Haiku North America, Day 3

Long day. Long post. I’ll see what I can do but my usual sparkling repartee may be a little off. Feel free to insert wisecracks and trenchant observations of your own wherever you feel they’re appropriate.

Okay. (Deep breath.) Got up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Friday morning and ran off to a presentation by Wanda Cook on Erotic Haiku. (Actually, Wanda prefers to call them “sensual.”) In case you were wondering how many haiku poets actually write erotic/sensual haiku, Wanda’s unscientific survey of 30 haiku poets revealed that 28 of them do and the other 2 were offended by the very suggestion that they would do such a thing. Also, about the same percentages of men and women publish erotic haiku as publish haiku in general. (55% men, 45% women, more or less.) Here she is telling us all these things.

Wanda Cook

Wanda herself has been writing sensual haiku for a while (but her grown son doesn’t want to know about it, so shhh) and has collaborated quite a bit with Larry Kimmel on erotic haiku sequences.

frosted windows
holding him
deep inside

— Wanda Cook

She broke us up into small groups and gave us some sensual haiku to look at and try to decide whether it was written by a man or a woman and, I don’t know, how sensual it was exactly. Our group had a lively discussion about a haiku involving blackberries and lips (as Billie Dee asked, “Which lips?”). We mostly all thought it was written by a woman. It turned out to have been written by Michael Dylan Welch. So we were wrong.

Here are my fellow group members (Billie Dee, Garry Gay, Penny Harter) pondering it.

Billie DeeGarry Gay

Penny Harter

And below are a few of the other attendees at the presentation, doing likewise with their own assigned poems. (Dejah Leger, Johnny Baranski, Lidia Rozmus, Carolyn Hall, Charlie Trumbull, Tina Grabenhorst)

Dejah Leger, Johnny BaranskiLidia Rozmus, Carolyn Hall, Charlie TrumbullTina Grabenhorst

The mood turned a little more somber in the next hour as Marjorie Buettner presented a tribute to all the haiku poets that had died in the two years since the last HNA. It was meticulously researched and prepared and extremely moving.

Marjorie Buettner presentation

Then we were herded like cats by Michael Dylan Welch down a flight of steps to have our group picture taken. I took a picture of the photographers, because I always feel that zoo animals should be given cameras to record our crazy antics.


Set free, I went to eat Indian food for lunch with Don Wentworth and Susan Diridoni. We ate too much and talked nonstop about poetry. Here is a dark and mysterious picture of Don.

Don Wentworth

Don has a great new chapbook out called Past All Traps which you should buy and read.

mistake after mistake
after mistake, adding up
to just the right thing
— Don Wentworth

(This is my new motto for life.)

Past All Traps

We rushed back after lunch so as not to miss Carlos Colon‘s presentation on concrete poetry. (Do a Google search for “concrete poetry” and click on “images.” Your mind will be blown.) It was a blast. Here are some examples from Carlos’s handout.

Concrete poetry

Then moving right along, to a great lecture by David Lanoue on the portrayal of frogs in the poetry of Issa – specifically, the way Issa attributes human qualities to frogs (and sometimes vice versa), which David attributes to Issa’s Pureland Buddhist beliefs about the essential equality of the souls of all creatures.

karisome no yomeri tsuki yo ya naku kawazu

a fleeting moonlit
wedding night…
frogs singing

— Issa, translated by David Lanoue

Here’s David, being thoughtful.

David Lanoue
… And zooming over to another room, for an open mic “Poetry Continuum” reading of the longer poetry of us haiku poets. I couldn’t believe the percentage of haiku poets who write non-haiku poetry. There was some great, great stuff. It was unanimously agreed that this should be a feature of all future incarnations of Haiku North America.

Here’s an assortment of poets who have taken off their haiku hats for the evening. (Cherie Hunter Day, Tracy Koretsky, Johnny Baranski, Ernesto Epistola, Margaret Chula, Kathy Munro, Terry Ann Carter, Tanya McDonald [waving the edition of A New Resonance her poetry appears in), and Ruth Yarrow)

Cherie Hunter DayTracy KoretskyJohnny BaranskiErnesto EpistolaMargaret ChulaKathy (kj) Munro

Tracy Ann CarterTanya McDonaldRuth Yarrow

After a lively dinner with Susan Diridoni, Tracy Koretsky, and Kathy Munro (can you imagine, there was more conversation about poetry), we headed back to hear yet another open mic, this one by poets who had recently published books (including Don). Didn’t get any pictures, sorry, I was too busy listening and admiring…

Then it was time for Richard Gilbert to give the William Higginson Memorial Lecture (this is the first time that one has been given). His topic was “Social Consciousness and the Poet’s Stance in 21st Century Haiku: From Kaneko Tohta to the Present.”

