Report for Bindii meeting, June 27 2021

Present: Lynette Arden, Stella Damarjati, Steve Wigg, Julia Wakefield. Apologies: Maeve Archibald.

Steve gave a short presentation, preceded by a description of the online tea ceremony that he experienced. He related how there are winter solstice ceremonies in Japan that are designed to appeal to all the senses, and this example included an ikebana arrangement, sound stimuli such as the ‘deer scarer’ fountain, a scroll with the inscription ‘Direct (the) mind in this place’ and a charcoal burning, using a log of a special type of Japanese wood that creates a glowing star. It was at such ceremonies as these that renku were traditionally written. Steve’s online ceremony did not include poets, but we liked the possibility of uniting an international online ceremony with a renku in the future.

Steve’s presentation was about the writer and haiku scholar Richard Gilbert and his book ‘The disjunctive Dragonfly’, which addresses the perennial problem of how to define a haiku. According to Steve, Gilbert refines his definition to three basic tenets, that a haiku can possess in greater or lesser degrees:

  • A tension between different realities
  • Meaning is created through misreading – i.e. we think we’ve misread it, but on re-reading we realise we haven’t
  • The ending of the haiku is not quite what we expect.

We discussed the examples from Gilbert’s book in the light of this definition, and we all agreed that most of them exhibited multiple perspectives and in some cases the ‘aha’ moment, similar to ‘the ending is not quite what we expect’.  Lyn pointed out that some of Gilbert’s examples resembled distinct haiku styles, such as the Shasei haiku style popularised by Shiki, in which direct experience is referenced,

or the relatively recent Gendai style, which can be surreal and sometimes obscure.

It’s often quite hard to decide why a haiku ‘works’ for some people and not for others, so perhaps Gilbert’s definition helps to provide a basic guideline: if we can see at least two realities within the poem, it is working for us, and if it makes us go back to look at it again to make sure we understand it, that is a sure sign it is weaving its spell.

We went on to assess haiku of our own that we had brought with us, using Gilbert’s criteria and adding other dimensions where appropriate.  Steve had written a number of haiku that were aimed at fulfilling Gilbert’s definition. Lyn showed us her own contributions to the current AHS winter solstice page, and encouraged us all to submit poems before the deadline. Stella had been working on haiku using prompts from the Daily Haiku Facebook group. We found some of the prompts a little too specific, so we decided to revive our own tradition of preparing haiku for our meetings using more general prompts of our own devising. Julia asked members to comment on a poem she had written that has elements in common with a haiku sequence, to see if it could be improved by paying greater attention to the haiku form.

The next meeting will be on the August 29 at 3pm. Meeting topic: haiku on the theme of ‘water’. We will challenge ourselves to write at least five haiku each, looking at water in at least five different ways. We may also try critiquing some of the recent AHS featured haiku, as an exercise in understanding what makes a successful haiku.

Julia Wakefield

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