive.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #13 - 14 March 2015 - by Yvonne Hales
The morning programme kicked off with a flourish. Carmel Summers, Hazel Hall and Michael Thorley were invited to present an appraisal of one of their favourite tanka. Each presenter offered insights and reflections that lingered. Their presentations are on the Eucalypt website under Bowerbird.
Each of us then read aloud a tanka that had meaning for us. The aim was to immerse ourselves, without analysis, in sharing resonant tanka read in the different voices of our tanka friends and fellow writers. Without any sound or commentary accompanying these readings, each tanka stands by itself but contributes to the whole.
Diarist and poet Kathy Kituai presented a workshop Sleight of Hand. Inspired by the late Martin Lucas, who first presented his paper, "Haiku as Poetic Spell" at the 4th Haiku Pacific Rim Conference convened by Beverley at Terrigal, in 2009, we were reminded that tanka poets need to pay attention not so much to what is said but to how it is said. Similarly, Judith Wright's approach to haiku raises the question that should occupy poets the most "What does it mean to me that it happened?" It is not so much about what happened or when it happened but what does it mean to me now?
Tanka poets become masters of illusion through years of practice. Each one of us drew different interpretations from 'underneath' the verse. To illustrate, and by way of example, Kathy offered the following tanka and asked us to consider "are we taken in by the magic?"
spring's first iris
I watch her unfold
her blue kimono
the comfort of rituals
in this shaken world
clean water to boil
potatoes peeled too quickly
four thousand children
will die today
the tv tells an empty room
Claire Everett Claire Everett toddler
throwing little people
out of the door
of her dolls house
again and again
a morning glance
in the mirror
shocking as cold water
the truth of eight decades
Edward Rielly Joan Murphy
In each tanka the question 'what does it mean to me?' drew many different responses. 'What is missing?', 'what is not said?' Each tanka leaves it up to the reader how to interpret it. The poet does not comment. They simply state what is. It pushes us beyond our own understanding. Each one reminds us that you don't need a personal pronoun to make it personal. That is the magic of the poem.
The sleight of hand, the magic, can also be felt when we take something out of the poem, or cut it in half and put it back together in a different order.
but not all
with dew on it
Perhaps the poem was improved by removing the personal pronoun. The magic (sleight of hand) appears in the tanka creation through what the poet is not telling the reader, what the poet is holding back on. The power is not in the rhetoric but in the images. To illustrate:
from the tips of its spokes
cold rain falls
on to her left shoulder
into my right coat pocket
David Terelinck's afternoon workshop 'Wide Awake Dreaming' dovetailed with the morning session with gentle ease. Dreaming room also invokes magic and sleight of hand. We started off with four tanka to sit with and reflect upon - the poets left it up to the reader to become aware of what emotions arose out of their reading and ask 'who?', 'why?' The afternoon slipped by as we followed the pages of David's well prepared and informative workbook - accompanied by the carolling of butcherbirds and magpies, much laughter, sharing and generosity of spirit. The main points of David's session are noted here. We worked through examples of tanka and exercises that David had put together. As each one of us shared their responses to each tanka it was obvious that everyone had read and reflected on the tanka from their own different perspective. We could each access the tanka from personal experience. In some cases naming the emotion doesn't prevent the reader from accessing what it means for them. It is personal and universal. There is skill in knowing when to specific and when to be vague. Dreaming room is invoked in varying degrees depending on how our lives are at the time we come to the tanka, the point of entry, if you like.
To enter the dreaming room is to dwell in the ' mystery and depth that goes beyond what is stated'. Its impact may only be felt after reading the tanka a few times. At that point such a profound awareness of emotion may be stirred up that it becomes far too deep and mysterious for words. David took us through various ways to create dreaming room or "show, don't tell":
* De-identifying characters enables the reader to bring their own life experience into a tanka;
* Not stating, or by leaving out, obvious emotions frees the reader to feel their own emotions not what they are told to feel.
* Ask rhetorical questions to engage the reader by making them actively think about what the tanka means to them - make it open-ended for reader interpretation;
* When the tanka enters the public domain or even for private comment you have no control over how it is interpreted;
* Use strong metaphors to convey tension, feelings, and a range of suggestive possibilities without even mentioning them';
* Swap fact for fiction - lose the personal experience or facts - to make way for dreaming room. The reader is not necessarily interested in what happened to you but rather what it means to them;
* Read widely from quality journals, websites and books;
With David's lively workshop still ringing in our ears Beverley wrapped up the 13th Bowerbird Tanka Workshop. Friends and fellow poets continued to share and turn another cog in the deepening mystery that is tanka.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #12 - 23 November 2014 - by Yvonne Hales
Bowerbirds arrived at their Pearl Beach meeting place in twos and threes with smiles and good spirits. Hot summer temperatures (35°C) were tempered by the cool and relaxed surroundings at Beverley George's home where once again we all appreciated her generous hospitality. All heralded a relaxed yet lively meeting. Conversations rose and fell as Bowerbird friends settled after their long journeys. Beverley welcomed all delegates including those who had travelled great distances (Geelong, Tamworth, Bathurst, Canberra and Sydney) and those who had recently visited Japan together. Absent Bowerbirds were remembered and missed, particularly Carmel Summers who remained in our thoughts that day.