Richard Gilbert

Richard lives in Japan, is one of the world’s experts on gendai haiku, and is both extremely erudite and extremely passionate about his subject. He presented us with some dense, abstruse, but thought-provoking scholarship on modernist and post-modernist literature, including this passage from Charles Bernstein’s essay “Revenge of the Poet-Critic” which I may have to hang over my desk:

Words so often fail us. They do so little and they are so disappointing, leading us down blind alleys and up in smoke. But they are what we have, what we are given, and we can make them do what we want. Every poem is a model of some other world, a practice of some other reality; but it always leads back to this one, for if words give a way to envision possible worlds they don’t provide the way to inhabit them. …There is no place words cannot take us if we don’t take them as authorities, with fixed codes hardwired into the language, but as springs to jump with, or as trampolines to hurl ourselves, inward and outward, upward and downward, aslant and agog, round and unrounded.

— Charles Bernstein, from “Revenge of the Poet-Critic” in My Way

Then, in support of his contention that literature and in particular haiku should move away from strict realism towards more challenging and inventive uses of language, he presented us with numerous examples of avant-garde haiku from the most recent (February) issue of Roadrunner. A, shall we say, lively discussion ensued. Traditionalists muttered while gendai enthusiasts raved. The lecture went far past its scheduled expiration date and the discussion ended up moving to a pub where twenty or so of us stayed until closing time, ranting about poetry (just so you know, I mean this in the very nicest way) and causing endless trouble for the extremely patient waitstaff.

Pub crowd 1Richard Gilbert, Eve Luckring, Fay AoyagiCor van den Heuvel et al.Kaz, Sue Antolin, Susan Diridoni

I wish I’d gotten a picture of Richard Gilbert and Cor van den Heuvel leaning intently over the table toward each other, each nursing a scotch and cordially discussing their very different points of view on poetry (and their opinions on scotch). The theme of this year’s HNA is “Fifty Years of Haiku,” and it was amazing to see Cor, who’s been writing haiku for all of those fifty years and more, exchanging ideas with Richard, whose ideas may be pointing the way toward what much haiku will look like in another fifty years. It’s not too often you feel like you can see as far back into the past as you can see forward into the future. It was a privilege.

28 thoughts on “Haiku North America, Day 3

  1. yeah. triple wow. what William and Norman said. and wow again more.

    aloha Melissa. i have never attended a conference that i went to because it was for me in some area i was interested in with my work. yeah, true. i tend to be a loner. what you’ve done in these posts is help me to see, wow, what i’m missing. and yeah, wow what a great mixing of haiku-ers.

    …wait… you mean haiku-ers can be a raucous bunch too? bwahahahaha. cool.

    btw, i think you should be hired as PR and insightful and inciteful documentator for HNA. or any group you choose to explore. great reads. way fun. and wow too. aloha.

    • wow – i so agree with you Peter – and… why not… make… this kind of interaction a part of HNA?

      what if… ku were written to topics or on subjects that the people at HNA were discussing? or even giving a challenge to online viewers – such as:

      Traditional haiku (could i get a definition here?) along with the newer and new… the past with the future. .

      “….he presented us with numerous examples of avant-garde haiku from the most recent (February) issue of Roadrunner. A, shall we say, lively discussion ensued. Traditionalists muttered while gendai enthusiasts raved.”

      something out of this issue?

      or the 19 dozen more ideas and concepts that are being presented at HNA as well as being documented here at Red Dragonfly…

      making the net also a part of this conference seems to me to also be a wave into the future… (okay, i admit i may not have the full picture of HNA and the conference so i may just be bluttering my mouth into blah because – may be all of this is being done at another location on the net? may be on the official HNA site?) cool if it is and way cool if it will be too.

      exciting. aloha.

      • I think you’re definitely onto something here, Wrick…I may talk to the planning committee about trying to incorporate some online-participation element into the next conference.

        • way cool. I’d like to see this happen. it just seems to make so much sense to me… especially as your topic of blogging has entered the sphere of conference subject matter.

          hey, btw… Aubrie Cox and i were exchanging ideas on a haiku doodle month for Sept. I think she has a lot going on with returns to school and all, but I’m thinking I’d like to give it a try. I have no ideas what the criteria might be. or how to go about it, I just think it would be fun. so I’m tossing this out to invite you and anyone else who might be interested to join in. . . personally I’m okay with photo images altho my plan is to draw. may be I could do a drawing a day for others to work by too? hmmm… okay just thinking out loud on the key board again… wait. this isnt even a key board any more… sheesh… thinking out loud on a touch screen. bwahahahaha fun. aloha

          a drawing
          the summer moon
          half full of haiku

          • I actually tried this month to do a doodle tanka a day…then HNA happened. I think I did four days. I suppose I could start again now that I’m home but I’ve kind of lost interest. Not in the tanka, in the doodling. It stresses me out too much because it’s so, so hard for me and it looks so bad no matter how hard I work. Aubrie keeps telling me it’s supposed to look bad but she has no idea how bad mine look. I think I prefer to commission my illustrations…

