Report on HNA 2015 – Marietta McGregor

The Haiku North America (HNA) 2015 Conference was held from 14-18 October at Union College, a liberal arts college founded in 1795 with a classically-inspired campus near the foothills of the Adirondacks in upper New York State. Appropriately for the setting, this year’s conference, Autumn Term was themed around the teaching and learning of haiku. After a welcome by HNA’s principal organisers Michael Dylan Welch, John Stevenson and Hilary Tann (other hard-working committee members were Yu Chang and Tom Clausen), 130 poet delegates each recited one of their own haiku/senryu.

The two Australians, Jennifer Sutherland and Marietta McGregor, along with poets who travelled from Japan and India, received a special welcome, a round of applause in appreciation of their long journeys. Jim Kacian launched proceedings with Realism is Dead, posing the question that, if haiku was no longer rooted in the real world, what might then ground it? The keynote address by Dr Randy Brooks examined some of the issues with teaching haiku in the American education system.

Reviewing other conference presentations, it was hard to pick winners because the standard was excellent. Very well received were Ruth Yarrow’s reading of her lovely bird haiku, each of which she accompanied with a pitch-perfect bird call, Lee Gurga’s focus on the importance of Japanese aesthetic principles in haiku, Scott Mason’s personal haiku journey, Paul Miller’s examination of how nature and haiku poets intersect, Michael Dylan Welch’s application to haiku of Wassily Kandinsky’s treatise on the spiritual in art, and Susan Antolin’s crystal-clear advice on the art of understatement. Classical haiku masters were not forgotten, with readings by Charles Trumbull of Shiki and a performance based on the lost letters of Chiyo-Ni, by Terry Ann Carter and Marco Fraticelli. Haibun featured in several strong presentations, including a talk by Beverley Acuff Momoi on the importance of the vertical axis in haibun.

Other presentations included Kala Ramesh’s inspiring short film to drum up support for a ‘HaikuWall India’, and Jen Sutherland’s lively presentation on establishing haiku community groups. Bill Porter, aka Red Pine, noted translator of Chinese poetry, gave an account of his search in remotest China for the roots of the Taoist/Buddhist hermit tradition. Deborah Kolodji offered her take on organising effective haiku events. Rengay, renku and tanka workshops as well as numerous panel discussions and a ginko through the historic Schenectady Stockade district also featured in the rich program.

A book fair, taiko drums recital by Union College students and a haiga exhibition featuring remarkable works by Romanian haiga master Ion Codrescu drew delegates to the centrepiece of Union College, the Nott Memorial, one of America’s most dramatic Victorian buildings. At the closing banquet, Haiku Elvis (Carlos Colon was not in the building!) entertained delegates and posed for photo ops, before the dramatic announcement that HNA 2017 will be held in Santa Fe.

For those who attended HNA it was an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. Why not put HNA 2017 (date TBA) in your diary? Australians are sure to be most welcome.

The group photograph of HNA 2015 delegates along with many other HNA images (people, haiga, Union College, colourful foliage, Schenectady) can be seen here:

Marietta McGregor, 14 November 2015


a) In an accompanying email, Marietta adds two further points: i) “The group photo organised by Gary Gay on the steps of the Nott Memorial has only just been posted, so that may well be of interest to your membership as they try to pick out old friends;” and

ii) “Bill Kenney has a great blow-by-blow report at the AHA Forum for those who are registered to access that forum.”

b) The above report by Marietta McGregor replaces a previous piece on Haiku Oz concerning this event – posted on 30 September and headed “Jennifer Sutherland to present at HNA 2015” – which began as follows:

“Australian haiku poet Jennifer Sutherland has been invited to act as a presenter at the Haiku North America Conference, which will be held between October 14-18, 2015, at Union College, Schenectady, in upstate New York.

“In her presentation, Jennifer will focus on haiku groups and the benefits of participating co-operatively/ collaboratively in developing shared knowledge and skills in regard to haiku writing.”

c) Beverley George advises that the text of Australian tanka poet David Terelinck’s presentation for Tanka Sunday at HNA 2015 can be accessed on her Eucalypt website, via the following link:

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