Haiku @ The Oaks, Canberra

Tuesday 11 December 2018

What a bumper end of year meeting!

As always, our greetings were heartfelt and joyous as we arrived at The Oaks and settled around a table under the trees. The sun was just beginning to shine again after a cloudy morning and between bursts of carolling, some magpies were shoving food down the throats of squawking young. Everyone was there – Glenys Ferguson, Kathy Kituai, Hazel Hall, Marietta McGregor, Gregory Piko and Jan Dobb.

Action suddenly erupted! Across the table burst spontaneous expressions of haiku celebration – gifts of cards, poems, chocs and even haiku teabags. Laughter competed with magpie song. Our friendship through haiku was displayed on the table.

It had been suggested that to end 2018, we share a few haiku / tanka that have impressed us over the year. With her permission, Jan began by reading a tanka by our ‘ex officio’ member Sheila Sondik (who visits us from the USA from time to time). Sheila’s tanka, recently awarded an honourable mention in a Japanese contest, is a keenly felt expression from life experience. The group received it with the gentle appreciation it deserves.

Then followed a spate of readings as each of us offered some of our favourites. And there certainly were some beauties! After each haiku our comments flew as we responded to, discussed, opened up and discovered the various intricacies and techniques of some magnificent work.

Our impression was confirmed that a good haiku trusts the reader. It allows entry. We noted the subtlety of simplicity, a seeming paradox. We delighted in assonance and rhythm, the perfect choice of word, the startling ‘way of looking’. The power of haiku when shared together so intensely astonished us. Our inspiration rose to the carolling magpies high in the treetops!

Readings were selected from a range of sources, including Moon on Water by Brendon Kent, Spinifex by Beverley George, In the Company of Crows by Carol MacRury, as well as journals such as Modern Haiku, Presence, Kokako or online publications. Poets were multinational, with a visit now and then from Basho and Issa.

Some side topics briefly came and went, and may well be fuel for discussion at future meetings, e.g. Do writers of haiku who then learn to write tanka undergo a different experience from writers of tanka who learn to write haiku?

Given the limits of cost and postage, what criteria does one use when selecting which journals to subscribe to?

Is a good writer necessarily a good editor?

All of these queries and more are waiting in the wings until next year. The ‘Closed’ sign had long been on the café door as we vacated our shady table. Carrying our celebratory gifts of friendship, we made our way back to the car park.

Jan Dobb