Red Kelpie Haiku Group #15, March 2018

There’ve been two RKHG meetings over the last several weeks, a very enjoyable, informal meeting with Santa Fe haiku poet, Sondra Byrne, and our scheduled autumn meeting.

Meeting Sondra

On Sunday 25th February Robyn Cairns, Marisa Fazio, Lorin Ford, Jayashree Maniyil, Janet Howie and Madhuri Pillai were privileged to meet with Sondra in Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens. Here we are in the Rose Pavilion:

Sondra Byrne and group-1_resized
From left to right: Sondra Byrne, Janet Howie, Marisa Fazio, Robyn Cairns, Lorin Ford, Madhuri Pillai. Photo by Jayashree Maniyil.


In 2015, Sondra, with Charles Trumbull, founded the Santa Fe Haiku Study Group, which has an enviable regular attendance of 10-15 haiku enthusiasts at each monthly meeting, so we had the opportunity to discuss with Sondra how their haiku group is run. Sondra was also the organizer for the 2017 Haiku North America Conference which was held in Santa Fe, another topic we were curious about. I’d had some contact with Sondra over my A Hundred Gourds years, so I felt we weren’t complete strangers. I’d brought along a page of her haiku and she was graciously willing to read them for us, respond to all of our queries and enter into discussion. Sondra presented us with a copy the Santa Fe Haiku Study Group’s members’ anthology, Open Spaces (2017). A bonus! More haiku to read, hear and discuss! It was a relaxed, enjoyable and productive day. Here are a couple of examples of Sondra’s haiku, favourites of mine:

a narrow road

— Sondra Byrne, A Hundred Gourds 3.2, March 2014


poetry reading the grain in the floor

— Sondra Byrne, A Hundred Gourds 5.3, December 2016


These two haiku, by well-known New Mexico haijin, are from Open Spaces:

god or no god
does it matter
wild blue flax                                                    

— Marian Olsen


toll of the gong
silence of the zazen
empties into night                                          

 — Charles Trumbull

 Afterwards, Sondra and I caught a tram into the city and had a quick look around the very crowded Japanese Festival in Federation Square. We ended the day with beer and a chat at Young & Jackson’s, the historical pub Sondra had heard about. We were all delighted to meet with Sondra, who has a truly open and gracious presence.

Our first scheduled RKHG Meeting for this year

On Sunday 18th of March, we changed our venue from the Botanic Gardens to Federation Square because of weather predictions of rain, a possible thunderstorm and high winds. The small amount of rain that actually fell was blown onto our faces by the blasting wind in the form of faint specks for a very short time as we attempted a renku at a sheltered table of the Riverland Bar and Café. As I’m currently a novice (and challenged!) sabaki for a Jûnicho (12 verse) renku at ‘The Haiku Foundation’, and since this was the RKHG’s second renku, I’d imagined it might be good idea to experiment with a more collaborative, democratic approach to the selection of verses for a change. It wasn’t a good idea! Our renku didn’t get very far. One issue (problem?) perhaps derives from Shiki’s ‘sketch from life’ (shasei) which has influenced some Australian haiku writers to a great extent and which, taken simplistically, demotes Basho’s Shofu school of renku (haikai-no-renga, now called renku). Not everyone accepts that haikai is the spirit of both haiku and senryu and not everyone enjoys participating in a communal form of poetry which is quite other than a haiku sequence or series. Ashley Capes, of Bairnsdale, Gippsland, created an online venue for renku (‘Issa’s Snail’) straight after the Australian online poetry journal, ‘Cordite’, featured a renga led by Keiji Minato in 2009, and those who became involved were subsequently privileged to learn renku from the late John E. Carley, but generally, only a very few Australian haiku writers have taken an interest in renku. Anyway, it was lovely to have the cheerful presence of Rob Scott, our newest member, among those of us who were able to attend our autumn meeting. Apologies were received from Robyn Cairns, Marisa Fazio and Takanori Hayakawa.

RKHG March 2018 photo
From left to right: Rob Scott, Lorin Ford, Janet Howie, Madhuri Pillai.


The Red Kelpie Haiku Group meeting for winter 2018 is scheduled to be held on Sunday 3rd June (1st Sunday in June). Robyn Cairns has volunteered to lead the meeting on the topic of Urban Haiku. We welcome guests and new members. Enquiries from haiku writers who might like to join our group or be invited along as guests should be directed to Lorin Ford by email: haikugourds at gmail dot com, with ‘Red Kelpie Haiku Group’ in the email subject bar.

— Lorin Ford, Melbourne, March 2018

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