Bowerbird Tanka Group meeting # 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.

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.

In the morning session 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.

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.

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.,

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

Gail Hennessy

The full meeting report is available here