Haiku @ The Oaks, Canberra

Tuesday 13 April 2021

The autumn sun held a hint of chill as we gathered for our monthly chinwag at The Oaks. Around us the seasonal colours were gently on the change. We were all present this time: Kathy Kituai, Glenys Ferguson, Hazel Hall, Gregory Piko, Marietta McGregor and Jan Dobb. Also present was visitor Sue, a house guest of Jan, who was curious to experience some close-up haiku.

Along with satisfaction, a touch of weariness was detectable in a couple of us this time. Canberra’s current Poetic City Festival is keeping Hazel and Kathy busy convening workshops, readings, ginkos, etc in an aim to incorporate some haiku and related genres into the general and poetic life of town. Strong appreciation was expressed of Jacqui Malins, the director of the Festival.

We’d been happy to discover almost all of us in the recent Presence #69. (The only one of us missing didn’t submit this time.) And quite fascinating was the diversity of our offerings–haiku (both three-line and one-line), tanka, haibun, a book review, and even (from Hazel) a ‘parallel haiku’ after the form created by Johannes Berg, a form we’d explored in a previous Oaks discussion. As always in the journals, such a privilege to share the company of other poets around the globe.

As we read aloud and talked, some more books came forth from deep in people’s bags. Greg read from his copy of Mark Miller’s recent collection, Light and Counterlight and we especially noted the lightness (karumi) and the music of Mark’s superb haiku. Kathy, too, produced a couple of books for our perusal, including some tanka, Rock at the Roadside by Saeko Ogi and K. Ramesh’s haiku collection A Small Tree of Tender Leaves. What a feast!

This was followed up by Marietta with reference to the Snapshot Press online publication of Chad Lee Robinson’s Rope Marks that she had recently appreciated. Again, we found ourselves expressing (or trying to!) what makes a haiku ‘click’ for us. From a list of characteristics essential to haiku, it was recognised that some are more suited to a particular style than others although nothing can be hard and fast. Haiku is alive . . .

The sun was beginning to slant between the colours in the trees as we finally packed up for another month. And our visitor Sue’s response to her initial introduction . . .? She was ‘impressed by the passion’!

Jan Dobb

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