Haiku North America, Day 5 (The End)
by Melissa Allen
What do you do at a haiku conference when you’re done conferring? When all the books and handouts and PowerPoint slides have been packed away, when all the lecturers have had their last sips of water, when half the conferees have departed by plane or train or automobile…but you can’t. quite. stop.
You go for a boat ride, of course.
The last official activity of HNA was a tour on Argosy Cruises out to Blake Island in Puget Sound and back. (That’s Katharine Hawkinson up there. She’s a haiku poet and a tour boat captain. She didn’t captain us, though, because she was too busy making sure none of us got lost. She’s very good at doing that.)
It’s Seattle, so it was foggy in the morning. My photos all turned out very…wabi-sabi. Yes. That’s what I’m calling it.
However, we kept our spirits up, some of us by pretending to be frogs…
… and some of us by listening to our great tour guide, Jim, telling stories about Chief Seattle and his tribe and the way they assisted the generally hapless European settlers. The old American story.
Blake Island is, in fact, where Chief Sealth (later Seattle) was born. It’s a state park now with campgrounds and hiking trails and so on, and also something called “Tillicum Village” where the heritage of the native peoples of the area is celebrated.
Half a dozen of us got the idea to circumnavigate the island on the 3-mile-or-so trail that skirts the water’s edge. We had a couple of hours to kill before we had to be at Tillicum Village for a smoked salmon lunch and Native dance performance, so this seemed like plenty of time. We started out at an extremely leisurely place, stopping to ooh and aah over the fauna and flora, trade the names of things in Japanese and English (did you know the Japanese also call forget-me-nots forget-me-nots? I mean, you know, in Japanese), and take notes either mentally or on paper for possible future haiku.
(In case you can’t tell, that’s Billie Dee in the background watching the deer.)
sound of waves
the haiku poets all reach
for their pens
(Terry Ann Carter, Emiko Miyashita, Lidia Rozmus — reaching)
Forty-five minutes from Seattle by boat, and sometimes it felt like we were lost in the wilderness.
We kind of liked it that way.
(Wow…I just noticed those bright flashes of red in this landscape.)
(Top to bottom, left to right: Charlie Trumbull, Fay Aoyagi, Emiko Miyashita, Terry Ann Carter, Fay Aoyagi again, Lidia Rozmus)
At some point in this lovely idyll we realized that our poet’s pace was not going to cut it if we wanted to make it back to Tillicum Village in time to eat our smoked salmon, so we had to start panting instead of poetizing. But we managed to hit the front porch of the lodge just as the steamed clams were being served. And as they were finishing up smoking our salmon in the traditional manner in the front hall.
One thing our tour guide Jim mentioned on the boat was the fact that although in early times Native Americans in most other parts of the continent had to spend up to ninety percent of their time hunting or gathering food in order to survive, the incredible abundance of salmon on the coast meant that in this area, the Native Americans had plenty of leisure time to create complicated, sophisticated, large-scale works of art, such as totem poles and paintings and elaborate costumes for elaborate dances.
It reminded me that the development of art in all times and in all places has depended on a certain degree of wealth that facilitates a certain degree of leisure. Leisure to sit around reading and writing poetry, leisure to travel halfway across the country to meet other people who like to do these things. We’re lucky people, in other words. I try to remember that.
The salmon was delicious, the storytelling and dancing was fascinating, and I was thrilled to get a chance to chat over lunch with Abigail Friedman, the author of The Haiku Apprentice, which I have discussed here several times and is still one of my favorite books about haiku. And with Fay Aoyagi, who has long been one of my favorite haiku poets.
The whole week was like that. Meeting so many people who have shaped my haiku and my thinking about haiku in such important ways. And meeting new people who I can tell will be shaping it in the future. Talking constantly, about haiku, about poetry in general, about words, about our lives with words and our lives in general. It was very different from my “normal” life, which is quite solitary, really, and very quiet. I need a lot of space around me as a rule, but I was happy to be crowded this week. To fill my brain with other people’s sparkly exciting ideas instead of just bouncing my own around the echo chamber of my skull.
Not that there wasn’t some time for solitary reflection this week. Sometimes you just have to slip away and stare out to sea.
(That’s Abigail Friedman and Lidia Rozmus talking up on top, and then Lidia looking out at Puget Sound.)
For the amazing job they all did preparing and executing this conference, shepherding and entertaining us, dealing gracefully and cleverly with the inevitable snafus … huge thanks to the HNA planning committee: Michael Dylan Welch, Tanya McDonald, Dejah Leger, and Angela Terry; to key volunteers Dianne Garcia, Katharine Hawkinson, and Tracy Koretsky; and to a whole host of other volunteers and supporters way too long to list.
Here’s Tanya, walking and thinking at her usual speedy pace late in the day on Sunday. That’s half of Michael in the background, in his trademark “Watch out, Michael has the camera out” pose. (And Emiko Miyashita between them, determinedly leading us around Pike Place Market on a mission to inspect the fish…
… and score some smoked salmon samples for us. She is a force of nature.)
My day, my conference, ended with a slightly drunken, more than slightly exhausted dinner at a seafood restaurant with those three, Katharine Hawkinson and her husband Kevin, Fay Aoyagi, and Makoto Nakanishi, a Japanese haijin.
And then a sleepy ride back to the hotel on the monorail. Feeling sated in so many ways. Thanks, everyone.
(I would especially like to say thank you to my mother, Sheila Allen, for substantially underwriting this trip despite not really understanding what this haiku stuff is all about. Mothers are like that. Love you, Mom.)