HAIKU @ THE OAKS, CANBERRA

Tuesday 12 June 2018

A wintery day in Canberra meant little custom for The Oaks Brasserie. Hence we enjoyed the quiet yet cosy atmosphere of this outdoor venue’s marquee, with a heater to ourselves plus the personalised service of friendly owners. Through the transparent walls we glimpsed a few final leaf-drifts and the comings and goings of pale sunbursts. What more could a group of haiku enthusiasts ask for?

Five of us came together this time – Gregory Piko, Kathy Kituai, Glenys Ferguson, Marietta McGregor and Jan Dobb. We missed the company of Hazel Hall who was not well.

After a bit of chat to share around our general lives, we knuckled down to talking haiku. As often happens, a theme tended to emerge and this time the focus turned to haiku styles as we produced our show-and-tell.

Jan, who had been browsing The Haiku Foundation archives, brought along a selection of haiku from Soap Bubbles, a wonderful collection by K Ramesh published in 2007. In the quietness, we read these in turn around the table. We discussed the profundity of their deceptive simplicity, their lightness of touch and the nuances of interpretation.

Then Greg honoured us with a private preview of ‘Love Poem’ that has been accepted for publication shortly. What to call this style we wondered . . .? Not exactly haiku (and yet it is), not exactly free verse (because it’s haiku) yet not a recognised haiku variation. We were intrigued once again with Greg’s characteristically innovative style. The beauty and effectiveness of what he had done flavoured our discussion. Greg had taken six of his previously published haiku that he felt shared some common ground. Then he had ‘shuffled’ them – highlighting a phrase here, combining lines there, repeating a line/phrase, inserting a full haiku intact or with line spaces . . . Its immediate effect captured us, and invited solitary time later to relish further depths.

Marietta read to us from two collections of haiku by Hamish Ironside, and some favourites from the latest issues of Hedgerow and Acorn. Again we were confronted with the matter of style.

Following on from a previous description by Kathy of a ‘Tanka Labyrinth’ Glenys had been inspired to craft, in quilting and embroidery, a labyrinth that can be slowly traced with a finger. Kathy had described how people were invited to walk a real labyrinth contemplating a tanka all the way to the silent centre. So too with Glenys’s beautiful replica . . .

It was time for us to venture out again into the cold. As we left though, we took with us the warmth of another haiku afternoon together.

Jan Dobb