Postcard from Gualala

Northern California has a strong haiku scene including major groups like Haiku Poets of Northern California and Yuki Tekei (and more about them in another postcard), but is also home to the renowned Jane Reichhold, a poet and editor that I’ve had friendly email dealings with for many years.

We dropped in to see Jane and her husband Werner after first visiting the impressive Gualala Arts Centre where in 2013 Jane instigated a short haiku walk as part of the Global Harmony Sculpture Garden.

Haiku by Werner Reichhold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Jane and Werner edited the online journal Lynx together for 14 years (to 2014) before reluctantly deciding they no longer had the energy for it. Jane’s more recent work includes translating, with Machiko Kobayashi, the 399 tanka in Akiko Yosano’s 1901 collection. A Girl with Tangled Hair (AHA Books, 2014) took a while, Jane says, because she needed the right Japanese translator to work with – her first co-translator of Japanese tanka fell seriously ill and it took time to find someone else with the attributes Jane sought, which included “free and bold” translations.

sa wa iedo
sono hitotoki yo
natsu no no shimeshi
shirayuri no hana

no matter
what they said at the time
it was dazzling
when the summer field
was taken by white lilies

She and Werner published one of the first anthologies of English-language tanka – Wind Five-Folded – in 1994.

In 2013 Jane published a second volume of her A Dictionary of Haiku (essentially a collected works arranged by season and topic) and brought to fruition her 15-year project of translating all of Basho’s haiku. Basho The Complete Haiku was published by Kondasha.

how loud the surf
filled with moonlight
high and round

– Jane Reichhold, from A Dictionary of Haiku (second edition)

One of the undoubted highlights of her long career in haiku, tanka and renga was a personal invitation from the Emperor and Empress of Japan to attend the 1998 Imperial New Year’s Poetry Party at the palace in Tokyo. “There seemed to be two people waiting to fulfil our every wish,” she recalls. “It was marvellous, if slightly unreal.”

Speaking of slightly unreal, we’d spent the day driving in and out of the fogbanks that are common along this stretch of coast in summer and when we arrived Jane was sitting in a patch of sunlight crocheting, surrounded by shelves of very lifelike dolls! (Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed The Birds is a little further down the coast …)

Turns out, she “repurposes” dolls that are weighted and dressed as if they were infants and then given to dementia patients.

Jane and Werner Reichhold. Photo: Sandra Simpson

The couple are great fun – Werner spent some 40 or 50 years working as an installation artist and now, at the age of 90, enjoys collages as well as poetry. They were penpals for 4 years before meeting and when Jane decided to go to Germany she suggested they exchanged photographs – without discussing it, they each chose a third grade photo (8 years old) to send. And when they exchanged wedding gifts, it turned out they’d bought each other the same thing!

As we were leaving Jane pressed two small notebooks into my hand, a new project. “Write down what you’re thankful for,” she said. “Send it back and be part of the exhibition at the Gualala Arts Centre … or drop it somewhere and let a stranger do it.”

I’ve kept one notebook and given the other to a haiku poet. My first entry is being thankful for the kindness and generosity of the worldwide haiku community. As Jane would say, blessings!

Read Jane’s My Favourite Haiku selection. Read Werner’s selection of his favourite German haiku (with translations).

4 thoughts on “Postcard from Gualala

  1. Pingback: Jane Reichhold 1937-2016 | breath, a collection of haiku

  2. Wonderful to know these things. I do and will enjoy her poems. Let’s write our own poems in memory of Jane. With gratitude. –Peter

  3. Pingback: Haiku Happenings | New Zealand Poetry Society

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