Bowerbird Meeting Reports


Report #11
Report #10
Report #9
Report #8
Report #7
Report #6
Report #5
Report #4
Report #3
Report #2   — not available
Report #1

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #11 - 23 February 2014 - by Yvonne Hales

Bowerbirds drifted down to Beverley George’s home at Pearl Beach on a perfect summer day to share everything tanka. Beverley’s trademark hospitality was much appreciated. The effort made by those who arrived from as far away as Geelong, Canberra and Bathurst as well as the continuing support from the group as a whole was acknowledged by Beverley. Those who could not attend were remembered and missed.

As usual we started with appraisals of a favourite tanka, this time presented by Jan Foster, Carole Harrison and Kent Robinson. Each appraisal provided unexpected insights and left us with much to reflect on.

We then read aloud a favourite tanka that had meaning for each of us. Tanka were selected from the work of Izumi Shikibu and contributors to Eucalypt and other tanka journals. No commentary after the reading. Each tanka allowed to stand by itself.

Kathy Kituai’s workshop “Where the poem begins” drew on the work of Natalie Goldberg. We were prompted to find different ways to start a poem. Kathy reminded us, “Don’t go looking for it; let it come to you.” Our gaze turned to objects inside as well as outdoors. Each letter of the alphabet was allocated to the naming of an object. We connected objects with shapes and colours. We noticed how we felt during this exercise (eg. tense, peaceful) and where shadow and light fell. Allowing the writing process to ‘feed’ us in this way helps us on the journey. When we become meditative or mindful during the practice it helps to elicit an emotion in the reader.

Inspired by the rengay session at the last Bowerbird workshop Anne and Yvonne were given an opportunity to read out two of their first attempts at the form: “Jigsaw Sky” and “Quiver of Bottlebrush”. They talked about how it all started, how they work together and what they enjoy about the process. Both appreciated the positive and generous feedback.

The ways in which tanka can ‘work’ with other art forms was explored in Dawn Bruce’s workshop “Tesselating Tanka”. Verses from the Tao Te Ching (trans. Ralph Allan Dale) inspired us to look for “the hollow within”, “the inner space” – beyond what you see. We looked at common elements of both surrealist art (images of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo) and tanka (abstract themes used by Japanese tanka poet Kozue Uzawa). Both surrealist art and tanka evoke images “beyond the everyday”, images that may not strike the viewer/reader at first. We changed the tone of a tanka by re-writing the last two lines to give an opposite meaning. Using abstract words we practiced describing how artwork inspires or speaks to us.

Delegates from other tanka groups reported a growing interest in tanka among mainstream poets and writers. Kathy Kituai and Lizz Murphy are presenting a program called “No Small Thing” at the Dixon Library in Canberra this winter to promote tanka in the wider poetry and prose community. Breathstream members Ken, Lorraine and Jan, took tanka to a local prose group, Scribes Writers, in the form of a workshop entitled Tightening Your Writing, to show the value of using metaphor and imagery, the essence of tanka, in other writing genres, how five simple lines can tell a whole story. Beverley George was invited to speak about the tanka component of Angela Johnson’s new book of free verse, ‘Endlessly Passing’, at a well- attended launch at Pearl Beach Village Hall on the day previous to Bowerbird. Beverley also commented that the Sydney launch of 100 tanka by 100 Poets from Australia and New Zealand, which she co-edited with Amelia Fielden and Patricia Prime, was very successfully launched by mainstream poet and author and Australia Day ambassador, Libby Hathorn at Hornsby Library on February 16th.

Some delegates brought along recent tanka publications; Limestone poets had enjoyed a retreat; Tanka Huddle has re-grouped with dynamism. Once again, it was a satisfying and inspiring day.

Yvonne Hales
23 February 2014

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #10 2013

‘Wirraminna’, the home of Bowerbird Tanka, saw the 10th convocation of this immensely popular twice-yearly workshop. Gracious as always, Beverley George opened her home to poets from Sydney, Canberra, Bathurst and the central coast region on Saturday 19 October 2013.

It was a smaller group than usual; ten in total. This was unusual as numbers often creep into the low to mid-twenties. However the impact of the NSW fire situation meant several people were unable to attend on the day. We wish them well as fires continue to rage out of control and threaten the homes and safety of many people.