Cynthia Rowe, Sylvia Florin and ML Grace each selected a favourite tanka of theirs; a time for us to share in other poets' work from around the world. Their appraisals are on the Eucalypt website under Bowerbird.
Each of us read aloud a tanka that had meaning for us. The aim was to immerse ourselves, without analysis, in sharing resonant tanka read in the different voices of our tanka friends and fellow writers. Without any sound or commentary accompanying the recital the tanka stands by itself and lingers.
The morning workshop presented by Marilyn Humbert took us through 'The Essence of Tanka Prose'. This form first appeared in The Tales of Ise (translated by H. Jay Harris, published in 1972). It is a collection of waka and other narratives and is thought to have been compiled and published in Japan in the 9th or 10th century. Tanka prose is still in its infancy in the West. Some of the earliest tanka prose was written by Sanford Goldstein and published in 1983. A feature of this style is the different ways in which the two forms (tanka and prose) can be combined. There are no rules for writing tanka prose. Rather, the guidelines that Marilyn outlined provide the writer with freedom to express thoughts. We read and discussed various styles of tanka prose from The Tales of Ise to the present day. Each example highlighted the freedom offered by this form regarding structure, subject matter, expression, rhythm and flow.
The work of Izumi Shikibu and Ono no Komachi published in The Ink Dark Moon (translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani, Vintage 1990) was familiar to all of us. In the afternoon Michael Thorley asked us to consider what makes their tanka so energetic and vital today? Why do we read and re-read their poems? Their lives and emotions were portrayed with honesty. Yet once you begin to intellectualize the energy goes away. They are spontaneous and natural. Straight to the point. The universality and timelessness of their writing is appealing. Their poems are very personal - written about 'I' and 'you'. They wrote about love, loss and longing - the same difficulties, events and sensualities present in our own lives - they are psychologically true. Many of their tanka contain rhetorical questions - why? how? Most of them draw upon images from the natural world. If we took the first line of one of their tanka and wrote the next four ourselves what would it look like?
David Terelinck wrapped up the day by highlighting the quality of the work presented and discussed throughout the sessions - writing characterized by no padding, "show don't tell", poems that turned on images from nature. It is the poet who teases out the commonality each one of us has with nature, with life around us and with other people.
The day flowed with gentle ease. Hot weather does not deter the Bowerbirds who, as always, bring laughter and friendship to share.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #11 - 23 February 2014 - by Yvonne Hales
Bowerbirds drifted down to Beverley George’s home at Pearl Beach on a perfect summer day to share everything tanka. Beverley’s trademark hospitality was much appreciated. The effort made by those who arrived from as far away as Geelong, Canberra and Bathurst as well as the continuing support from the group as a whole was acknowledged by Beverley. Those who could not attend were remembered and missed.
As usual we started with appraisals of a favourite tanka, this time presented by Jan Foster, Carole Harrison and Kent Robinson. Each appraisal provided unexpected insights and left us with much to reflect on.
We then read aloud a favourite tanka that had meaning for each of us. Tanka were selected from the work of Izumi Shikibu and contributors to Eucalypt and other tanka journals. No commentary after the reading. Each tanka allowed to stand by itself.
Kathy Kituai’s workshop “Where the poem begins” drew on the work of Natalie Goldberg. We were prompted to find different ways to start a poem. Kathy reminded us, “Don’t go looking for it; let it come to you.” Our gaze turned to objects inside as well as outdoors. Each letter of the alphabet was allocated to the naming of an object. We connected objects with shapes and colours. We noticed how we felt during this exercise (eg. tense, peaceful) and where shadow and light fell. Allowing the writing process to ‘feed’ us in this way helps us on the journey. When we become meditative or mindful during the practice it helps to elicit an emotion in the reader.
Inspired by the rengay session at the last Bowerbird workshop Anne and Yvonne were given an opportunity to read out two of their first attempts at the form: “Jigsaw Sky” and “Quiver of Bottlebrush”. They talked about how it all started, how they work together and what they enjoy about the process. Both appreciated the positive and generous feedback.
The ways in which tanka can ‘work’ with other art forms was explored in Dawn Bruce’s workshop “Tesselating Tanka”. Verses from the Tao Te Ching (trans. Ralph Allan Dale) inspired us to look for “the hollow within”, “the inner space” – beyond what you see. We looked at common elements of both surrealist art (images of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo) and tanka (abstract themes used by Japanese tanka poet Kozue Uzawa). Both surrealist art and tanka evoke images “beyond the everyday”, images that may not strike the viewer/reader at first. We changed the tone of a tanka by re-writing the last two lines to give an opposite meaning. Using abstract words we practiced describing how artwork inspires or speaks to us.
