Six of us met at the State Library for a two-hour discussion and critique session. Members present were Maeve Archibald, Lynette Arden, Stella Damarjati, Margaret Fensom, Julia Wakefield and Steve Wigg. We had apologies from Marilyn Linn, Jane Harris and Dawn Colsey.
Stella led the session with some definitions and examples of wabi and sabi techniques, quoting Jane Reichhold, and then between us we tried to define the difference if any between the two concepts. Reichhold translates sabi as aged/loneliness, while she equates wabi with poverty.
Lynette brought a book titled ‘Wabi/Sabi’ by Andrew Juniper, which describes the way Buddhist monks cultivated the practice of revering simple natural objects to help them to come to terms with the lack of exquisite Chinese porcelain in Japanese monasteries, due to their lack of funding. The concept of impermanence became all-important. Lyn drew our attention to the way wabi/sabi has become both an accepted approach to design and a way of life in Japan.
Steve alluded to the non-duality in Buddhist teachings which sees no separation between humans and the natural world, and therefore no concept of exceptional beauty or ugliness – there is no judgement in aesthetics.
We analysed some of the examples Stella and others had provided, then critiqued our own poems to see if we had captured something of the elusive qualities of wabi/sabi. What we noticed was that some of the most famous examples of this genre might seem a little flat to Western palates, as emotions are not directly evoked; however, the very stillness of a poem like
on wind barren meadows
birth of a lamb
evokes memories, bodily sensations and a sympathy for the animal that is tempered with an understanding that animals accept their discomforts without complaining—nature is what it is.
As we discussed the haiku we had brought in that were on other themes, Lyn reminded us that when we send work to competitions we should bear in mind that editors look for variety of subject matter – we shouldn’t always pick on the most obvious ideas. Another point to remember is that it’s not always a good thing to imitate a ‘style’ such as wabi/sabi if you don’t genuinely feel it is expressing your personal point of view.
Our next meeting is scheduled for Saturday April 4.
Julia Wakefield 25 January 2020