The intimate atmosphere of a smaller group was enjoyed by everyone, and it allowed tanka poets present more time to ask questions. It also meant those attending could be more closely involved in the discussions and activities arising during the course of the day.

The day commenced with a segment that everyone who has been to Bowerbird knows and loves. It is where Beverley has asked three people, in advance, to prepare a critique or discussion on a favourite tanka by a poet they have never met. This session continues to be informative and insightful and really sets the scene for the quality day ahead. The critiques are thoughtful, carefully prepared, and take us deep inside tanka that are strong, resonant and have lasting impact.

Jan Dean was unable to be with us, but had emailed her prepared talk. Her critique of Yosano Akiko’s tanka was read out to the group by Yvonne Hales.

Gently, I open
the doors to eternal
mystery, the flowers
of my breasts cupped,
offered with both my hands

Next was Dy Andreasen giving us her appreciation of the following tanka by Claire Everett.

cold water
and chrysanthemum petals
our ‘tea for two’
the cup of memory
i can barely hold

David Terelinck rounded off this session by explaining why the following tanka by Susan Constable will remain with him for all time:

a large bruise
deep inside the mango
the way you turned away
when I needed you most

Common to all assessments are the rich layers within all poems, the strength of the structure, the dreaming room, the skilful building of the poem, and the multiple interpretations that each tanka can offer. They were all seen as excellent examples of tanka that are well constructed, ring true with each reading, are lyrical with clear imagery, and have the power to linger long after the words have drifted away. All critiques will be available on the Eucalypt website and make excellent reading in showing why a particular tanka has meaning for an individual. Visit for all Favourite Tanka assessments to date and additional information on Bowerbird Tanka Workshops and the Australian tanka journal Eucalypt.

The next session has also become a standing, but by no means standard, agenda item that is loved by everyone who attends. Every person brings a tanka to read aloud that has meaning for them. There is no commentary on the poem, either by reader or audience. This space is simply about experiencing the spoken poem and total immersion in the magic of the tanka and the moment. On the day we had readings of tanka from contemporary poets, some who have attended Bowerbird workshops in the past, and tanka of the court poets such as Izumi Shikibu and Ono No Komachi. A true moment of tanka beauty for all.

Unfortunately Kathy Kituai could not be with us at short notice as a result of the fire emergency. As such her workshop on Where the Poem Begins has been postponed to the February 2014 meeting. Beverley George and David Terelinck adroitly stepped into the breach and pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a workshop on link & shift in response poetry, specifically related to rengay.

Beverley and David outlined the history of rengay and the development of the form. They spoke about the importance of linking and shifting within the verses to create progression and retain reader interest. They gave examples of judging comments in relation to rengay and discussed what makes an award-winning rengay in terms of theme and construction.

Following this the attendees then paired up to write rengay themselves. An hour was allocated for poets to work in their pairs and explore the joy and satisfaction in the creativity of this short collaborative form. Only a handful of people present had written rengay before. But you would never know this when the writers came together after sixty minutes to share their works. Each pair had created a vibrant piece of writing, many with unexpected twists, imagery and lyrical turns of phrase.

All the pieces read out displayed great strength in the skill of link and shift to progress the poem. Without a doubt many of these rengay will go on to be published, and perhaps even win awards themselves. Each of the people involved expressed how much enjoyment they had in attempting this genre, and their desire to pursue it with their writing partner in later email exchanges.

Beverley then presented a short challenge in the form of a crossword puzzle. There were many creased foreheads and perplexed faces as everyone worked through her clues . . . all of which were relevant to the Bowerbird workshops. It was a lot of fun, and a little cerebral stimulation, before we broke for lunch.

Following lunch the group were well fortified for a fascinating workshop facilitated by Anne Benjamin entitled Tanka and the Sacred. In this session Anne explored tanka as a poetic form where there is engagement with the profoundly human and how this dovetails into the realm of the sacred. Writing about sacred space and events is not necessarily about specific religions, and is not about moralising. It is an exploration of the depth of humanity and finding the sacred within the everyday moments of our lives.

The sacred in tanka can deal with “the essence of life” and the elements of mystery. It taps into that deep inner part of what makes us human; what causes us to exist. Anne showed us that there are different kinds of touching the sacred from reverence to nature and awe of the natural world to formal religious writing, poems of grief and the human condition, and poetry of acceptance and transcendence. The sacred within tanka is often a journey and a pilgrimage towards acceptance and understanding of the human place in the world and the universe.

