Melbourne Writer’s Festival

The Australian Haiku Society (AHS) was invited to take part in The Melbourne Writer’s Festival this year. As a Victorian representative, I was contacted by Janel Yau, project manager at the Melbourne Immigration Museum who asked if we would be able to assist people write haiku and run an open stage reading featuring their work.

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L to R: Louise Hopewell, Rob Scott, Takanori Hayakawa, Myron Lysenko, Marisa Fazio

The event, titled Salon X, running from 5pm – 9.30pm on Thursday 5th September and held in the lovely Immigration Museum building also included Japanese and Polynesian tattoo exhibitions, song, dance and spoken word. The themes for the night included tattoos, love and self-love, and these themes were addressed in haiku by over 50 participants from an audience of around 130.

We were given a circular table decorated with flowers and members of the audience were invited to write haiku under the guidance of our team. Takanori and Rob prepared a brochure for those who were new to writing contemporary haiku, which included a short definition of haiku and explained the concept of kigo.

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We placed haiku books, journals and magazines around the table so that people could read some recently published haiku as inspiration for their own writing. Whenever I was asked for an easy way to write haiku I suggested that they write a sentence about the themes of the night over two lines and then to put a seasonal sensory image in the other line. This resulted in some fine haiku being written. Here is an example by Liv Saint James

ink roses
her arm bitten with love
that never leaves

When I complemented Liv on her haiku she told me she was a published haiku poet and was pleased to meet so many haiku writers at this, the first haiku event she has attended. She also said:

“It was a joy to read the wall of haiku that the crowd created. All of the poems were interesting and entertaining, and covered a range of topics, including… the moon, stars, seasons, art, graffiti, tattoos, friendship, love, loss… there was even a haiku dedicated to beer. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many creative and inspiring people, and to listen to their stories. I’m looking forward to attending more events like this in the future.”

Six people volunteered to read their haiku in the Open Mic and the others told us they would prefer members of our team to read their haiku for them. It was wonderful to hear the poems read out as it added more dimensions to the night’s event, making it come alive in poetry. Takanori read his haiku in both English and Japanese, and Marisa read hers in English and Italian.

Two I wrote during this memorable night:

the man naked
except for his tattoos…
open jonquil

the dancer
also a comedian –
full body tattoo

Myron Lysenko

Below are some short reports by other poets present on the night.

By Robyn Cairns

Climbing the staircase to Salon X at the Melbourne Writers festival on Thursday night was a reading pleasure as we looked up on the wall to the left to pause and read haiku, then pause, then read haiku. What a brilliant idea to project haiku for all attending the event to share with each other. Entering the space music, song and dance filled the room with emotion, setting the scene for a wonderful evening.

It was a heart-warming experience to sit around a flower laden table and talk about haiku to those who were penning haiku for the first time and fellow haiku poets. The event had an energetic buzz which filled my heart long into the night. Thank you to the Melbourne Writers festival for organising and hosting the event.

black sky –
his lost life inked
above her heart

sway of reeds
a swallow lifts
from her forearm

Robyn Cairns

By Marisa Fazio

From room to room. From floor to floor. We gathered as part of Salon X. To celebrate Our Bodies, Our Voices, Our Marks. Exhibitions and installation on the art of tattoo. The ancient. The modern. For the love of others. For the love of self. Throughout the evening there were storytellers. There were singers. There were dancers. There were poets. And there were guests. Some of the guests came to join us at the haiku table to write of their experiences in less than seventeen syllables. ‘A haiku is as long as a breath,’ we said. We helped them craft and read the poems they created. We smiled. We nodded. We aha-d. Then I noticed another presence in the room. The Immigration Museum itself. Once Customs House. We now associate this grandiose building with the arrival of immigrants and the beginnings of a new life.

immigration –
date of arrival tattooed
within her heart

Marisa Fazio

By Louise Hopewell

What a buzz on the top floor of the immigration museum on Salon X night. There was song, dance, spoken word, a stunning exhibition of tattoo body art, and then there was haiku. ‘Haiku – that’s 5-7-5 right?’ asked many people as they sat down at the dedicated haiku-writing table. But when we explained the type of modern haiku we were writing, many people got right into the spirit of it, colliding images and seasonal references, proud to have their words projected onto the wall. A few were even brave enough to read their works at the open mic, with works political, poignant, humorous and some verging towards risqué attracting laughter and applause.

Here’s two haiku I wrote inspired by the tattoo exhibition:

two inky turtles paddle
across her bum cheek
swimming hole

last flutter
of the Bogong moth
tattoo removal

Louise Hopewell


By Rob Scott

The sheer number of people who were willing to sit down to write haiku, many of them for the first time in their lives, tells you about the atmosphere and spirit of this event. The space provided by the museum was perfect, conducive to open, warm and fruitful discussions. A number of people told me how cathartic it was just to be able to sit down for 10 or 15 minutes and create something. This says a few things to me. Firstly, we, as humans, all have a need to create something. It makes us connect to ourselves. It makes us feel. Secondly, few of us make enough time to do it, denying ourselves some essential soul food. Finally, when the process of creation is done in an ambience of sharing and goodwill, such as it was at Salon X last Thursday, the results can be inspiring. Some of the poems written during the workshop were sublime. My thanks to the Australian Haiku Society for inviting me to participate, and special thanks to all the poets who created such a supportive and inclusive mood in the room. I didn’t want to leave.

piercing sunrise –
I wake up next to
a tattooed stranger

until I die
the moon
and my tattoo

Rob Scott

By Takanori Hayakawa

Some participants asked not only how to write haiku, but also the history of haiku and the meaning of the word ‘haiku’. Most of them were bound by a 5-7-5 syllable rule. However, the images of seasons depended on each person. It was interesting to listen to the seasonal feelings based on their own life experiences.

Different people live in Melbourne: ages, ethnicity, languages, sexuality, religion etc. An identity is totally up to each of us. This night, such people wrote individual haiku at the Immigration Museum—I am deeply grateful for being there.


I am who
is crafted with words –
spring has come


Report prepared and collated by Myron Lysenko


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