Tag: Haiku North America

Oh, hi…

…it’s been a while. But i haven’t just been lounging around eating bonbons. Well, okay, yes I have. I have a thing for bonbons. But I’ve also been busy, first working like crazy (for money for my employer, sadly, not for free for you), then traveling. Out East. To visit my family and the trees and the hills and the ocean and, um, Haiku North America.

Where you see all the people you’ve been missing and all the people you’ve always wanted to meet.

Aubrie Cox, Donna Beaver

 

 

 

Beverly Acuff Momoi, Michelle Tennison, Penny Harter

 

 

 

Kala Ramesh

 

 

 

 

Where you get to talk about poetry all day long so you finally remember, “Oh, yeah, I kind of like poetry, maybe I should write some again.”

Haibun workshop

 

Randy Brooks gives the opening speech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where it’s really kind of ridiculously beautiful.

Old Chapel

Nott Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6589

 

 

 

 

 

I could go on (and on) but the whole thing was tiring, if exhilarating, and now I’m back home and I have to work for money again. But! I do have a prequel (and maybe even a sequel!) to this whole adventure. Coming soon to a blog near you.

 

 

 

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there is a season

I don’t think there’s anything essential about seasonal references in haiku, but I usually feel weird when I don’t use one, and that weird feeling bothered me for a long time. Was I secretly a haiku reactionary who was going to break out in 5/7/5 any day? Would I turn into one of those irritating people who berates other poets for using two season words in one haiku? Or start insisting that people whose middle line is shorter than the other two are doing it wrong? (Like, whatever, dude. Chill.) 

I felt better when I realized that it didn’t bother me in the least whether other people used seasonal references. (Or did any of that other stuff.) I just wanted to use them myself. It was important to me, emotionally if not artistically. And it took a presentation at last summer’s Haiku North America to help me figure out why. The presenter was the calm, elegant, and utterly impressive Patricia Machmiller, who’s long been associated with the Yuki Teikei Society — in other words, to a quite “traditionalist” approach to haiku. But she’s anything but doctrinaire–she’s a wonderful poet with an amazing feeling for language and an empathetic and flexible attitude toward writing haiku–and in her discussion of kigo I heard expressed for the first time some of my own unspoken, maybe even unrealized feelings about the importance of season words.

For Patricia, and for me, it’s not about “following the rules” by rotely sticking one of these “magic words” into a poem. It’s about, according to Patricia, “bringing the large feeling of the season into the small poem.” It’s about “bringing in eternity.” The seasons are a cycle and their rhythms are familiar to us from early childhood. I find I experience nostalgia most powerfully during the change of the seasons–the first spring flowers, the first yellow leaves, the first snowfall conjure up images of all these events from all the different periods of my life, of the things I was doing then, the people I was with, maybe even the historical events that were occurring. (Who in the eastern half of the United States doesn’t remember that 9/11 was a perfect, bright, crisp, clear September day?) References to the seasons remind me that I’m part of history and part of the human race and part of nature. Patricia also quoted John Stevenson on this subject: “Kigo represent the community of the living and the dead.”

Mentioning a season, essentially, is a shortcut to emotional resonance that’s effective for just about everyone in the world, or at least everyone who shares similar seasonal experiences. In a typical English twelve-syllable haiku, it’s just good budgeting to devote a few of those syllables to conjuring up a season. No, it’s not necessary. There are other ways to bring in that same resonance. (I’d like to get around to talking about several more of them over the next few weeks.) But it’s simple and amazingly effective. And it makes me feel better. And I no longer feel bad about that.

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warmer days
the wind chimes
change keys

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encased

t
h
a
w

in the icicle

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spring equinox
the cat takes advice
from the moon 

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from time
to time
birdsong

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With thanks to B.S. for the suggestion of subject matter.

(Whoa, dude. Do you know what your initials are?)

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ephemera

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Ephemera given away by poets at Haiku North American 2013

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I’ve worked in several archives and I can tell you that one of the best words you will encounter there is “ephemera.” This refers to printed material that is (naturally) meant to be ephemeral, to serve a specific purpose and then be discarded — or, as the case may be, preserved in a scrapbook or collected or hoarded or pounced upon by some archivist who perceives historical value in it and tucks it neatly into an acid-free folder and gives it an accession number. Tickets, for instance, are ephemera. Menus. Playbills. Business cards. Dance cards. (Dance cards? What, are we partying like it’s 1899?)

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by moonlight
a sheet of stickers
with unreadable faces

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These objects above might or might not be classified as ephemera, depending on how likely you thought it was that their creators wanted or intended them to be preserved. What they are is giveaways from various poets at last month’s Haiku North America — samples, if you will, of their work. “Samples” sounds a bit ephemeral, but really, these lovely objects don’t look as if they were meant to be discarded. They look like art. Which they are.

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light years can’t explain how we got here

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From top left, clockwise and into center:

  • Postcard by Sandra Simpson
  • a primer of organic forms, booklet by Jim Kacian
  • Art trading card by Linda Papanicolaou
  • Bookmark by Lee Gurga
  • Brochure with map of Japan by Susan Diridoni
  • Pamphlet by Lidia Rozmus

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last day of summer
the wrong words
to the right song

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I would say that they’re going into my personal archives, except that mine is not maintained in a way any self-respecting archivist would ever approve of. For instance I have already used Lee’s bookmark as a bookmark and I’ve been pawing through Jim’s amazing little book while eating spaghetti so it may or may not have some extraneous material attached to it now. I think what I’ll actually do is pile these things in a basket on top of the bookcase I keep my Haiku Stuff in, so they can be Haiku Stuff too. All of it both ephemeral and eternal.