Delegates from other tanka groups reported a growing interest in tanka among mainstream poets and writers. Kathy Kituai and Lizz Murphy are presenting a program called “No Small Thing” at the Dixon Library in Canberra this winter to promote tanka in the wider poetry and prose community. Breathstream members Ken, Lorraine and Jan, took tanka to a local prose group, Scribes Writers, in the form of a workshop entitled Tightening Your Writing, to show the value of using metaphor and imagery, the essence of tanka, in other writing genres, how five simple lines can tell a whole story. Beverley George was invited to speak about the tanka component of Angela Johnson’s new book of free verse, ‘Endlessly Passing’, at a well- attended launch at Pearl Beach Village Hall on the day previous to Bowerbird. Beverley also commented that the Sydney launch of 100 tanka by 100 Poets from Australia and New Zealand, which she co-edited with Amelia Fielden and Patricia Prime, was very successfully launched by mainstream poet and author and Australia Day ambassador, Libby Hathorn at Hornsby Library on February 16th.
Some delegates brought along recent tanka publications; Limestone poets had enjoyed a retreat; Tanka Huddle has re-grouped with dynamism. Once again, it was a satisfying and inspiring day.
23 February 2014
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #10 2013
‘Wirraminna’, the home of Bowerbird Tanka, saw the 10th convocation of this immensely popular twice-yearly workshop. Gracious as always, Beverley George opened her home to poets from Sydney, Canberra, Bathurst and the central coast region on Saturday 19 October 2013.
It was a smaller group than usual; ten in total. This was unusual as numbers often creep into the low to mid-twenties. However the impact of the NSW fire situation meant several people were unable to attend on the day. We wish them well as fires continue to rage out of control and threaten the homes and safety of many people.
The intimate atmosphere of a smaller group was enjoyed by everyone, and it allowed tanka poets present more time to ask questions. It also meant those attending could be more closely involved in the discussions and activities arising during the course of the day.
The day commenced with a segment that everyone who has been to Bowerbird knows and loves. It is where Beverley has asked three people, in advance, to prepare a critique or discussion on a favourite tanka by a poet they have never met. This session continues to be informative and insightful and really sets the scene for the quality day ahead. The critiques are thoughtful, carefully prepared, and take us deep inside tanka that are strong, resonant and have lasting impact.
Jan Dean was unable to be with us, but had emailed her prepared talk. Her critique of Yosano Akiko’s tanka was read out to the group by Yvonne Hales.
Gently, I open
the doors to eternal
mystery, the flowers
of my breasts cupped,
offered with both my hands
Next was Dy Andreasen giving us her appreciation of the following tanka by Claire Everett.
and chrysanthemum petals
our ‘tea for two’
the cup of memory
i can barely hold
David Terelinck rounded off this session by explaining why the following tanka by Susan Constable will remain with him for all time:
a large bruise
deep inside the mango
the way you turned away
when I needed you most
Common to all assessments are the rich layers within all poems, the strength of the structure, the dreaming room, the skilful building of the poem, and the multiple interpretations that each tanka can offer. They were all seen as excellent examples of tanka that are well constructed, ring true with each reading, are lyrical with clear imagery, and have the power to linger long after the words have drifted away. All critiques will be available on the Eucalypt website and make excellent reading in showing why a particular tanka has meaning for an individual. Visit www.eucalypt.info for all Favourite Tanka assessments to date and additional information on Bowerbird Tanka Workshops and the Australian tanka journal Eucalypt.
The next session has also become a standing, but by no means standard, agenda item that is loved by everyone who attends. Every person brings a tanka to read aloud that has meaning for them. There is no commentary on the poem, either by reader or audience. This space is simply about experiencing the spoken poem and total immersion in the magic of the tanka and the moment. On the day we had readings of tanka from contemporary poets, some who have attended Bowerbird workshops in the past, and tanka of the court poets such as Izumi Shikibu and Ono No Komachi. A true moment of tanka beauty for all.
Unfortunately Kathy Kituai could not be with us at short notice as a result of the fire emergency. As such her workshop on Where the Poem Begins has been postponed to the February 2014 meeting. Beverley George and David Terelinck adroitly stepped into the breach and pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a workshop on link & shift in response poetry, specifically related to rengay.
Beverley and David outlined the history of rengay and the development of the form. They spoke about the importance of linking and shifting within the verses to create progression and retain reader interest. They gave examples of judging comments in relation to rengay and discussed what makes an award-winning rengay in terms of theme and construction.
Following this the attendees then paired up to write rengay themselves. An hour was allocated for poets to work in their pairs and explore the joy and satisfaction in the creativity of this short collaborative form. Only a handful of people present had written rengay before. But you would never know this when the writers came together after sixty minutes to share their works. Each pair had created a vibrant piece of writing, many with unexpected twists, imagery and lyrical turns of phrase.
All the pieces read out displayed great strength in the skill of link and shift to progress the poem. Without a doubt many of these rengay will go on to be published, and perhaps even win awards themselves. Each of the people involved expressed how much enjoyment they had in attempting this genre, and their desire to pursue it with their writing partner in later email exchanges.