Writing about the sacred in tanka is not just about “being there”, but more about being “present in the moment” and the space where person, experience, emotion and nature come together. It is a conscious contemplation and a thirst to understand. Anne identified many themes common to the “literature of spirituality” be that tanka or other forms. And these were abundant in the many fine examples that Anne shared with the group. It is evident that the sacred within tanka has been with us for centuries from the times of the Court poets to today.

It is clear that in our search for meaning and to understand our existence in the universe, tanka is still an important vehicle for poets to express the journey of their discovery of the sacred. Out thanks to Anne for the engaging and highly interesting workshop, and for the detailed hand-out notes she prepared for the group.

The day concluded with a wrap-up of news and events from the various Australian tanka groups across the south-east of the country in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

Once again Bowerbird was a tremendous success and everyone appreciated the ability to come together to share, collaborate, learn and revel in the joy of tanka.

Plans are afoot for Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #14 to meet at ‘Wirraminna’ in February 2014. There will be a cut-off of 16 people, so please place your expression of interest early with Beverley George. When 16 is reached the list will be closed and other names will go on a cancellation list.

David Terelinck 20/10/2013

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #9 2013

On Saturday 16th February 2013 Beverley George convened the ninth Bowerbird Tanka Workshop at Pearl Beach. Once more Beverley’s generosity was greatly appreciated by the 20 attendees as she opened her home to us for the day. With the speakers presenting in front of picture windows facing onto the lagoon, the venue was in perfect harmony with the program.

The day began with what has fast become a favourite segment of all who attend. Beverley invites three people to bring a pre-prepared talk on a favourite tanka written by someone the presenter has never met. These positive critiques are rich in their analysis of what makes excellent tanka sing. The presenter shares insights into why a particular poem and poet moves them. In this session there is much to be gained by everyone from these considered appraisals.

Dawn Bruce spoke about the meditative state, and the beauty created in simplicity of word use, in the following tanka by Max Ryan (Eucalypt 7, 2009): work boots

work boots
on the sand . . . he sips
from his thermos lid,
drifts on the endless blue
of a lunch-hour sea

Keitha Keyes then spoke of the simple and concise language, and the effective use of punctuation, in this tanka by Chen-ou Liu (GUSTS 16, 2012):

I used to be . . .
from an immigrant’s mouth
stretches his story –
the pin-drop silence
fills an ESL classroom

Catherine Smith completed the trinity with sharing the beauty and moving language and imagery of this tanka by Claire Everett (twelve moons, 2012):

by the breath of your love
I am no longer sand
scattered to the wind
but the beauty of blown glass

Following this the group shared poems that linger. Everyone present read a tanka that had meaning for them, without commentary. Attendees shared tanka from contemporary poets all the way back to the Heian Court masters. This total immersion in the power of tanka created a serene and receptive mood to launch into the following session where Julie Thorndyke talked about Metaphor and Meaning. This was a brief but tantalizing exploration of the centrality of metaphor in tanka texts both ancient and modern.

With carefully chosen examples, Julie explained the importance of the role of metaphor in crafting excellent tanka. We learned that metaphor is not an add-on poetic device or a frill, but rather an essential element that drives the effectiveness of the poem. In short, metaphor provides the magic in the tanka.

At the end of Julie’s session, and working through her chosen examples, the Bowerbird members gained valuable insights into recognising extrinsic metaphor, intrinsic metaphor, synecdoche and metonymy as poetic devices to bring our tanka to life.

Everyone was then treated with the pleasure of hearing one of the 2012 Blake Poetry Prize short-listed poems read aloud by the author. Carmel Summers read her poem Breathing and then shared the inspiration for how her poem came into being. It was a wonderful reminder that tanka poets also have gifts outside the constraints of five short lines; and that we should not forget to appreciate all forms of poetry as they speak to us. Congratulations to Carmel for being a short-listed entrant in the Blake Poetry Prize – a really wonderful achievement.

David Terelinck followed with a discussion on Social Media: An Impact on Values. David spoke about the shift between traditional print journals and the 21st Century explosion of social media venues for publication. He explored the difficulty now with defining what is considered published and what is not. He mentioned how unmoderated and unedited web sites have the potential to impact upon the value of tanka if there is no editorial oversight to review and control quality. This session prompted some healthy debate and discussion among attendees.

