RKHG #16, June 3rd 2018

Sunday, June 3rd was cold but sunny and bright. One could feel the frost in the air, although in Melbourne city and inner suburbs visible frost isn’t likely. We held our meeting on the upper level of Beer DeLuxe at Federation Square, where we had the luxury of the whole warm room to ourselves, except for one sparrow. As planned, Robyn Cairns led the group on the topic of ‘Urban Haiku’, having previously requested photos taken in our various neighbourhoods and sent us a relevant extract from Haruo Shirane’s ground-breaking essay of 2000, ‘Beyond the Haiku Moment’. Robbie brought along the photographs, beautifully presented on laminated A4 sheets as inspiration for writing ‘Urban Haiku’. An example:

red kelpie june 18
Photo by Robyn Cairns

But what is ‘Urban Haiku?’

Robbie had also provided, in advance, some questions to prompt discussion and had asked us all to bring along a couple of haiku we’d written which might fit the bill for ‘Urban Haiku’ , as well as one by another poet.

Workshop questions

  • In what ways does your local built environment inspire or motivate you to write urban haiku?
  • If you had to choose, do you prefer as a writer and reader of haiku, haiku inspired by nature alone or urban haiku ? ( please give a reason)
  • Urban haiku , unique to Melbourne’s CBD , what would feature ? “

Each of us brought along a haiku or two of our own that might fit the bill for ‘Urban Haiku’ as well as one by another poet.

red geraniums –
the rusted gutters
don’t matter

– Robyn Cairns, A Hundred Gourds 5:3 June 2016

cold night –
a fortune teller
on Meiji-dori street

– Hayakawa Takanori

windblown leaves –
the Living Statue
packs her bag

– Lorin Ford, Moving Galleries 2007

Taka brought a printed list of ‘Urban Haiku’ by Japanese poets for each of us, for example:

Shinjuku wa harukanaru bohi toriwateru

Shinjiku is
distant tombstones –
birds migrate

– Fukunaga Kouji (1938 – 1980)

If that seems obscure at first, think of what the skyscrapers in any city might look like from a distance (perhaps from a plane window) and also consider that there’s a good reason why the Sydney Harbour Bridge is nicknamed ‘The Coat-hanger’.

I might’ve surprised some by including a hokku by Bonchō, from the renku ‘Summer Moon’, the second of the four renku in Bashō’s famous collection, ‘Monkey’s Raincoat’ (Sarumino), as an ‘urban haiku’:

Machinaka ha / mono no nioi ya / natsu no tsuki

in town
the smells of things
summer moon

– Translation by Maeda Cana

While some things have changed since 17th century Japan, others haven’t changed in essence and probably never will. Anyone who walks past a certain restaurant’s wheelie bins on the way to my local supermarket on a summer night could immediately relate to Bonchō’s hokku as a contemporary haiku.

Discussion throughout our session was engaged, enthusiastic and lively. We all appreciated the various viewpoints on what Urban Haiku might be and the opportunities it might open to engage further with our communities. We were reminded that Japanese haiku has never been ‘nature writing’ and that in Japan kigo are not limited to the things of nature. We may not have a national ‘Doll’s Festival’ in Australia but we do have the Melbourne Cup and Harmony Day. As all of us in the RKHG live in urban or suburban neighbourhoods, we were encouraged to be more aware of and inspired by our local surrounds, events and activities.

As we’ve done formerly, each of us will write haiku and the group will give c & c by email. This time, though, we’ll be writing haiku inspired by one of the photos from the meeting.

Six RKHG members attended Sunday’s meeting. (Apologies from Rob Scott)

RKHG June 3rd 2018
from left : Janet Howie, Lorin Ford, Robyn Cairns, Madhuri Pillai, Takanori Hayakawa, Marisa Fazio.

The Red Kelpie Haiku Group meeting for spring 2018 is scheduled to be held on Sunday 9th September. (2nd Sunday in September) Marisa Fazio has volunteered to lead the meeting on the topic of ‘Experimental 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, June 2018