Bowerbird Tanka Group meeting # 17 November 25, 2017

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.

Beverley George
Convenor: Bowerbird Tanka Group