Beverley then presented a short challenge in the form of a crossword puzzle. There were many creased foreheads and perplexed faces as everyone worked through her clues . . . all of which were relevant to the Bowerbird workshops. It was a lot of fun, and a little cerebral stimulation, before we broke for lunch.
Following lunch the group were well fortified for a fascinating workshop facilitated by Anne Benjamin entitled Tanka and the Sacred. In this session Anne explored tanka as a poetic form where there is engagement with the profoundly human and how this dovetails into the realm of the sacred. Writing about sacred space and events is not necessarily about specific religions, and is not about moralising. It is an exploration of the depth of humanity and finding the sacred within the everyday moments of our lives.
The sacred in tanka can deal with “the essence of life” and the elements of mystery. It taps into that deep inner part of what makes us human; what causes us to exist. Anne showed us that there are different kinds of touching the sacred from reverence to nature and awe of the natural world to formal religious writing, poems of grief and the human condition, and poetry of acceptance and transcendence. The sacred within tanka is often a journey and a pilgrimage towards acceptance and understanding of the human place in the world and the universe.
Writing about the sacred in tanka is not just about “being there”, but more about being “present in the moment” and the space where person, experience, emotion and nature come together. It is a conscious contemplation and a thirst to understand. Anne identified many themes common to the “literature of spirituality” be that tanka or other forms. And these were abundant in the many fine examples that Anne shared with the group. It is evident that the sacred within tanka has been with us for centuries from the times of the Court poets to today.
It is clear that in our search for meaning and to understand our existence in the universe, tanka is still an important vehicle for poets to express the journey of their discovery of the sacred. Out thanks to Anne for the engaging and highly interesting workshop, and for the detailed hand-out notes she prepared for the group.
The day concluded with a wrap-up of news and events from the various Australian tanka groups across the south-east of the country in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
Once again Bowerbird was a tremendous success and everyone appreciated the ability to come together to share, collaborate, learn and revel in the joy of tanka.
Plans are afoot for Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #14 to meet at ‘Wirraminna’ in February 2014. There will be a cut-off of 16 people, so please place your expression of interest early with Beverley George. When 16 is reached the list will be closed and other names will go on a cancellation list.
David Terelinck 20/10/2013
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #9 2013
On Saturday 16th February 2013 Beverley George convened the ninth Bowerbird Tanka Workshop at Pearl Beach. Once more Beverley’s generosity was greatly appreciated by the 20 attendees as she opened her home to us for the day. With the speakers presenting in front of picture windows facing onto the lagoon, the venue was in perfect harmony with the program.
The day began with what has fast become a favourite segment of all who attend. Beverley invites three people to bring a pre-prepared talk on a favourite tanka written by someone the presenter has never met. These positive critiques are rich in their analysis of what makes excellent tanka sing. The presenter shares insights into why a particular poem and poet moves them. In this session there is much to be gained by everyone from these considered appraisals.
Dawn Bruce spoke about the meditative state, and the beauty created in simplicity of word use, in the following tanka by Max Ryan (Eucalypt 7, 2009): work boots
on the sand . . . he sips
from his thermos lid,
drifts on the endless blue
of a lunch-hour sea
Keitha Keyes then spoke of the simple and concise language, and the effective use of punctuation, in this tanka by Chen-ou Liu (GUSTS 16, 2012):
I used to be . . .
from an immigrant’s mouth
stretches his story –
the pin-drop silence
fills an ESL classroom
Catherine Smith completed the trinity with sharing the beauty and moving language and imagery of this tanka by Claire Everett (twelve moons, 2012):
by the breath of your love
I am no longer sand
scattered to the wind
but the beauty of blown glass
Following this the group shared poems that linger. Everyone present read a tanka that had meaning for them, without commentary. Attendees shared tanka from contemporary poets all the way back to the Heian Court masters. This total immersion in the power of tanka created a serene and receptive mood to launch into the following session where Julie Thorndyke talked about Metaphor and Meaning. This was a brief but tantalizing exploration of the centrality of metaphor in tanka texts both ancient and modern.
With carefully chosen examples, Julie explained the importance of the role of metaphor in crafting excellent tanka. We learned that metaphor is not an add-on poetic device or a frill, but rather an essential element that drives the effectiveness of the poem. In short, metaphor provides the magic in the tanka.
At the end of Julie’s session, and working through her chosen examples, the Bowerbird members gained valuable insights into recognising extrinsic metaphor, intrinsic metaphor, synecdoche and metonymy as poetic devices to bring our tanka to life.
Everyone was then treated with the pleasure of hearing one of the 2012 Blake Poetry Prize short-listed poems read aloud by the author. Carmel Summers read her poem Breathing and then shared the inspiration for how her poem came into being. It was a wonderful reminder that tanka poets also have gifts outside the constraints of five short lines; and that we should not forget to appreciate all forms of poetry as they speak to us. Congratulations to Carmel for being a short-listed entrant in the Blake Poetry Prize – a really wonderful achievement.
