Haiku Vancouver May 2006

Haiku Vancouver May 19-22 2006. A report from Pauline Cash

Among the rhodendron gardens in the University of British Columbia, 41 haijun gathered to discuss haiku and tanka.
The event was organised by Alice Frampton and was attended by poets from Japan, US and Canada. Participants from Australia were Amelia Fielden and myself. We were housed in a student hostel on campus.

A highlight of the first day was a ginko (haiku walk) through the Nitobe Gardens where we went our separate ways to contemplate the sensory beauty and symbolism of this walk through life. The cedars, firs, maples and hemlocks, the low rock, the waterfalls, bridges, lanterns and birdlife provided inspiration for many haiku. Later that day poets wrote their haiku for posting on a wall outside for all to enjoy.

Several renku parties took place in the evenings and continued into the early hours, helped along by swigs of sake! Mariko Kitikubo from Japan wearing a beautiful costume, danced as a shrine maiden in a prayer for peace.

Howard Lee Kilby spoke of his experiences in Buddhist Zen in Paris and of the silence, the pause between words in haiku and Michael Dylan Welch told of the ‘aha’ moment in haiku.

There was warm discussion regarding the length and number of syllables in haiku and tanka written in English. It was stated that 86% of English haiku poets do not use the 5-7-5 formula and that in American and Canadian anthologies the average number of syllables was twenty-five, not thirty-one.

Amelia told how, in her role as translator of haiku and tanka into English, she first researches the background of her client to gain a feeling for the book as a whole, finding expression and meaning that will lead to a literal translation of the work. She then re-drafts it in a poetic way attempting to keep the rhythm of the original work. Mariko read her tanka to us with the rhythm and nuances of the Japanese language, followed by Amelia’s translation in English. Tanka, I learned, was traditionally sung, but haiku was spoken.

And so to a final walk through the Van Dusen gardens with their splendid show of rhododendrons, irises and tulips– a captivating stroll through a tunnel of golden chain trees to a final dinner and goodbyes to fellow poets, now friends.