Update on Australian Tanka Groups: November, 2011

There is an increasing number of very active Tanka Groups around Australia. The following summary of their activities was recently provided to the Bowerbird Group.

The Tanka Groups:
Bowerbird Tanka Group (Pearl Beach, NSW)
Breathstream Tanka Poets (Geelong, Victoria)
Bottlebrush Tanka Group (North Sydney, NSW)
Tanka Huddle (North Rocks, Sydney, NSW)
Moonrise, a group within a group (St Leonards, NSW)
The Bindii Japanese Genre Poetry Group (Adelaide, SA)
Limestone Tanka Poets (Canberra, ACT)

7th Bowerbird Tanka Workshop 19 November 2011:

Beverley George – founder/convenor
Report by Yvonne Hales
The Bowerbird group gathered 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.

Breathstream Tanka Poets:

Jan Foster, convenor
The group, begun in June this year, meets at Belmont Library, and currently has 11 members. We meet on the first Friday of each month, from 12 noon to 2.00 p.m. and are now linked to the 15 libraries of the Greater Geelong and Surf Coast Shire. Chilwell asked us to take part in a poetry reading one night last month, which we did, and Belmont has asked if we would present a tanka and conversation afternoon in the new year.

We have just produced, for members only, a chapbook of our work thus far, for our encouragement, and one of our members has had 2 tanka accepted by Poetrix, a women’s only poetry site in Melbourne.

There are plans for a set of six workshops for the first term of 2012 at Neighbourhood House, a community college of sorts in Geelong. Breathstream Tanka Poets is now a recognised group within Geelong Writers, a large local electronic network of groups.

Enthusiasm is high and there have been expressions of interest from several folk for next year. It seems that tanka has taken root and is flourishing in this southern outpost of Oz.

Bottlebrush Tanka Group:

Marilyn Humbert, convenor
Our Bottlebrush group meets once a month. We begin our meetings with a tanka critique of an author we have not met. We explain why we think the tanka we have chosen is a good one.

Next we work through teaching notes which Jan Foster supplies for us each month. Recently we have been studying Ten Teika Styles. We are grateful for this support from Jan even though she has moved to Geelong. She is still very much a part of our group with guidance and encouragement and is just a phone call or email away.

Then we workshop 4 single tanka in response to two word prompts which have been suggested by one of our group members at the previous meeting. Following that we present tanka prose, sequences, strings or clusters.
At some meetings we have a visiting mentor. This year Amelia Fielden and Beverley George have both visited us. We enjoy these visits as they give us the opportunity to learn new things and to workshop our tanka with a more experienced writer.

Bottlebrush is as enthusiastic now as it was when it began about 3 years ago and we are all addicted to tanka writing.

Tanka Huddle:

Founder and convenor: Julie Thorndyke
Tanka Huddle has had a busy and productive year, writing on diverse topics with many publications and personal milestones. Meetings varied according to who was away travelling and who was in town; some visitors and “first timers” were welcomed for a taster visit or to stay; a generous spirit of critique and enjoyment was always to be found around the Huddle table.

It is a joy to see the work of former Huddle members and friends in print: the tanka poetry circle enriches and grows, linking lives and widening in an ever-growing spiral of literary friendship.

Moonrise, a group within a group:

Dawn Bruce, leader
2011 saw the birth of Moonrise, our tanka group within our Ozku haiku group. It began tentatively, but interest grew until we now have everyone enthusiastic … especially after work was published in a number of high quality magazines.

We will continue alternating Ozku and Moonrise meetings in 2012.

The Bindii Japanese Genre Poetry Group:

Lynette Arden, leader
The Bindii Japanese Genre Poetry Group are preparing to launch the first issue of their Journal, Haiku Bindii Vol. 1 Journeys at an event on 3 December at the Box Factory, Adelaide. Our launch speaker will be Mr Adam Wynn, Hon Consul-General for Japan in South Australia. There will also be reading of work by some of the twenty Bindii contributors to the volume, Japanese flute music played by Munetaka Umehara and refreshments will be served.

At our 5 November meeting the Bindii group held a workshop on senryu, with some historical background and discussion about ‘what is senryu’ followed by presentation of ancient and modern examples from Japanese and contemporary writers and work from members of the group.

We also selected work to post in the showcase on Haiku Bindii blog from the October Challenges.
Beverley George’s photos of her meeting with group members at the SA Museum on 22 Sept were circulated. Thank you Beverley.

Poets from the Bindii group will also be performing at the Box Factory Christmas Market on 10 December.

Limestone Tanka poets, 30th October 2011 meeting:

Kathy Kituai
Founder and Facilitator
There has to be good reason when the temperature is 24 degrees in Canberra to stay indoors, and Gerry Jacobson’s How-a-Poet-Works session was more than enough motivation for Limestone Tanka Poets to gather at the Writer’s Center, Sunday 30th October for our monthly meeting.

Coincidently, Gerry’s initiation into tanka commenced four years ago in a Tanka Journal Workshop facilitated in this same conference Room. Amazing to discover that he has written 1500 tanka in notebooks since that time in cafes in London, Stockholm, Sydney and Canberra as well as other venues, many of which are now published. Gerry’s greatest challenge is to master tanka prose. Speaking of this inspired others to also try.

Surprising how quickly time passes when six poets are responding to twenty tanka in an hour. The topics for this month, ‘Home’ and ‘Away’, bought about varied content ranging from Christmas snow, cherry trees, to counting facebook friends as well as a tanka about a tiny wren, delicate in understanding and description. Once again the standard was high. Everyone took home these poetry sheets (and September’s challenges) to vote on for consideration in proposed Limestone Tanka Poet’s inaugural anthology, 2012.

We also learnt that the Canberra launch date for Food for Thought, Amelia Fielden’s tanka anthology, will be 14th January, 2012, and discussed Eucalypt challenge, Coining a Phrase, 10th November 2011, as well as the deadline (12th December 2011) for Snipe Rising from a Marsh – Birds in Tanka, An Atlas Poetica Special Feature.

Strolling through late afternoon sunshine back to the car it was hard to comprehend that after nine Limestone Tanka Poets monthly meetings for 2011, the next (on 27th November) will be the last for this year. Fitting to end our inaugural year with a much-anticipated workshop by David Terelinck. Waiting to hear what he, as facilitator, might like our November challenge to be, ‘Coast’ was suggested in case the choice was up to us.

Apologies were received from Paul Williams, Michael Thorley, John Van De Graaff, June Foster and Saeko Ogi.


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