In the last session of the morning Amelia Fielden related her experiences of the Nakaya Ukichiro Museum of Snow and Ice in Japan, and the genesis of the trilingual tanka book Snow Crystal * Star-shaped. The book contains tanka written in Japanese by Konno Mari. They have been translated into English by Amelia Fielden, and then into Latvian by Viktors Kravcenko & Liga Busevica. Amelia shared her interesting experiences at the museum, and the launch, through tanka prose.

Following lunch on the lanai, with views of the lagoon, calling waterbirds, and peach-coloured trumpet flowers, the afternoon session commenced. Everyone was delighted to be in the presence of Judith Beveridge, a well-known Australian poet. Judith’s prizes include the NSW, Victorian and Queensland Prizes for Poetry, the Grace Levin Prize, the Wesley Michel Wright Award and the Josephine Ulrick Prize. She is the poetry editor for Meanjin and teaches poetry writing at post graduate level at the University of Sydney. Her new volume of poems will be published in 2013.

Judith spoke on “The Gold in the Ore.” This is the name Robert Frost gave to sound in poetry. In her talk Judith taught everyone how to make the most of the sonic qualities of the human language in creating poetry that sings. In listening to Judith we realised that often sound is the element that tends to be overlooked in modern poetry. It can be sacrificed or given over to imagery.

But this does not have to be the case. As Judith explained, “sound can affect emotion profoundly.” So in order for our poems to have the most impact, we need to be aware of how they sound to the reader. We need to look for the “emotional resonance of sound” in what we write and tap into the personality of sound.

Judith gave those present a toolbox of tips to help with writing all poetry, not just tanka. Some of the areas explored in this fascinating presentation included:

*    the power of consonants to add shape and energy to speech
*    poetic devices: alliteration, simile, metaphor, language, composition
*    types of sounds: smooth, fluid, nasal, plosive, onomatopoeic
*    the intellect of the poem as music
*    when you start a poem, play with sound as this can be a starting point of great revelation
*    examples of poets to read to mine the gold in the ore

As Judith summed up, it is often how it is said that is far more important than what is said.

At the end of the day there was a summation of happenings and news from the tanka groups around the south-east of Australia from Sydney to Canberra and through to Geelong and Adelaide. It was with great sadness at this time we were advised of the death of Merle Connolly. Merle was a founding member of the Bottlebrush Tanka Group in Sydney, and passed away quite suddenly the day before the Bowerbird meeting. She will be greatly missed by her tanka family and writing colleagues.

I will close this report with a favourite tanka by Merle that appeared in Grevillea & Wonga Vine: Australian Tanka of Place (2011):

country town . . .
sheep and cattle
roam the hills
I wind back
my father’s watch
                Merle Connolly

© David Terelinck 25/02/2013

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #8 2012

On Sunday 19th February seventeen eager participants flocked to the central coast haven of Pearl Beach for the 8th Bowerbird Tanka Workshop. Beverley George, convenor of the group, graciously opened her bower to us all once more as a relaxing and inspiring venue for the day.

The day commenced with a session that is always held in high regard by regular participants; three attendees are invited to present a prepared appraisal of a favourite tanka by someone they have never met.

Sylvia Florin spoke of the following tanka by Margaret Chula (6th International Tanka Festival, 2009):

yesterday’s desires
what were they?
        a vase
without flowers
holds only itself

Marilyn Humbert shared with the group why this tanka by Pamela A Babusci (Ribbons, Vol 7, NO 3, 2011) moved her:

i walk for miles
after your betrayal
my black beret
white and heavy
in the endless snow

Gail Hennessy completed the trio by bringing us back home with this very Australian tanka by Keith Keyes (Grevillea & Wonga Vine, 2010):

gashes of lightning
summer storm in the mallee –
smell the first raindrops
exploding on red earth . . .
the dams have their mouths open

These three sensitive and insightful appraisals were deeply valued as they gave a depth of interpretation others may not have appreciated on their own reading of the poem. It is through this sharing of what moves another colleague that we are able to see the poem through new eyes and different life experiences. These appraisals will feature on the Eucalypt web site and are well worth reading for their astute observations upon excellent tanka.

