HAIKU @ THE OAKS, CANBERRA

25 January 2018

We were just gathering round our shady table when the darkening clouds began to rumble. So we headed to The Oaks marquee instead, a wise move we agreed, when shortly a rainstorm came drumming down.

As we unpacked our show-and-tell, we remarked on the number of copies of Windfall 6 on the table! Yes, we had all noticed that this issue contains haiku by each one of us – Gregory Piko, Hazel Hall, Kathy Kituai, Marietta McGregor, Glenys Ferguson, Jan Dobb. The chummy tone of the afternoon ‘deepened’.

During some informal email contact since our last gathering, we realised it would be interesting to look further at cultural differences in English-language haiku and especially the approaches of Japanese editors and judges.

Greg circulated examples of haiku from Kusamakura Haiku Competition, World Haiku Review, The Heron’s Nest and cattails – an array of poets, editors and nationalities. Although we naturally warmed to some poems more than others, we found such overall variety to be stimulating.

Our free discussion was long and animated. What grabs us? What doesn’t? Why? How evident is life experience? Cultural experience? How do we, and the poets on our printouts, interpret wabi, sabi, karumi and the like? Why do editors select the works they do? Kathy with her editorial experience (presently cattails) had valuable input here. And on and on . . .

Hazel’s comment about quality described something we all experience from time to time. Deadline dates for submissions to different journals can fall around the same time. This tends to put us in overload and perhaps tempt us to submit poems without enough careful forethought. We agreed it is a risk to avoid as far as possible. Quality of submissions rather than quantity must be watched.

Marietta had prepared for us a generous handout from the World Haiku Review archives – In Praise of Non-Japanese Haiku: A special selection of WHR members’ haiku with comments by Susumu Takiguchi – seven pages of enticing reading for us to take home, an excellent follow-on from our discussion. The article opens with: ‘Susumu Takiguchi applies extremely high standards and quality criteria when he selects haiku poems for various purposes such as competitions, kukai or publication . . .’ Thank you Marietta.

Jan had brought along a book to recommend and lend – Matsuo Basho by Makoto Ueda (1970), a first-rate presentation of Basho’s life and writing genres, a book hard-to-put-down. Second-hand copies are available online. Kathy borrowed this and in return, lent Jan her copy of A New Resonance 9 (2015). The penny dropped! Of course! What a fine activity for our group to engage in – book-lending to each other! Why didn’t we think of it before?

As always, a whole afternoon sped by like five minutes. It was time to set the next diary date, pack up our things and head to the car park – still nattering.

Jan Dobb