"From the moment I heard a tanka for the first time, I was hooked! I never knew that five short lines could contain so much imagery, power and emotion. It was like a punch in the guts that takes the breath away. I walked away from that first mini tanka workshop amazed with the scope of this short form Japanese writing rendered into English." - David Terelinck
It gives me great pleasure to welcome my dear friend David to the Author Spotlight at Mandy’s Pages. To begin with, his newest book Slow Growing Ivy is about to hit the stands this March 30, which is why I am extra excited to have him with us at today’s post. He is also the author of Casting Shadows, a tanka book published in 2011. David please tell my readers something about yourself.
Thanks Mandy, for taking the time to interview me for Mandy’s Pages. For your readers who don’t know me, I am David Terelinck, a writer and poet living and working in Sydney, Australia. I primarily write tanka and have been concentrating on this genre for the past 6 years . . . what I like to call my ongoing apprenticeship to tanka. I fully expect my apprenticeship will last the rest of my life.
What was your life as a writer before tanka?
In the past, I have successfully written award-winning short stories and articles, as well as free verse poetry. But at the moment my heart remains firmly bound to Japanese short forms.
I have been lucky in the last few weeks that I have permanently reduced my hours from a full-time to a part-time role. This move of dropping to 4 days a week was part of a healthy work-life balance transition to give me more time to spend with my partner, and focus more on my writing.
When did you first start writing? What were your earliest memories – or what prompted you to write?
For as long as I can remember, I have always had a love of literature and was an avid reader even as a very young child. I devoured books and could always be found with one in my hand and a spare beside me. I’ve loved reading as the last activity of the day before bed. And this developed into a love of writing.
I had two excellent English teachers in High School. And these women taught me the joy of creative writing in the real sense. The sense of accomplishment at crafting words into stories, and poems into song.
Having started your literary journey, has it always been smooth sailing for you?
Within a year or two of leaving high school I attended a live-in weekend poetry workshop in the Quorrobolong Ranges in the Hunter Valley Region of New South Wales. This was the first, but by no means last, battering to a young ego. I took some poems along only to be told I had no talent and should just forget about being a poet.
Bruised but not broken, I joined my first Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) regional branch for assistance. From there, with constructive critiquing rather than destructive criticism, I blossomed. I learned the craft of writing, honing, editing. I entered competitions, attended workshops, and worked hard at being a writer. In between career and family, I continued writing to be where I am today.
Fascinating! Let me be one of the earliest to congratulate you on your next tanka book, Slow Growing Ivy. Congratulations my friend! Do share your tanka story with us, David.
I was seduced by tanka in late 2007 to early 2008. I was at a regular meeting of the Eastwood Hills regional FAW (my newest FAW at the time – I had returned to writing after an absence of many years due to a demanding nursing career and swapping creative writing for publishing professional health journal articles in the gastroenterology field). When the monthly workshop was over some genre critiquing groups sprang up. Someone asked if I would like to sit in on the Tanka Huddle critiquing group run by Julie Thorndyke. A member of this group was Beverley George.
From the moment I heard a tanka for the first time, I was hooked! I never knew that five short lines could contain so much imagery, power and emotion. It was like a punch in the guts that takes the breath away. I walked away from that first mini tanka workshop amazed with the scope of this short form Japanese writing rendered into English.
What I love about tanka is the possibility it holds. Each five lines is a complete world that can either focus down to an individual cell of life, or encompass entire galaxies. Or even cover all the ground in between these two realities. I like the “dreaming room” that invites me in with a suggestion, but does not mind if I bring my own life experience to the poem. Tanka inspires me to edit my writing . . . to throw away wordiness and focus on what matters. It teaches me to live in the moment and appreciate the transience of life.
I can relate to those aspects, David. Being part of your group Tanka Workshop, you constantly remind us to open our senses to what’s beyond the content of a tanka. How did you learn? I mean, were there specific people who helped mould you into the tanka poet that you are today?
There have been some very sentinel people I have met on my journey as I walk this tanka path. My very first mentor and tanka friend is Beverley George; editor of Australia’s only tanka-specific journal, Eucalypt. Beverley continues to be a dear friend and supporter and we continue to work very closely on collaborative tanka projects that have included New Year cards, mouse pads and tanka calendars. Beverley was also the first editor to publish a tanka of mine and really set me on my pathway in terms of this form of writing.
