Haiku @ The Oaks, Canberra

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Although summer has started to heat up, a breeze beneath shady trees made for a perfect setting as we gathered at The Oaks to begin another year. All were present — Glenys Ferguson, Marietta McGregor, Kathy Kituai, Hazel Hall, Gregory Piko and Jan Dobb — along with a full attendance of vociferous birds!

Over lunch, Greg produced copies of his recently published book breaking my journey, a joy anticipated by us all. Congratulations and sales came thick and fast, as did some spontaneous haiku readings. A striking cover, designed by Ron Moss, opens to a collection of Greg’s haiku (and variants) in an immediately attractive format — an invitation to enter and muse. Our thanks to Greg for sharing his inspiring work in this way. For more details visit Greg’s website here.

Appropriately for the start of a new year, Marietta mentioned the 2021 Haiku Calendar, recently published by Snapshot Press. She distributed a handout of a few included haiku and these, too, produced some spontaneous readings and comment. We were delighted to congratulate Marietta on having two of her own in this year’s issue.

This led on to a spirited discussion about the nebulous ‘essence’ of haiku, as we considered it from different perspectives. The trigger was Eric W Amann: The Wordless Poem–a Study of Zen in Haiku (1969) which one or two of us had discovered at this link to The Haiku Foundation Digital Library.

What is haiku? Can that adequately be answered? How does one put intuition into words? How does haiku accommodate to the conditioning of Western minds? As suggested in The Wordless Poem, we compared a haiku by Shiki with a poem by Tennyson, both dealing with a single flower, the latter reflecting our generation’s Western poetic background. To quote Eric Amann:

‘In the West, the original poetic experience plus the poet’s intellectual and emotional reactions equals the finished poem. But in haiku the original experience minus the poet’s personal reaction equals the finished poem.’

This prompted Marietta to recall an article by David Giacalone: too many ‘tell-ems’: ‘psyku’ lower haiku quality, an article that relates to our discussion and lucidly expands it. Afterwards, Marietta sent around this link.

As the afternoon wore on, we talked ourselves out. Haiku, like Zen, has no cut-and-dried ‘answers’. That is its very life.  We left the birds to their own chatter…

Jan Dobb