Review by Moira Richards

by Amelia Fielden


Ginninderra Press
ISBN 978-1-74027-409-8
96 pp., $20.00 (AUS)

What I enjoy most about Amelia Fielden's poetry is the broad variety of subjects over which her tanka range--politics, pets, family, travel--all these and much more. Her latest book, Baubles, Bangles & Beads, reads as a richly textured tapestry of the life and loves of the poet.
As an admirer of both Amelia's skill with the tanka form and also of her extensive knowledge and understanding of Japan, the Japanese language and the evolution of tanka, I was most of all curious to read the tanka Amelia writes about her writing of tanka. She presents in her collection one set of sixteen tanka under the title In My Tanka World and includes in it such wry reflection as this, from one whose life is perhaps never without a tanka somewhere nearby,

meditation class
with the overhead fans
tick tick ticking--
am I the only one
plotting out poems
        (In My Tanka World, 56)

And even when she writes a different set of tanka about another of her life's passions, swimming, it seems that Amelia cannot but welcome the intrusion of tanka

I kick away
composing in my head
a tanka which
may not be so buoyant
when we leave the water
        (Still Swimming: I Inland, 50)

Baubles, Bangles & Beads also includes many sets of tanka that record Fielden's travels around Japan. A visit to the attractions of the country's famous and ancient historic city of Nara inspires a tanka about tanka...

far below
the Byakugo hill temple
Nara unfolds
dazzling, elusive
as Japanese tanka
        (Nara Time, 66)

...and surely this visit to another Japanese city has evoked its own allusion to tanka poetry--

harbour liners
glide past bonsai islands
while I sip tea
turning the bowl to admire
its familiar foreign form
        (Fragments from a Fukuoka Day, 65)

Tanka poetry seems not to be a solitary pastime for Amelia Fielden. Through it she has found interaction and friendship with other poets and often, she bows to their craft in her poems,

poet Kawano had
so much more than I
literary fame
a lump in her breast

outside the wind
roars and rattles while
Mariko stands
in an eye of stillness
giving life to her tanka
        (In My Tanka World, 57)

Amelia is also well-known for the assistance she gives to many Japanese poets with the translation of their work into English. The next poem gives some insight into the joy of such collaboration as well as to the complexities involved in the rendering of a short song into the same short song, but in a very different language and grammar.

from the air
Alaskan lakes: "green", says
my Japanese friend
‘turquoise blue’, say I
and we laugh together
        (With Ninety-three Japanese Poets, 76)

And perhaps many other poets draw the same strength from their art that Amelia gives words to here,

when I am
emotionally adrift
I reach for
the rock of tanka,
write myself steady
        (In My Tanka World, 56)

Baubles, Bangles & Beads is a chapbook of threaded tanka--tanka grouped carefully together by the poet into meaningful strands. Too late, I fear that I may have not done those strands justice by drawing from them here a cross-thread, as it were. But now that would have to be another review.


Moira Richards: "Google 'Moira Richards' to find links to my essays on Women Abuse, my reviews of woman-authored books as well as to other writing and editing work I do for various print and e-publications. I can often be found lounging about the staff rooms of, and - usually sipping tea, sometimes Jack Daniels."




Note: Reviews may not necessarily reflect the opinions of RATTLE's editors and staff.