Canberra/Nara Poetry Anthology

This year, 2018, marks the 25th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Canberra (Australia) and Nara (Japan). To celebrate the occasion, Saeko Ogi, Amelia Fielden and Noriko Tanaka have edited a collection of tanka and haiku by Australian and Japanese poets. The publication is titled Poetry Bridges: Canberra/Nara Commemorative Anthology.

The Australian launch of Poetry Bridges took place on 20 October 2018 at Manning Clark House in Canberra. The official speech was given by Mr Shun Ikeda, Senior Lecturer in Japanese at the Australian National University and Vice-President of the Australia-Japan Society, ACT Branch.

Poetry Bridges

The poems in the collection depict contemporary life and scenes in the sister cities, with each poem presented in both English and Japanese. Some tanka from the Nara compilation:

when I come to Nara
and the Kasuga grove
is changing colour,
I feel spirits everywhere
breathing deeply

(Yamada Shuko)

on such a day,
when the sky over Nara
is pure blue,
I’d like to take a stroll
with the Great Buddha

(Hashimoto Ayako)

and from the Canberra compilation:

rising
above the House
on the hill
massed hot-air balloons
escape a chilly morning

(Julianne Jameson)

under the dome
of the War Memorial
the chatter
of schoolchildren
folds into a hush

(Anne Benjamin)

While several of the poems hint at the many exchanges occurring between people from Canberra and Nara under the sister city relationship. This poem is by Hazel Hall from Canberra:

a formal bow
followed by a handshake
and laughter
cherishing friendship
between two cultures

Also included in the anthology is a haiku sequence by the Canberra based haiku group known as Haiku @ The Oaks. The sequence was inspired by the kuchi-e exhibition held at the National Library of Australia (Canberra) from May to August 2017. Kuchi-e are the woodblock frontispiece illustrations from Meiji period novels.

Melodrama in Meiji Japan

chasing winter
from the gallery
gilded screens

Heian princess
the face in the kuchi-e
looks away

finding accord
her grandchild plays Sakura
on the koto

a woman’s secret
pressed on the page
cherrywood block

cold wind
through the blossom
uplifting

it might be
Lake Burley Griffin
. . . but for kimono

In order, the poems in the sequence were written by Marietta McGregor, Gregory Piko, Hazel Hall, Glenys Ferguson, Kathy Kituai and Jan Dobb.

The event at Manning Clark House on 20 October also launched two other collections of Japanese form poetry. Dr Carol Hayes from the Australian National University launched  Four Poets in a Boat, which offers translations by Saeko Ogi and Amelia Fielden of four contemporary Japanese tanka poets, while Marilyn Humbert, leader of the Bottlebrush Tanka Group (Sydney) launched These Purple Years, Amelia Fielden’s latest collection of tanka and related forms.

All three books are available from Ginninderra Press.