Haiku @ The Oaks, Canberra

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Canberra’s autumn this year is more stunning than ever, an ideal time for a gathering of haiku spirits at The Oaks. The five of us — Kathy Kituai, Gregory Piko, Glenys Ferguson, Marietta McGregor and Jan Dobb — were very pleased to welcome Hazel Hall to our table under the golden trees. Currawongs moved about in the branches overhead (beware of missiles!) and leaves gently drifted in afternoon light.

As our coffee arrived the conversation was already starting to buzz. We were keen to hear of Marietta’s recent visit to Japan, including Matsuyama, and others were ready to swap their own experiences of travelling the haiku trail. Marietta kindly presented each of us with a brochure of the Shiki Museum and a Japanese bookmark on which she had written one of her beautiful haiku.

Greg had some exciting news of a possible spin-off for BUB (Blowing up Balloons – baby poems for parents which he and Vanessa Proctor launched earlier this year). Negotiations are under way with ‘Monji Tea’ in Sydney to include haiku from the book on labels of teabags, a customary way this tea is packaged. BUB tags would be part of specially bundled gift-packs for new parents, possibly ready for sale later in the year. Greg presented each of us with an attractive ‘mock-up’ haiku teabag.

Another highlight of the afternoon was Hazel’s recently launched haiku collection eggshell sky, indeed a work of art in collaboration with calligraphers and painters. A quick browse promised some rich reading. And the afterword and cover blurb is by our very own Marietta! Those of us who didn’t have a copy soon procured one.  Surely a must for anyone’s shelf.

As the afternoon sun shifted the shadows, we continued to discuss different haiku/tanka topics. It has recently been ’chummy’ to see us all in the latest round of journals, sometimes even sharing a page. It was interesting to talk of writing styles, their national characteristics and the preferences of editors. For a while we considered how people respond to the haiku/tanka we write and how readers can sometimes open us up to wider (and unintended) possibilities — a quite exciting and satisfying prospect. Practical matters came up too, like where to find websites for fonts and creating haiga layouts, remuneration or lack-of for poets, when the next submission deadlines are due . . .

As usual, the hours passed too quickly and The Oaks staff were beginning to stack up their tables for the day. A cool autumn breeze caught up some leaves as we headed back to the carpark.

Jan Dobb