David Terelinck followed with a discussion on Social Media: An Impact on Values. David spoke about the shift between traditional print journals and the 21st Century explosion of social media venues for publication. He explored the difficulty now with defining what is considered published and what is not. He mentioned how unmoderated and unedited web sites have the potential to impact upon the value of tanka if there is no editorial oversight to review and control quality. This session prompted some healthy debate and discussion among attendees.
In the last session of the morning Amelia Fielden related her experiences of the Nakaya Ukichiro Museum of Snow and Ice in Japan, and the genesis of the trilingual tanka book Snow Crystal * Star-shaped. The book contains tanka written in Japanese by Konno Mari. They have been translated into English by Amelia Fielden, and then into Latvian by Viktors Kravcenko & Liga Busevica. Amelia shared her interesting experiences at the museum, and the launch, through tanka prose.
Following lunch on the lanai, with views of the lagoon, calling waterbirds, and peach-coloured trumpet flowers, the afternoon session commenced. Everyone was delighted to be in the presence of Judith Beveridge, a well-known Australian poet. Judith’s prizes include the NSW, Victorian and Queensland Prizes for Poetry, the Grace Levin Prize, the Wesley Michel Wright Award and the Josephine Ulrick Prize. She is the poetry editor for Meanjin and teaches poetry writing at post graduate level at the University of Sydney. Her new volume of poems will be published in 2013.
Judith spoke on “The Gold in the Ore.” This is the name Robert Frost gave to sound in poetry. In her talk Judith taught everyone how to make the most of the sonic qualities of the human language in creating poetry that sings. In listening to Judith we realised that often sound is the element that tends to be overlooked in modern poetry. It can be sacrificed or given over to imagery.
But this does not have to be the case. As Judith explained, “sound can affect emotion profoundly.” So in order for our poems to have the most impact, we need to be aware of how they sound to the reader. We need to look for the “emotional resonance of sound” in what we write and tap into the personality of sound.
Judith gave those present a toolbox of tips to help with writing all poetry, not just tanka. Some of the areas explored in this fascinating presentation included:
* the power of consonants to add shape and energy to speech
* poetic devices: alliteration, simile, metaphor, language, composition
* types of sounds: smooth, fluid, nasal, plosive, onomatopoeic
* the intellect of the poem as music
* when you start a poem, play with sound as this can be a starting point of great revelation
* examples of poets to read to mine the gold in the ore
As Judith summed up, it is often how it is said that is far more important than what is said.
At the end of the day there was a summation of happenings and news from the tanka groups around the south-east of Australia from Sydney to Canberra and through to Geelong and Adelaide. It was with great sadness at this time we were advised of the death of Merle Connolly. Merle was a founding member of the Bottlebrush Tanka Group in Sydney, and passed away quite suddenly the day before the Bowerbird meeting. She will be greatly missed by her tanka family and writing colleagues.
I will close this report with a favourite tanka by Merle that appeared in Grevillea & Wonga Vine: Australian Tanka of Place (2011):
country town . . .Merle Connolly
sheep and cattle
roam the hills
I wind back
my father’s watch
© David Terelinck 25/02/2013
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #8 2012
On Sunday 19th February seventeen eager participants flocked to the central coast haven of Pearl Beach for the 8th Bowerbird Tanka Workshop. Beverley George, convenor of the group, graciously opened her bower to us all once more as a relaxing and inspiring venue for the day.
The day commenced with a session that is always held in high regard by regular participants; three attendees are invited to present a prepared appraisal of a favourite tanka by someone they have never met.
Sylvia Florin spoke of the following tanka by Margaret Chula (6th International Tanka Festival, 2009):
what were they?
holds only itself
Marilyn Humbert shared with the group why this tanka by Pamela A Babusci (Ribbons, Vol 7, NO 3, 2011) moved her:
i walk for miles
after your betrayal
my black beret
white and heavy
in the endless snow
Gail Hennessy completed the trio by bringing us back home with this very Australian tanka by Keith Keyes (Grevillea & Wonga Vine, 2010):
gashes of lightning
summer storm in the mallee
smell the first raindrops
exploding on red earth . . .
the dams have their mouths open
These three sensitive and insightful appraisals were deeply valued as they gave a depth of interpretation others may not have appreciated on their own reading of the poem. It is through this sharing of what moves another colleague that we are able to see the poem through new eyes and different life experiences. These appraisals will feature on the Eucalypt web site and are well worth reading for their astute observations upon excellent tanka.
Following this all eighteen Bowerbirds then read aloud one tanka each, from any person or tanka age, that particularly resonated with them. Without comment or critique, this session allowed total immersion into the magical and lyrical passion of this addictive poetic form that is even more captivating when spoken aloud. Even the magpies and lagoon waterfowl were inclined trill a short song to add to the ambience of this session.
