Haiku @ The Oaks, Canberra

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Our October meeting brought us all together again under the dappled shade of the conifers in the garden of The Oaks Brasserie at Yarralumla. This time, the English Garden was displaying distinct signs of Spring, the white dogwoods were in magnificent bloom, and parking was tight as Canberrans flocked to the adjacent Heritage Nursery to stock up on tomato seedlings and summer colour. Present at our meeting were Jan Dobb, Glenys Ferguson, Hazel Hall, Kathy Kituai, Greg Piko and Marietta McGregor.

First up for discussion was the September visit of noted Canadian poet Terry Ann Carter. Terry had recently travelled to eastern Australia to launch her award-winning new book, Tokaido. Group members who were able to attend greatly enjoyed Terry’s presentation on 23 September to the Limestone Tanka Poets, facilitated by Kathy Kituai.

Next to be discussed was the launch of the new anthology in honour of the sister city links between our city and Japan’s ancient capital, Canberra/Nara Poetry Bridges, edited by Amelia Fielden, which took place at Manning Clark House, Forrest on 20 October. Our Haiku @The Oaks group sequence, taking its theme from last year’s dramatic Meiji-era exhibition of woodblock prints at the Australian National Library, was published in this new anthology, and some of our members were able to be present to read their verses.

Talk then swung round to the idea of brevity as the essence of haiku, our focus turned to Otata 34, the October 2018 Issue of John Martone’s journal, which includes essays by Clayton Beach and Richard Gilbert expanding on this subject.

We moved on to chat about aspects of translation, and how fashions had changed in rendition of haiku into English from the original Japanese. Here we managed to bring in Harold Stewart’s work, about which there were some strong views. We questioned what might actually be coming through the strongest in some work — the voice of the poet or that of the translator?

A brief consideration of renku and rengay followed, the outcome being that we’d be willing at some stage to have a go at a rengay as a group. A quiet close to the discussion was the consideration of two beautiful tanka on the nature of grief.

As usual, we parted with some reluctance because we always enjoy ourselves, but as The Oaks staff were definitely packing up for the day, we said our goodbyes, feeling enriched anew by the pleasure of sharing poems, thoughts and esteem for Japanese short-form poetry.

Marietta McGregor