Haiku @ The Oaks, Canberra

Tuesday 19 February 2019

The January heatwave had caused us to abandon our plans for last month. Consequently, we were more than ready to meet at The Oaks this week on a mere 32-degree day. How relative the temperature has become this summer!

We were all there — Glenys Ferguson, Hazel Hall, Kathy Kituai, Marietta McGregor, Gregory Piko and Jan Dobb. Also present was a mob of magpies whose own conversations competed with the chatter at our table. Ah, how good to get together again for our first cuppa of the year!

As usual, we came with no formal agenda, unanimously agreeing that this is how we would like to continue. Nonetheless, each of us had brought something to read to the group (though not mandatory to do so). After a bit of catch-up, our responses to readings kept crisscrossing the coffee cups apace.

Jan read a haibun that had appealed to her in a recent Haiku Foundation Book of the Week. Marietta, at our request, honoured us with a reading of her first-prizewinning entry in the UHTS Haibun Contest. Attributes of each haibun (one short, one long) were admired, compared, discussed, the language of poetry so evident in prose and verse, the immediacy of image so vital.

Hazel and Greg had each chosen to read from Windfall so naturally thoughts on the evolution of Aussie haiku in a global context were delved into further still. Considerations, such as explanatory notes for Aussie words, came thick and fast. It was suggested that with the instant availability of Google, notes on the page are scarcely necessary now. We remarked on the pleasure of encountering regional references in international haiku.

Glenys, a member of the Yass Valley Writers, read us a longer poem from an anthology that the group has recently published. This was followed by Greg, at our request, reading a prose poem of his own from the same members’ anthology. Thus, choice of genre became table-talk. What makes one genre more appropriate than another? How do we decide?

At Kathy’s dictation, we copied down a tanka which was then read, re-read . . . and long pondered by us all. Things left unsaid, other things suggested, and the overall language of this vivid yet ambivalent image were all matters that came up for grabs.

Again, our spontaneous ‘agenda’ had done its work. After some natter about Canberra’s poetry scene and a few housekeeping matters, we sighed with satisfaction and left the magpies to their warbles.

Jan Dobb

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