Kathy Kituai then facilitated a fascinating workshop titled Get Real: the Art of Shasei. We were all amazed by the extent of what we took away from this session, especially surrounding the life of the tanka reformer, Shiki. Kathy expertly demonstrated to us that shasei, small portraits of life, do not have to be one-dimensional. We discovered that even in depicting something from daily life just as it is, there can be many avenues and multiple layers of meaning not initially considered. And even though, as poets, we can “paint what you see with your eyes” we still bring our past experiences into this. The trick is to step back and allow the reader to bring their interpretations and experiences to the tanka.
The following tanka, by Shiki, was used as an example and generated much discussion:
from the cage I kept it in
the sparrow darts off
into the last rays of the setting sun
lighting up the yellow forsythia
From this, participants not only appreciated the surface intention of this still life – a bird released in late afternoon - but imbued it with personal interpretations of loss, longing, illness, end of life, determination, death poetry, hope, despair, acceptance, relief . . . the interpretations were literally endless.
The enduring message that I have taken from this session is that shasei does not necessarily mean shallow. Like all life sketches, done either with oil, watercolour, or words, when one steps back it allows great scope for light, shadow, depth and layering of personal interpretation from the audience.
After lunch Dawn Bruce enthralled us with Tanka Takeaway: an interactive workshop. This extremely practical session gave everyone present a portable toolbox of tanka tips for busting through writing blockages, finding creativity, and pushing our tanka beyond the ordinary to that next level with an undeniable WOW-factor.
Dawn planted many seeds that we saw germinate in the exercises she had set for us. One valuable key she gave us to unlock those blockages was the simple message “think in fragments.” So simple, but oh so effective. Too often I have tried to think out a complete tanka all at once. Perhaps I should have taken a fragmentary approach and allowed just one fragment to direct the course of the tanka.
These fragments are around us all the time . . . in snippets of conversation, a phrase we have read, a photo in a magazine, a children’s picture book. As Dawn astutely said, “a word can spark you off.” Dawn gave us very concrete examples of how a recent tanka of hers was sparked from a child’s book . . . a single word became a fragment, then an associated memory of family and childhood; and before too long, a tanka was born.
If we are having trouble, perhaps try an image. Haiga begins with a picture. Look to your photo albums – old photos of family can often give rise to inspiration in many forms – emotion, memory, desire. And try to not be too restrictive in your ideas. One idea can flow into another. It is at this time you perhaps need to give your idea its head and let it lead you where it wants to go. As Dawn said this, it made perfect sense to me: these are the tanka that need, and sometimes demand, to be written, regardless of what we want to write. Dawn showed us how to take our everyday writers’ block and turn it into something useful. Imagine you are in your study and your muse is anywhere but with you. Look around you and quickly jot down, on the left side of a sheet of paper, ten nouns of items you see around you, for example desk, paper, books, rose, and so forth. Then pick one other word, such as moon, that is used a lot in tanka. And then marry up with lines the words on the left that you feel have an association with moon on the right. Is there something different in how you perceive the moon by doing this, a new way of writing about it? This may be the very fragment that generates your tanka. Neither word may necessarily feature in your tanka, but it may be the kick start you need.
And instead of associations, try oppositions. A quick list of five words on the left of the page, and what you perceive to be their immediate opposites on the right. Again, does this opposition plant a seed or germinate a fragment that may lead to an outstanding tanka? Can they be used together for impact? Do they take you on a journey elsewhere?
Excellent tanka often marry up “interesting concepts” not usually thought of. They write of the usual in unusual ways, and Dawn’s exercises certainly give much latitude to encouraging this within crafting our own tanka.
Everyone left this session invigorated with much hope for combating those days when the muse cannot be contacted and the blocks appear overwhelming. With a little help from Dawn, we all realised there are practical and easy tools at our disposal for assisting with our writing.
The day concluded with a wrap-up of latest news from the leaders and facilitators of tanka groups in NSW and south-east Australia. It is heartening to know that tanka is spreading and being embraced by many groups, and bringing joy to more people than ever.
Sincere thanks to Kathy Kituai, a Bowerbird stalwart, who travelled a great distance from Canberra to Pearl Beach for this workshop. I am certain everyone appreciates and values this effort as much as I do. And thanks to Dawn Bruce for her stimulating takeaway session, and also to the three wonderful presenters who shared a favourite tanka with us all.
And Beverley . . . Bowerbird would not be Bowerbird without you – both in spirit and inclusiveness, and also in hosting these workshops. Each time I leave Bowerbird I am richer for tanka knowledge, supported in the company of like-minded persons, and sustained by five short lines of poetry that give me a whole new world.
Can I put my hand up now for Bowerbird number 9?
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #7 19 November 2011
by Yvonne Hales
The Bowerbird group gathered at Beverley George’s home at Pearl Beach on one of those hot days where all things tanka were enjoyed in the cool shade. Some delegates had travelled from afar (Geelong, Tamworth, Sydney, Northern Beaches) which added a unique quality to the day. Absent Bowerbirds were remembered and missed. As tanka friends started to arrive and the buzz of conversation filled the room a sense of warmth and openness began to emerge.
