Haiku @ The Oaks, Canberra

Tuesday 14 April 2020

These days one never knows what to expect! The year began with our diaries marking the second Tuesday of each month for Haiku @ The Oaks. Thus, in February and again in March, we enjoyed our usual camaraderie around an old wooden table beneath the trees. Admittedly, in March we exchanged elbow bumps instead of our usual hugs. Far from usual was the growing health uncertainty.

Today the Oaks Brasserie lies silent behind its closed doors. Stay-at-home is the order of the day. How quickly it all came about! We can only dream of the second Tuesday of some future month when again we shall celebrate haiku around a table at The Oaks.

Meanwhile, April was an experiment . . .

We agreed to try a group email session–Kathy Kituai, Glenys Ferguson, Marietta McGregor, Hazel Hall, Greg Piko and Jan Dobb. And so, all afternoon, emails zipped back and forth to the dings of inboxes. The Oaks verve lives on despite the grimness of Covid19.

Tribute was paid to Stuart Quine who died as a result of the virus. Greg recalled meeting him in 2009 at the Pacific Rim conference in Terrigal and quoted an apt one-line haiku of Stuart’s published in Presence last November:

head down through the belly of a cloud I descend the mountain

Hazel has often voted for Stuart in the Best of Presence top 10.  Along with her own image of a Japanese pine, she cited a haiku of Stuart’s from Presence 23:

white rice in a white bowl winter sunlight

We all acknowledged his loss.

Unanimous praise was expressed for the delicate haiku of Alice Frampton’s gate left open a link to which Jan had emailed around a day or two previously (a former Book of the Week from the Haiku Foundation). Some favourites were shared, and the exquisite collection heartily recommended.

Kathy mentioned her current reading of the early haiku poets, and a couple of people posted links to websites about Issa, et al. Greg said he was sitting in his garden writing magpie haiku, two of which he included for us to smile at.  Marietta alerted us to a new haibun and tanka prose journal Drifting Sands which will debut at the end of April, and she included a link for us to explore it further. Glenys told us how she spends some of her home isolation time: ‘I go through my huge pile of scribbled haiku on umpteen scraps of recycled A4 paper and try to give them either a new lease of life or chuck them in the bin’.

So, with these exchanges and more, the afternoon wore on. As emailing was an experiment (aren’t many things these days?) we wondered if our valued spontaneity might be compromised. No way! We emailed back and forth much as we have chatted and discussed things at The Oaks, taking up a subject and flowing with it before moving on to another, all the while seeming to gain momentum. Not quite the same as face to face of course, but then what is the same at present?

Jan Dobb

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