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between two hills the rest of my life

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Haiku in English

Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years

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I’ve spent a couple of weeks swimming around dazedly in this, which was officially published a couple of weeks ago, to coincide with Haiku North America. You probably want to get it if you haven’t already, though warning: it’s thick. Well, it’s a century’s worth of haiku. In chronological order, no less, so you can watch English-language haiku evolving before your very eyes.

As with all anthologies, it’s almost as much fun deciding what you would put in it instead of what the editors put in it (like me…what? what am I doing in here? still trying to figure that one out) as it is actually reading the poems. But in the end there’s not much to quarrel with. The fact that you could probably replace half of these haiku with other haiku and have an equally strong anthology is really just an indication of how many good haiku have been published since Ezra Pound did his thing with the metro station and the wet black bough.

At HNA there was a reading of the anthology, straight through, one poem to a poet. Those poets who were in attendance (there were a few dozen of us, which was kind of … amazing and terrifying, considering there are only 200-odd poets in the anthology) read their own work, and the absent poets had their work read by Sandra Simpson and Ron Moss. In case you don’t know, Sandra is from New Zealand and Ron from Tasmania, so to American ears they have lovely but exotic accents that made these poems, many of which are very, very familiar to us, seem fresh and new. The reading took an hour or so and it was a little like flying, high and fast, over the vast and varied terrain of English-language haiku, catching your breath every once in a while when you saw something particularly lovely.

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Sandra Simpson and Ron Moss read from "Haiku in English" at Haiku North America in August 2013.

(That’s Sandra and Ron up there reading and Jim Kacian emceeing and the Queen Mary being very regal and intimidating all around us.)

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To my dismay, the poem that I read has suddenly become timely again of late:

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radiation leak moonlight on the fuel rods

(written 3/13/2011, originally published in Haijinx IV:1, reprinted in Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, 2013)

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the queen

The Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, CA

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shipping containers
stacked up on the horizon
hollow cries of gulls

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Haiku North America (which ended two weeks ago) took place this year on the Queen Mary. If you were there, I’m glad to have seen you, and if you weren’t there, I’m sorry. Try to imagine it: A ship full of haiku poets, stalking around the decks with bags full of paper (books, notebooks, free poetry samples, lecture notes) and sitting in grandiose parlors clamoring about kigo and Basho and meditation and translation.

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the jellyfish and
their bioluminescence
a long summer dusk

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I was feeling old-school while on the Queen Mary, which after all is a very old-fashioned ship and reputed to be haunted (by the ghosts of those slain in haiku wars past?), so I wrote some 5-7-5 haiku. I actually find doing this somewhat addictive and oddly satisfying, like doing crossword puzzles. I’m not sure I would call it so much writing poetry as completing a linguistic exercise, but maybe that’s what all poetry is? Hmmm.

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a day with no breeze–
I doodle on a napkin,
forget to keep it

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It’s actually kind of amazing I’m writing anything at all. I hadn’t for months. On the second day of the conference I started writing again and now I can’t shut up. Sorry if you were enjoying the silence.

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late summer. a storm
so far off that all we hear
is our hearts beating.

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(standing)

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standing at one point
of a triangle
evening snow
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Presence #45

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(I wrote this last August at Haiku North America during Eve Luckring’s amazing workshop on “Video Renku: Link and Shift in Visual Language.” I was responding to a visual prompt of a photograph that depicted, as far as I can remember, three bath products lined up on a shelf in a chilly-looking tiled bathroom. [It’s not as prosaic as it sounds. It was art.] We were supposed to be responding not to the content — the subject — of the photo but to its structure, visual elements like patterns and colors and numbers of objects. We were supposed to be “linking” our poem to the photograph in the sometimes ineffable way that two verses in a renku are linked.

I really, really have to do that exercise again. I’ve been saying that for six months now. Nag me until I actually do it.)

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Haiku North America, Day 5 (The End)

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.

Katharine Hawkinson and Argosy Cruises

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.

Seattle in fog

View of Seattle in fog

However, we kept our spirits up, some of us by pretending to be frogs…

Billie Dee in frog hat

Emiko Miyashita, Fay Aoyagi, Lidia Rozmus

(Top to bottom, left to right: Billie Dee, Emiko Miyashita, Fay Aoyagi, Lidia Rozmus)

… 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.

Jim the tour guide

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.

Blake Island

Tillicum Village

Totem pole

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.

Billie Dee and deer

(In case you can’t tell, that’s Billie Dee in the background watching the deer.)

Forget-me-notsFerns and tree trunk

Foxglove

Cedar

Tree trunksPoets look for pens

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.

Charlie Trumbull, Fay Aoyagi

We kind of liked it that way.

Emiko Miyashita, Terry Ann Carter

(Wow…I just noticed those bright flashes of red in this landscape.)

Fay Aoyagi and Lidia Rozmus

(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.

Salmon smoking

Men smoking salmon

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.

Totem poleCat paintingNative dance costume

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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.

Abigail Friedman, Lidia Rozmus

Lidia Rozmus looks 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…

Tanya McDonald and Michael Dylan Welch

… and score some smoked salmon samples for us. She is a force of nature.)

Emiko Miyashita at fish market

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.

Fay Aoyagi, Makoto Nakanishi

And then a sleepy ride back to the hotel on the monorail. Feeling sated in so many ways. Thanks, everyone.

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(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.)