such a battle
just reading your poetry
mosquitoes dance the page
she will inherit (not us)
— how she sings the harvest
Image: untitled by Daniel Iván on Flickr. A piece inspired by Rodney Jones’ poem about war and violence The Mosquito – which I was reading in my kitchen at 5am under attack from the subject of his poem (the last line is taken from his poem).
impatient the air slams a door, a saucer certainty of downpours evaporates before reaching this far
Image: Utagawa Hiroshige, Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake, from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo 1857. c/- Metropolitan Museum
And for music this morning, here’s Japanese composer Isao Tomita with Claire de Lune (Youtube). The whole album (sorry couldn’t find it on Youtube but there’s plenty of Tomita for you to enjoy) is pretty fab from the master of synths. (I remember my father bringing home one of Tomita’s LPs and we sat fascinated that all this music was without a single instrument being bowed or blown into or orchestra being conducted)
barely waves, turquoise
lift and settle
anything, send us anything
Image: Harold Salvage sunbaking, “The Sunbather” from Camping trips on Culburra Beach by Max Dupain and Olive Cotton c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr
Music this morning, here’s Australian musician Andrew Tuttle with reminiscence of Alexandra (Youtube has the live performance), very chill – banjo, cicadas and sprinklers on the lawns – and no surf today.
blown sand blocks our street
duneland has returned
like the past
finds us oddly
unready its tidings
Image: Dunes south of Port Kembla, c. 1940s c/- Wollongong Library. A tanka inspired by the brief closure of a local road after a few days of strong southerlies. This area was subject to some ‘dune shaping’ recently by the local council which involved removal of foredune vegetation which (in my view) helped stabilise the sand. That said, the past is implacable.
This beautiful little volume edited by Amelia Fielden and assisted by Liz Lanagan collects the work of 35 poets. Wrapped in a glorious colour photo of winter blooming wattle by poet photographer Neva Kastellic, this B5 volume sits comfortably in your hand, in your pocket or on your bookshelf. Each poet presents two tanka (except for Fielden who, as editor, has three) so that’s 10 lines per poet. But there’s never a sense of poets clamouring or competing for attention. Instead, Leaves presents a diversity of voices and a kaleidoscope of views.
The poets are mostly Australian, along with Japanese-Australian poet Saeko Ogi and a guest poet from California, Neal Whitman.
In the preface, Fielden tells us that the expression meaning ‘leaves’ in Japanese kotonoha is a homonym for ‘words’ which also alludes (in the way that everything connects to everything else) to the tanka form itself. A form, she continues, that can be traced back to 10th Century poet, Ki no Tsurayuki who begins his seminal work thus:
Generally, the poems are not of pristine idealised nature but rather nature in urban settings, nature exposing our foibles or nature butting up against us such as, for example, a currawong competing with poet/grower for an olive crop or a caterpillar rescued from being blended into pesto. Nature also provokes, as in this witty piece by Jenny Stewart
cut a little says a wispy native shrub, but not too much ... make a decision you with the rusty shears
There are references to popular culture: my own piece on Elvis (which I’m delighted to have included in this volume) and Kate King’s tanka referencing May Gibbs’ children’s tales of the gumnut babes Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the scary gang that stalk them
knobbly seed pods pounce from spiky bushes — we still recoil from those gumnut tales of Big Banksia Men
There’s also the achingly contemporary, in Rachel Colombo’s tanka
lonely cherry tree in the wintry Kyiv street a bomb explodes days later buds burst showering pink blossom.
And of course, poets talk about the craft of poetry, as in Amelia Fielden’s tanka
in full thrum cicadas emphasising the summer days — less is more, I tell my tanka students
At the launch of Leaves, one of the poets quipped that tanka was ideal for our times: small, memorable, a poem you can hold in your hand, perfect for the short-attention-span days of twitter and instagram. Yet these poems have depths that you will want to return to as each ‘leaf’ offers a different insight to nature and the human condition in these challenging times.
Leaves, tanka anthology of Nature is available from Australia’s finest small press, Ginninderra Press
girl in the Honda
smoking as she shift lanes
she's listening to Drake
driving like she doesn't care
she’s thinking YOLO
Image: Dodgem cars, Luna Park, November 1952 _ photographed by Ivan Ives, c/- State Library of NSW on Flickr. Drake, is a Canadian rapper musician, who is currently the most streamed artist of all-time on Spotify, with his songs having been played over 46 billion times, as of April 2022.) He also popularised the saying YOLO (abbr. you only live once). A tanka after Drake Equation by British-Nigerian poet Gboyega Odubanjo
as sun leaves the wall
spider gets busy
sowing sails and vacancies
scaled to her prey
in hopper legs and fly husks
how like this, this is—
line on line and beauty
bent round purpose
like a bonsai cypress
framed by chicken wire
and how wrapt we are
beguiled by gravity
stuck, barely able
to remember the door
Image: A favourite wall in Wollongong, rear of the Bridgestone Tyres outlet, McCabe Park. A bit of play with forms today (apols to any tanka purists, the syllable count doesn’t work either).
And for music this morning, here’s another piece from favourite US soul guitarist Shuggie Otis, Live in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) from 2014 (Youtube).