Home Writing Book Reviews Gusts, Spring/Summer, 2013 NEXT: to Books BACK: to Adult Titles
 
  DOUBLE TAKE
  New Zealand Poetry Society
  MET Press
  Adult Titles
  BOOKENDS
  Story Circle
  S. & B. Books
  Event Magazine
  Geist
  BLOGS
  Canadian Teacher Blog
  ARTICLES
  Senior Living Magazine
  REVIEWS
  Book Reviews
  Readers' Comments
 
 
 
 
 
SHOP
  CARDS
  SITEMAP
  CONTACT
Gusts, Spring/Summer, 2013
Sonja Arntzen and Naomi Beth Wakan, Reflections: response tanka, Pacific-Rim Publishers, 2013
Reviewed by Joanne Morcom

"In this their second collection of response tanka, the authors focus on a number of topics – the seasons, love/relationships, human nature, nostalgia, ageing, travel, tidal pools, sea, colours, detective writers, writing/reading, allusive variations, and odds and ends.

As Sonja Arntzen points out in her introduction, the allusive variations (honkadori) and travel utamakura sections are where the Japanese traditions most inspire their tanka writing. She further explains that the practice of writing allusive variations involves the inclusion of up to three lines from a well-known poem of the past into a contemporary poem. After reading Steven Carter’s Waiting for the wind: Thirty-six poets of Japan’s Late Medieval Age, Sonja and Naomi chose five favorite last lines to use as last lines in their response tanka. Here’s an example using Reizi Tamehide’s line “that is so fleeting and vain.”

I sit musing
as to what is left to do
in this life
that is so bitter yet so sweet
“that is so fleeting and vain”
N

away for a month
the weeds have taken possession
of this garden again
mocking all effort
“that is so fleeting and vain”
S

Sonja’s response to Naomi’s tanka (and Tamehide’s last line) reflects back some of the same thoughts and feelings, yet also expands on them in an un expected way. After a month’s absence, the poet returns home and realizes the fleeting vanity of weeding her garden. Will she sit musing as in Naomi’s poem, or get to work? The question remains unanswered.
Classicla travel – Utamakura poems inspire both poets in the use of place names to add depth and richness to their tanka, as in the following two poems about London, England:

my memories
of London are closer
to Dickens
with his twisted streets and hearts
than what it possibly is now
N

even underfoot
the real streets of London
seem more
like stage sets for films
of Sherlock Holmes and Poirot
S

Naomi’s impressions are darkly nostalgic, while Sonja’s deal more with the present – or do they? The literary references suggest even more meanings and associations. Both poets live near the sea, which makes for some highly imagistic tanka. One of Naomi’s in particular seems to symbolize the joint effort of this superb collection:

tidal pools
sand ripples, water ripples
sunlight ripples
what a fine piece of weaving
this beach has produced
N

What a fine piece of writing this collaboration between two experienced poets has produced. Hopefully, a third collection of their response tanka is in the works."

Naomi (left) and her twin sister, Ruth Artmonsky, who together compiled the series of quotation books, Artworks, Designworks, Musicworks, Bookworks, Loveworks, Gardenworks, Foodworks, and Lifeworks. The UK rights have been sold to The Courtauld Institute of Art.
HOME BACK: to Home PREV NEXT
Home BACK: to Adult Titles NEXT: to Books
WRITING NAOMI WAKAN DRUMBEG HOUSE ARTWORK