Patricia Prime Reviews Wind Through the Wheatfields by Beverley George

It’s always a pleasure to post one of Patricia Prime’s reviews, but tonight, the pleasure is even greater, as the review is of a collection by one of our great ambassadors for Japanese forms, Beverley George. If you are not familiar with Beverley’s work, this is a real treat.

*****

WTTWWind through the Wheatfields, tanka by Beverley George writing with friends.  P O Box 37, Pearl Beach, Australia (2012). www.eucalypt.info. Pb. 56 pp. ISBN: 978-0-9578831-8-5. AUS$18 / NZ, Japan – AUD$22 (US$22) / UK, US, Canada, Europe – AUD$25 (US$25). Reviewed by Patricia Prime

Wind through the Wheatfields is a collection of tanka responses and tan renga featuring the work of Beverley George with many of the poets with whom she says in her Preface, she has “shared workshops; conferences, meetings; readings; a loved book; a point of view.” The poets come from several countries: Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., France and South Africa. The book is beautifully illustrated by Pim Sarti and has been designed by Matthew George.

In this volume we see the way in which the challenge facing the contemporary poet writing tanka responses and tan renga forms, that date back to the Japanese Nara and Heian Periods, are currently manifesting themselves. How does one write tanka responses that are still recognizable as such without merely repeating what has already been done by others? And how do you write a tanka response that attempts to address wider issues? In these forms, the poets cover many subjects, from science fiction to beach softball.

The achievement and success of these now very well-known forms, written in many languages world-wide, attract a good following.  Many people are drawn to them as literary exercises, a challenge in conciseness, while others may enjoy the companionship of writing in tandem. The humility and the ambitions are finely balanced in the poems collected here.

And the achievements are considerable.  In the first tanka response, between André Surridge and Beverley George, “Refrain”, George summons us all to the circle of friendship with the tanka:

half-circle of old friends
around the mallee-root fire
you reach for something
owned since childhood
read aloud ‘the hums of Pooh’

It is often, as in the responses between Beverley George and David Terelinck, in “Unseen Threads”, a matter of cadences:

synthetic world
of electronic gimmickry –
we tell our tales
by lamplight
our hands touching lightly

BG

a loose thread
on your favourite jumper –
accepting
we will never
nurse a grandchild

DT

Delicate syntax and concern with language are evident in the tanka response “Testing the Strength”. The dying-fall sadness of George’s last verse

how can I leave
a world you still Inhabit
my final breath
will ride the wind
without pause to where you are  

is considerably skillful and finds a precise rhythm for the subtlety of what is being said.

What is being “said” in these poems? Is it that we are alone in our own dreams and dramas, as we see in the tan renga “Converging Worlds” by Beverley George and David Terelinck?

thoughts tangle,
willow fronds in wind . . .
we must dream alone
the constant echo
of lessons not quite learned

Or is it that beauty can be found wherever one lives in the world, as we in this verse by Giselle Maya from “The Other Side of Blue”?

 I see the poet
on the far side of the globe
deep in winter
reaching out with words
I paint her in russet hues

Or maybe it is the poets’ personal concerns about family, as we see in the tan renga between the late Janice M. Bostok and Beverley George, “Mother’s Day”:

 picket fence
a group of grey-heads
stealing cuttings
mother’s honey suckle
follows me on moving day

she tries to beat
a computer game score
before an eye operation
grandma’s stories flicker
in fake log-fire flames

In the way images carry fleeting glimpses of meaning, the poem reveals the poets’ concerns with family. There are the elusive images of “mother’s honey suckle”, ”grandma’s stories”, “her first-born child’s / nervous win” and the “antique chair” which we might imagine once belonged to a loved one.

“Sliding into Silence” a tan renga between Beverley George and Julie Thorndyke focuses on a

winter evening
a rim of lamplight
on worn books
he lays down gold rimmed specs
hums to dispel the quiet

While in “Trade Winds” the two poets are in their homes where the builders are at work:

she barks orders
wants the whole thing
finished by Christmas
the builder clears his throat
stares at the horizon

Kathy Kituai and Beverley George take us on a trip to Scotland in their tanka response “Taking Hold: Letters Home from Scotland”:

narrow on our flag
St Andrew’s Cross
first streets
named Clyde or Ferguson,
thistle in our paddocks

BG

Passing Places
on one vehicle roads
how welcome,
peak after lonely peak,
to pull over and wave

KK

“An Owl in the Olive”, a tan renga between Beverley George and Kirsty Karkow includes references to science fiction, drawings in a Lascaux cave, bush fires, volcanoes and much more:

red-hot lava
sizzles through darkness
to a cold sea
a watch-dog chained
under Pompeii’s cinders

winter ebb-tide
a shapeless bundle
in the dune grass
was baby Moses’ cry
like that of passing gulls?

In “Bathers”, Beverley George and Meredith Ferris recollect motherhood in the 1940s and 1970s:

kitchen table
and a bowl of soapy water
Mum dressing me
for Sunday School
in clothes she’s proud she sewed

BG

holiday house
she bathes my baby brother
in the laundry tub
perched on a stool
I lean into his laughter

MF

The poem successfully mixes memories of the poets’ own childhoods, which are significantly different from those of contemporary children.

Beverley George returns to childhood in the tanka response with M. L. Grace, “Hollyhocks and Smocking”. The poets remember a “back-yard dairy”, “aunts / in cross-stitch aprons”, “crochet patterns” and “three generations / in the valley”.  While Owen Bullock’s easy comedic voice is brought into play in his and Beverley’s “Rosemary Hard-Pruned”, where Bullock’s themes are drawn from life and from Cornwall where he was born:

grandpa’s shed . . .
nuts and bolts in jam jars
sorted for size
bundles of lavender
strung from the rafters

BG

Granfer drew cartoons
when he got sick
with diabetes
& Gran went to Chapel
to listen to the Preacher

OB

Browsing, exploring, appreciating, finding inspiration, or simply enjoying the expression of our common humanity in such a rich variety of writing is a delight. For me, this collection proves most successful when the poets voyage into the past. That these poets are masters of the intellect, of words, of the tanka response and tan renga forms seems indisputable.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Patricia Prime Reviews Wind Through the Wheatfields by Beverley George

  1. “Patricia Prime Reviews Wind Through the Wheatfields by Beverley
    George | Another Lost Shark” ended up being certainly pleasurable and educational!
    Within todays society honestly, that is hard to accomplish.
    Regards, Maya

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