Bowerbird Tanka Group: Biannual mini-conference Wirraminna, Pearl Beach

On 20th March 2011, 17 delegates attended the Bowerbird Tanka Group Workshop at the home of Beverley George in Pearl Beach NSW.

Jo Tregellis reports:

Seven of the group had returned from a tour of Japan following in the footsteps of Bashō 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 understanding 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.

reminding me
of all the things my father
didn’t like

Carolyn Thomas Ribbons Volume 6 2010

Each 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.

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.


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