Kathy Kituai, a Canberra-based tanka poet, is a constant source of light and laughter in my tanka world. She and I have also collaborated responsively together with tanka writing. Kathy always reminds me to laugh and nurture the child within. Her lesson is one of nurturing the spirit and accepting those fallow periods all writers have.
And to every other poet out there I have collaborated and written responsively with – thank you so much. It is that trust you place in me the process that means the world to me. And by writing with others we learn to bend and perhaps grow in directions we had not before appreciated.
There are many contemporary tanka poets today whose work I admire and who have influenced how I craft my tanka; how I set it up and build to the overall image. I have a top 20 list of favourite tanka poets that I always read when journals come out. And these poets always write tanka that takes my breath away. So I give due credit to them and they history they have laid full of quality stepping stones. I will list just two of my favourite poets whose work I return to again and again as wonderful exemplars of the genre: Susan Constable and Linda Jeanette Ward,
What are your main achievements as a writer / author?
The two biggest achievements have been the publication of both my tanka collections. The first was Casting Shadows in 2011 and subsequently Slow Growing Ivy in 2014. These represent my growth as a tanka poet over the past years. But they would not have come into being had it not been for the many, many tanka published by editors over the years. It is this faith by someone more eminently qualified that gives one the courage to then collate and publish a collection of new and previously published work.
I am also thankful for the small amount of tanka awards that have encouraged me to keep writing tanka. I was placed first in a couple of international awards and have had success with placings and commendations in others. Although awards are not necessarily important for their monetary value they can lend a certain recognised legitimacy to you work depending on the award.
As a result of consistent publishing of my tanka I have been invited into some guest editing and tanka selection roles. These have included co-editor with Beverley George on Grevillea & Wonga Vine: Australian Tanka of Place in 2011; on the editorial panel for Take Five, Best Contemporary Tanka, Vol 4, 2012; and on the selection panel for GUSTS Contemporary Tanka journal for the last couple of years.
I have also been fortunate to be asked to write the introductions to two high-quality tanka collections in the past 12 months: A Solitary Woman by Pamela A. Babusci and twelve moons by Claire Everett; both outstanding collections that add to the canon of tanka today. And I launched a new book last week called Tanka to Eat by Nokiko Tanaka and translated by Amelia Fielden & Saeko Ogi in Canberra. So I feel I am quite blessed with tanka-related activities that have flowed my way since setting out on this journey.
How would you like to advice aspiring authors / poets?
What are your other projects?
I definitely have a book of short stories bubbling away inside of me . . . a couple of years off yet, but percolating beneath the surface. There’s an end-of-year collaborative project in progress now that I am unable to reveal... and also another couple of collaborative books way back in the wings with some other poets as well.
I imagine I will continue to write responsively with other poets when the urge strikes them of me.
As a poet, do you face hurdles in your writing career?
I don’t think any more than the average poet. Who would not like more time to write and less time to work? Nevertheless, to that end I have recently dropped a day at work to move to permanent part-time status. So now, I have a 3-day weekend every week, so that will help a little. There is always the challenge of daily life, family, other commitments and writing. I try to schedule a little time each day to write, but it does not always pan out. I don’t beat myself up over it too much as I am just human and writers are not machines.
When the muse has left . . . I just enjoy the peace and quiet and have another merlot. Like all things, inspiration returns in time. If I am on a deadline I might need to jump-start it with a trip to the Chinese or Japanese Gardens, a walk along the harbour, eavesdropping on street conversations. Inspiration is everywhere, we just need to be open to it and take advantage of it.
How can people buy your books?
Your outlook to life that ultimately inspires what you write ...
... That we are here for only a finite time in this form. And one never knows how long that may be. So I say to writers - seize the day and sempre viva libro – life forever in print! Don’t wait for opportunities – seek out your own and make them happen. And above all, laugh and enjoy life.
P.S. I also write because if I didn’t I would be intolerable as a human being with so much to say and no other way to express it!
Thank you David. You have been wonderful.
And there you have it, readers: David’s very own story about his exciting literary journey. That was truly inspiring. But it doesn’t end here. Next week we bring you an EXCLUSIVE PRE-LAUNCH run of his newest book Slow Growing Ivy. Stay tuned for an inside scoop about publishing a book ... and more. Join me in cheering David all the way!
For more details, contact
Mandy’s Pages Tanka Resources