Appraisals of a favourite tanka were given by Beatrice Yell, Anne Benjamin and Yvonne Hales which added a certain depth to the tanka experience.
Each of us read aloud tanka that had meaning for them. The aim was to immerse ourselves, without analysis, in sharing resonant tanka when read in the different voices of our tanka friends and fellow writers. Without any sound or commentary accompanying the recital the tanka stands by itself and lingers.
We participated in a session led by Jan Foster on the Ten Styles of Tanka according to Fujiwara Teika a 12th century tanka master. In her article ‘Teika’s Ten Tanka Techniques’ (Ribbons Spring 2010) Jane Reichhold borrows from Teika’s list of styles or techniques and refines it. Jan had selected examples of tanka that illustrated each style and drew on Jane Reichhold’s examples and comments. It became obvious that a tanka can reflect at least one or two different styles.
Michael Thorley took us back to some of the tanka from The Ink Dark Moon and encouraged us to recapture the spirit of the romantic world and the natural landscape of that time. We looked at a selection of tanka from Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, how they were written, their ideas and styles. We wrote and shared our own tanka using similar opening words to those used by poets of the ancient court.
Despite a packed program the day was flowing and spontaneous. A beautiful workshop with many insights shared and much laughter.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #6 20th March 2011 by
On 20th March 2011, 17 delegates attended the Bowerbird Tanka Group Workshop at the home of Beverley George in Pearl Beach NSW. Seven of the group had returned from a tour of Japan following in the footsteps of Bash? in November 2010. A minute's silence was held to reflect on the plight of the Japanese people with whom we have an affinity in poetry.
Proceedings got underway when three poets, Margaret Grace, Shona Bridge and Jan Foster each shared notable tanka witten by poets they have never met. Their insight into and appreciation of these works dispayed a widening knowledge of the form, imparted to us in clear individual style. Future workshops will retain this segment using three new presenters each time.
Next, all delegates shared a tanka meaningful to them. We read in turn, without comment. This was such a listening pleasure.
Retaining the Joy was the title of Beverley George's refreshing presentation. Using the poem To the Honourable Magistrate Zhang by Wang Wei as inspiration, Beverley leads us back to the beginnings of our tanka awareness and gently reminds us not to lose touch with other genres that many of us hold so dear. We must continue with projects apart from tanka, so as not to be swamped in mediocrity. Balance and lyricism are part of the creative joy of tanka, and quality rather than quantity is imperative. What I have left is the joy/ Of hanging around again/ in my old forest. Re-visit your loved volumes and old scribblings, try a musical or photographic accompaniment to your tanka.
Beverley's presentation was indeed a breeze in the pines.
The first session of the afternoon was presented by David Terelinck. Sensing Tanka; Perceiving life Beyond the Ordinary. David put his medical knowledge to good use here and not only defined the senses and reminded us of the five common ones, but introduced us to the senses of balance and acceleration; temperature; pain; direction; synesthesia and time perception. Each of these scientific explanations was reinforced by the use of concrete materials and activity. Each sense was illustrated by some of David's own tanka as well as personal favourites. David concludes: There is no doubt that the use of senses within tanka makes it more accessible and personal to the reader. It gives us a basis for undersatnding and interpreting what we relate to, and are influenced by, on a daily basis.
Carmel Summers followed with Writing From the Sense of Smell, putting us in the mood by passing along lavender, gum leaves and herbs. Carmel had collated a collection of tanka featuring scents and smells, either obvious or implied and we read them aloud in turn,a short discussion following each reading. We noted that some poets used words such as scent, fragrance, tang, smelling, smell and taste while others relied on the reader's experiences to convey meaning. e.g.
spinachEach delegate was then given two words, choosing one as a prompt for a tanka. Carmel finished her presentation by inviting us to read out what we had composed.
of all the things my father
Carolyn Thomas Ribbons Volume 6 2010
Two of our members had come an especially long way to be with us, Kathy Kituai from Canberra and Jan Foster from Geelong in Victoria. Both gave a short report on tanka happenings in their part of the world as did Julie Thorndyke. A report from Dawn Bruce, who was unable to attend, was read aloud by Dy Andreasen.
This workshop and/or mini conference was a great success and all of us renewed our sense of purpose. Many thanks to our host and convenor, Beverley George.
Report Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #5 19th September 2010
by David Terelinck
On Sunday 19th September 2010, 16 enthusiastic participants and 2 presenters, from locations such as Canberra, Sydney, the Northern Beaches, and the Newcastle region, arrived at Wirramina for the fifth workshop of the Bowerbird Tanka Group. Beverley George’s home, with expansive views of the freshwater lagoon, was a stimulating and delightful venue for this convivial meeting. Everyone was very appreciative of Beverley for again convening and hosting the Bowerbird workshop within her Pearl Beach home.