Following this all eighteen Bowerbirds then read aloud one tanka each, from any person or tanka age, that particularly resonated with them. Without comment or critique, this session allowed total immersion into the magical and lyrical passion of this addictive poetic form that is even more captivating when spoken aloud. Even the magpies and lagoon waterfowl were inclined trill a short song to add to the ambience of this session.

Kathy Kituai then facilitated a fascinating workshop titled Get Real: the Art of Shasei. We were all amazed by the extent of what we took away from this session, especially surrounding the life of the tanka reformer, Shiki. Kathy expertly demonstrated to us that shasei, small portraits of life, do not have to be one-dimensional. We discovered that even in depicting something from daily life just as it is, there can be many avenues and multiple layers of meaning not initially considered. And even though, as poets, we can “paint what you see with your eyes” we still bring our past experiences into this. The trick is to step back and allow the reader to bring their interpretations and experiences to the tanka.

The following tanka, by Shiki, was used as an example and generated much discussion:

set free
from the cage I kept it in
the sparrow darts off
into the last rays of the setting sun
lighting up the yellow forsythia

From this, participants not only appreciated the surface intention of this still life – a bird released in late afternoon - but imbued it with personal interpretations of loss, longing, illness, end of life, determination, death poetry, hope, despair, acceptance, relief . . . the interpretations were literally endless.

The enduring message that I have taken from this session is that shasei does not necessarily mean shallow. Like all life sketches, done either with oil, watercolour, or words, when one steps back it allows great scope for light, shadow, depth and layering of personal interpretation from the audience.

After lunch Dawn Bruce enthralled us with Tanka Takeaway: an interactive workshop. This extremely practical session gave everyone present a portable toolbox of tanka tips for busting through writing blockages, finding creativity, and pushing our tanka beyond the ordinary to that next level with an undeniable WOW-factor.

Dawn planted many seeds that we saw germinate in the exercises she had set for us. One valuable key she gave us to unlock those blockages was the simple message “think in fragments.” So simple, but oh so effective. Too often I have tried to think out a complete tanka all at once. Perhaps I should have taken a fragmentary approach and allowed just one fragment to direct the course of the tanka.

These fragments are around us all the time . . . in snippets of conversation, a phrase we have read, a photo in a magazine, a children’s picture book. As Dawn astutely said, “a word can spark you off.” Dawn gave us very concrete examples of how a recent tanka of hers was sparked from a child’s book . . . a single word became a fragment, then an associated memory of family and childhood; and before too long, a tanka was born.

If we are having trouble, perhaps try an image. Haiga begins with a picture. Look to your photo albums – old photos of family can often give rise to inspiration in many forms – emotion, memory, desire. And try to not be too restrictive in your ideas. One idea can flow into another. It is at this time you perhaps need to give your idea its head and let it lead you where it wants to go. As Dawn said this, it made perfect sense to me: these are the tanka that need, and sometimes demand, to be written, regardless of what we want to write. Dawn showed us how to take our everyday writers’ block and turn it into something useful. Imagine you are in your study and your muse is anywhere but with you. Look around you and quickly jot down, on the left side of a sheet of paper, ten nouns of items you see around you, for example desk, paper, books, rose, and so forth. Then pick one other word, such as moon, that is used a lot in tanka. And then marry up with lines the words on the left that you feel have an association with moon on the right. Is there something different in how you perceive the moon by doing this, a new way of writing about it? This may be the very fragment that generates your tanka. Neither word may necessarily feature in your tanka, but it may be the kick start you need.

And instead of associations, try oppositions. A quick list of five words on the left of the page, and what you perceive to be their immediate opposites on the right. Again, does this opposition plant a seed or germinate a fragment that may lead to an outstanding tanka? Can they be used together for impact? Do they take you on a journey elsewhere?

Excellent tanka often marry up “interesting concepts” not usually thought of. They write of the usual in unusual ways, and Dawn’s exercises certainly give much latitude to encouraging this within crafting our own tanka.

Everyone left this session invigorated with much hope for combating those days when the muse cannot be contacted and the blocks appear overwhelming. With a little help from Dawn, we all realised there are practical and easy tools at our disposal for assisting with our writing.

The day concluded with a wrap-up of latest news from the leaders and facilitators of tanka groups in NSW and south-east Australia. It is heartening to know that tanka is spreading and being embraced by many groups, and bringing joy to more people than ever.

