Report of 5th Bowerbird Tanka Workshop

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.

David Terelinck
22 September 2010