The day commenced with three of the workshop participants speaking about a favourite tanka they had read, by a poet they had never met. Carmel Summers revealed the many layers beneath a tanka by an’ya that won the 2008 TSA competition. Jo Tregellis then shared with the group what she found particularly appealing within 5 lines penned by Barbara Fisher. Lastly, David Terelinck discussed the attributes behind a tanka by John Quinnett that made it a favourite he returned to over and over again.
Following this, Kathy Kituai facilitated a stimulating and interactive session about tanka poets working collaboratively with other artists. She spoke extensively of her recent three month trip to Scotland to work on a synergy of poetry and pottery. Her trip was funded by an Arts ACT grant. The goal of her grant was to work on a cross-art and cross-culture project concerning the collaboration of poetry and pottery in order to create a new body of work. Kathy shared her experiences of working cross-art and cross-culture with Fergus Stewart, a potter living and working in Lochinver, in the north-west Scottish Highlands. Kathy talked about the collaborative process, how she worked in this cross-culture and cross-arts environment, and the results arising from this merging of talents. This led to passionate discussion by participants about collaborative projects they desired to work on in the future. Discussion also ensued on individuals working collaboratively with place and environment to create unique and lasting bodies of work. Kathy shared some tanka she had written whilst on this cultural exchange, and also many photos that inspired some participants to take their own notes for later use.
After lunch, Amelia Fielden led the group on exercises in writing paired responsive tanka. Amelia set the scene for providing some striking examples of responsive tanka across all areas of the arts. Participants paired off and used pre-written tanka to inspire responses within their partner. This resulted in paired tanka on a wide range of topics that was moving, elegiac, profound, insightful, and in some cases, extremely humorous. Each participant came away from the session with a fresh approach to writing responsively with others. The group were also fortunate to have Amelia share a recently developed definition of the ideal form of traditional tanka written in English.
The workshop closed around 3:30pm. Participants expressed their thanks to Kathy and Amelia for facilitating a stimulating workshop rich in information and interactive tanka experiences.
22 September 2010
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #4 February 27th 2010
by Catherine Smith
Nineteen Bowerbirds, including three presenters, gathered at Beverley George's tranquil home, hoping to take away with them some inspiration and technical tips for writing better tanka. Not a single bird returned home disappointed.
Amelia Fielden spoke about the tricky question of punctuation, sharing her views and style. She also included a valuable exercise which involved punctuating a number of tanka to improve them. Kathy Kituai's presentation, 'Write Below the Surface' prompted a lively discussion on a tanka written by Izumi Shikibu and an excellent exercise on listening to our own and other peoples' poems.
Guest speaker, Mandy Austin, a director of The Japanese Saturday School, gave an interesting overview of 'Living in two cultures'. She discussed Japanese traditions, demonstrated the s etting up of a tea ceremony and passed around items that ranged from practical towel holders to exquisite pottery all with tanka written on them.
Julie Thorndyke, speaking about 'The Magic of the Five Lines', not only illuminated the magic and allure of tanka but also gave each participant a comprehensive, illustrated handout of her presentation. Just what a bowerbird loves.
During the lunch break we had the pleasure of a champagne toast for Australian tanka and also for Beverley's enchanting new book 'the Preposterous Frog'. A most satisfying day for all.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #3 22 February 2009
by Julie Thorndyke
The third Bowerbird Tanka workshop was held on Sunday 22nd February, 2009 at Pearl Beach, NSW. Workshop leaders Beverley George, Amelia Fielden and Kathy Kituai supported a full house of tanka enthusiasts in workshopping participant prepared poems.
All present were encouraged and entertained by the wide range of poetry submissions, the expert feedback from the leaders and mutual appreciation of workshop members. What a joy to have so many creative minds together in one room at this tanka think-tank.
Kathy Kituai shared some of her writing secrets, then led the group in a creative session designed to court the muse. We were invited to engage with and reflect upon the creative process. I came away with a renewed sense of the pleasure of writing.
The lunchtime kukai on the theme paperbark was won by Carolyn Alfonzetti. The afternoon took the form of small group sessions to write renga on the theme 2008 was the year. During the day many books changed hands and many connections were made. Once again we owe Beverley George a sincere vote of thanks for organising and throwing open her home for this lively and congenial tanka workshop.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #1 May 18, 2008
by Beverley George
A small group of tanka enthusiasts descended on Pearl Beach yesterday by car, train, and ferry for a workshop from 10-3. I led the morning session working on poems on the theme of relationships everyone had brought and in the afternoon Amelia Fielden led a very lively session on linked writing, which yielded some very imaginative writing. Delegates were Dawn Bruce, Judy Kendall, Judy Friezer, Margaret Grace, Meredith Collins, Geneveive Kneipp, Jill Hill, Ellen Weston and Catherine Smith. Workshops occur from time to time, where possible with a co-presenter, so if you live anywhere near the Central Coast do let me know. Interstate people are welcome to advise me if they would like a workshop if ever I happen to be in their neck of the woods. Numbers are restricted to 10 for this kind of hands-on workshops so everybody gets a hearing.
Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #??? 2011