25 Tanka Poets from Australia

Edited by Beverley George and Carmel Summers
The area of Australia is about the size of the mainland states of the USA, excluding Alaska, and approximately 24 times the size of the British Isles. Despite this, and because of the aridity of inland Australia, 88% of Australia’s population is concentrated in city centres and along the fertile coastal and adjacent rural regions.

Yet, when we are asked to write poems that capture the essence of this country, it is more often the rural and inland aspects that first engage our thoughts. The rural landscape, unspoiled and natural, and our rich variety of flora and fauna take precedence over the urban landscape that is more typically our milieu.

Responding to the invitation to send 25 tanka from Australia, we quickly made several decisions. The poems would be especially written for this project, and not previously published and that the collection would comprise a single poem from each of 25 Australian poets. We decided that the poems should address country and suburban living, the inland, and the beach. In this small collection our wild-life is scantily represented by a few birds and a double-headed python which we hope you will enjoy meeting.

We appreciate the opportunity to participate in Atlas Poetica – Special Features and have greatly enjoyed writing and assembling these poems.

1) David Terelinck

no jokes left
the kookaburras drift
into silence
a didgeridoo
mourns the dreaming

2) Beverley George

red monolith
erupting from red dust
what would I
have made of it
if not seen first with you?

3) Julie Thorndyke

brown river
snaking through
the muddy heart of time
… I do not trust
this new desire in me

4) Shona Bridge

a frenzy
of high-stepping
emus court
in long-shadow light

5) Anne Benjamin

above the stream
red river gum’s roots
in this drought of hope
how deep must I reach

6) Jo McInerney

old wheat towns
blister along the rail lines
empty silos
stand like cenotaphs
with their feet in the dust

7) Gail Hennessy

my father drove
down country roads
through gum tree corridors
line of fence, fields of sheep
his journey to nirvana

8) Michael Thorley

hardly used now
this little bush church
on a dusty road –
a sheep or two grazing
all that’s left of the flock

9) M L Grace

a bush lark
sings above yellow grass . . .
on red earth
a rusted water tank
fallen from its pedestal

10) Jenny Barnard

at the Mathilda motel
the old rouse-a-bout
sits in bright sunlight
eating his custard tart

11) Rodney Williams

on harvest
potato bags stand full
by red furrows . . .
in fields far to the west
long rows of white crosses

12) Merle Connolly

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

13) Amelia Fielden

in drought grass
a flock of cockatoos
pecking pecking,
the majesty of flight
halted by hunger

14) Carmel Summers

chilled lobster
red and green salad
White Christmas
softly in the background
on cards sent by friends

15) Jo Tregellis

once in May
we launched sky rockets
from glass bottles
now fractious words
spark the autumn night

16) Catherine Smith

morning walk
the old black labrador
wattle flowers on his head
a spring in his step

17) Kathy Kituai

just like a young girl
to wear her flimsiest skirt
too early in spring …
a bitter breeze blowing
blossom from the plum tree

18) Jan Foster

mating call
of a Powerful Owl
probes the night …
your hand
strokes my hip

19) Barbara A Taylor

outside my window
double-headed python
plaited diamonds
unfurl, slink silently
into this sunset haze

20) Cynthia Rowe

the replaced
footpath lifting
once more
this hardy melaleuca
refuses to be tamed

21) Gerry Jacobson

cunning landscape
hides our suburb
in its folds
hides its teenagers
boredom … pain … anger

22) Paula Stevenson

in my sky
a hammock moon;
further north
my absent child
longs for full sun

23) Marian Morgan

in this shell
of excess aging flesh
lives a young girl
still sun-baking on a beach,
still playing in the surf

24) Lisa M Tesoriero

weekend ritual –
the devout pray
in silence
waxing their surfboards
for the perfect wave

25) Lynette Arden

Dad takes up
speedboat racing
shaking off chalk dust
he spreads a wake of foam

© 2010