Sincere thanks to Kathy Kituai, a Bowerbird stalwart, who travelled a great distance from Canberra to Pearl Beach for this workshop. I am certain everyone appreciates and values this effort as much as I do. And thanks to Dawn Bruce for her stimulating takeaway session, and also to the three wonderful presenters who shared a favourite tanka with us all.

And Beverley . . . Bowerbird would not be Bowerbird without you – both in spirit and inclusiveness, and also in hosting these workshops. Each time I leave Bowerbird I am richer for tanka knowledge, supported in the company of like-minded persons, and sustained by five short lines of poetry that give me a whole new world.

Can I put my hand up now for Bowerbird number 9?

David Terelinck

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #7 19 November 2011
by Yvonne Hales

The Bowerbird group gathered at Beverley George’s home 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.

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #6 20th March 2011 by
Jo Tregellis

On 20th March 2011, 17 delegates attended the Bowerbird Tanka Group Workshop at the home of Beverley George in Pearl Beach NSW. Seven of the group had returned from a tour of Japan following in the footsteps of Bash? 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 undersatnding 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.

Report Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #5 19th September 2010
by David Terelinck

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

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #4 February 27th 2010
by Catherine Smith

Nineteen Bowerbirds, including three presenters, gathered at Beverley George's tranquil home, hoping to take away with them some inspiration and technical tips for writing better tanka. Not a single bird returned home disappointed.

Amelia Fielden spoke about the tricky question of punctuation, sharing her views and style. She also included a valuable exercise which involved punctuating a number of tanka to improve them. Kathy Kituai's presentation, 'Write Below the Surface' prompted a lively discussion on a tanka written by Izumi Shikibu and an excellent exercise on listening to our own and other peoples' poems.

Guest speaker, Mandy Austin, a director of The Japanese Saturday School, gave an interesting overview of 'Living in two cultures'. She discussed Japanese traditions, demonstrated the s etting up of a tea ceremony and passed around items that ranged from practical towel holders to exquisite pottery all with tanka written on them.

Julie Thorndyke, speaking about 'The Magic of the Five Lines', not only illuminated the magic and allure of tanka but also gave each participant a comprehensive, illustrated handout of her presentation. Just what a bowerbird loves.

During the lunch break we had the pleasure of a champagne toast for Australian tanka and also for Beverley's enchanting new book 'the Preposterous Frog'. A most satisfying day for all.

Catherine Smith

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #3 22 February 2009
by Julie Thorndyke

The third Bowerbird Tanka workshop was held on Sunday 22nd February, 2009 at Pearl Beach, NSW. Workshop leaders Beverley George, Amelia Fielden and Kathy Kituai supported a full house of tanka enthusiasts in workshopping participant prepared poems.

All present were encouraged and entertained by the wide range of poetry submissions, the expert feedback from the leaders and mutual appreciation of workshop members. What a joy to have so many creative minds together in one room at this tanka think-tank.

Kathy Kituai shared some of her writing secrets, then led the group in a creative session designed to court the muse. We were invited to engage with and reflect upon the creative process. I came away with a renewed sense of the pleasure of writing.

The lunchtime kukai on the theme paperbark was won by Carolyn Alfonzetti. The afternoon took the form of small group sessions to write renga on the theme 2008 was the year. During the day many books changed hands and many connections were made. Once again we owe Beverley George a sincere vote of thanks for organising and throwing open her home for this lively and congenial tanka workshop.

Julie Thorndyke

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #1 May 18, 2008
by Beverley George

A small group of tanka enthusiasts descended on Pearl Beach yesterday by car, train, and ferry for a workshop from 10-3. I led the morning session working on poems on the theme of relationships everyone had brought and in the afternoon Amelia Fielden led a very lively session on linked writing, which yielded some very imaginative writing. Delegates were Dawn Bruce, Judy Kendall, Judy Friezer, Margaret Grace, Meredith Collins, Geneveive Kneipp, Jill Hill, Ellen Weston and Catherine Smith. Workshops occur from time to time, where possible with a co-presenter, so if you live anywhere near the Central Coast do let me know. Interstate people are welcome to advise me if they would like a workshop if ever I happen to be in their neck of the woods. Numbers are restricted to 10 for this kind of hands-on workshops so everybody gets a hearing.

Report on Bowerbird Tanka Workshop #??? 2011