            • bwahahahahaha. yes. i can understand that “then HNA happened”. that is always the case. “then. that. happened”. just draw anyway. 5 minutes of scribble a day. that counts. that is enough. as long as it’s every day.

              yeah. you have to stop thinking; a drawing i (you) have not done has to look a certain way. and begin thinking; a drawing i (you) have done, looks exactly the way it is supposed to look.

              then: stop stressing. and let your drawing be the way it is. it’s okay to do that.

              here’s something else that is fun to try: next drawing you do, try to make it a BAD looking drawing. and i do mean try to make it look bad. and of course have fun making it look Bad. no going back to make it look better.

              yes, there is no working hard either. play. just play. what ever is playful for you. do that with a pencil. or pen. or pens. just play.

              just because you pick up a piece of rope, it does not mean you have to be able to tie sailor knots. you can just run down the street skipping rope. or dragging it. that’s okay too.

              okay. commission your illustrations. i’m selling mine cheap $1.

              tomorrow i’ll give you some things to think about regarding “interesting line”. no you can not think about interesting line today. today, you work on a bad drawing. a really bad. drawing. you have 5 minutes to make a really bad drawing. set a timer if you have to. then get started immediately. no thinking. just bad it.

              okay. my bossy mode may be over. ….as long as you draw.

              • Man, you are bossy. You may be almost as bossy as me and that’s saying something.

                Yeah, I know I need to overcome my crippling perfectionism. Can I just do it in one area at a time though? I mean I’m making real progress on overcoming perfectionism in my writing, not sure I have it in me to combat my grievous weaknesses on two fronts at a time…

                • ha. i’ll try to keep my 2nd place bossy ranking thank you. you know… a perfectionist… who better able to do a really bad drawing to perfection? if a perfectionist cant do a bad drawing by intention… who can? sheesh. that aught to be a cinch. no worries. i just want to encourage you When you want to draw.

    • Unfortunately not, Mark. I have a few notes if you’re interested, but if you’re already familiar with Richard’s work there’s probably nothing in there you don’t know already…

      • Hi Melissa,
        very grateful for your blog and near real-time posts. I want to say though about my presentation, everything I presented was completely new material, based on the last year of publishing and interviewing Kaneko Tohta and contemplating his ideas in light of our own English-language/North American haiku and literary tradition. All haiku presented were from the Roadrunner Journal 11.1 February 2011 , just days before the current 11.2 went up.

        Here is the handout list (the Kaneko book and the Bernstein essay had just a few excerpts hard-copied):

        1) Marjorie Perloff, “Epilogue: Modernism Now” in _Cambridge Companion
        to Modernist Literature_, Blackwell, 2006

        2) _The Future of Haiku_ by Kaneko Tohta (trans. Gilbert, et al, Red
        Moon Press, July 2011)

        3) Charles Bernstein, “The Revenge of the Poet-Critic, or the Parts Are
        Greater Than the Sum of the Whole” in _My Way: Speeches and Poems_,”
        1999. [especially from page 4 on, and ignoring the silly poems].

        • Richard, thanks so much for the clarification and the bibliography. Must read more of all these authors, what you told us about them was fascinating. So good to meet you after admiring your work for a long time.

          • kochira kozo (likewise, from me to you). And we birds did tweet, did we not? It was the best conference I’ve ever been to. Sent your blog to a big blog reader, who commented “Red Dragonfly is really beautifully designed.” I was reminded of your panel discussion on blogging. More to say, but in another thread another way. Gracias, aka tombo.

            • Yes, wonderful conference, wonderful company. Thanks for passing on your friend’s compliment. Can’t take any credit for the design, however, since it’s just a standard WordPress template.

  2. Thanks for letting us be there in spirit, Melissa! 🙂 Great photos too! 🙂

    Hmm, I may have to try sensual haiku myself as I’m curious! Gonna start working on a few…

    As for concrete poetry, I’ve been experimenting with that not too long ago. I did a concrete poem/haiga out of mine. Here’s one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alotus_poetry/5959858089/

    Again, thanks for your report! You should be saying something like this: “This is Melissa reporting from Haiku News Network (HNN)…” etc., etc. I’m glad you all had fun! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Haiku North America- Day 1 | Prose Posies

  4. Pingback: The Lives of Poets, No. 2: Susan Diridoni « Red Dragonfly

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