Haiku North America 2021

Whew, what a weekend that was! For the first time in its 30-year history the biennial Haiku North America conference was entirely online – and with free registration – so anyone, anywhere in the world could attend in these Covid-affected times.

And although that meant rising at 4.30am so I could be logged on for the first session at 5am (9am in Vancouver/Seattle where the event was being hosted), it was an effort I was happy to make.

Taking the conference online had pluses and minuses, the biggest drawback for me being the lack of social interaction, something that’s so much easier face-to-face. But the organisers are to be thoroughly commended for the way they moved from a conference planned for Victoria (Vancouver Island) in British Columbia, Canada to something that was so dependent on technology but which worked almost perfectly all the time.

Lynne Jambor (Vancouver, co-chair), Terry Ann Carter (Victoria, co-chair) and Michael Dylan Welch (Seattle, HNA board member) were the public faces of the volunteer team, but when the credits rolled up at the end, there were a large number of people involved. Hat tip to them all.

The conference theme was ‘Ma’ (roughly translated as ‘the space between’) with presenters coming at the topic from myriad angles to cover haiku, haibun and haiga. Speakers also included people from around the world, such as Adjei Agyeh-Baa (New Zealand/Ghana), Alan Summers (UK), Kala Ramesh (India), Kazuhaki Tanahasi (Germany) and Kris Moon Kondo and Kit Nakamura (Japan).

Some presentations included brief writing workshops – I was introduced to tan-renga and had a try at haibun – but all of them were well worth seeing and listening to. The organisers intend to post YouTube videos (each presentation was recorded) as they have time, so keep an eye out for that.

The Memorial Reading is a lovely part of HNA, honouring those poets who have died since the previous conference. Each gets a slide including a photo and a poem, while the narrators share a little bit about each life.

Hand-overs between those introducing the next speakers, as well as the unseen tech boffins keeping it all running, were smooth and everything ran to time. Audience numbers varied (and I didn’t keep a close eye on them) but for some sessions were more than 180. Questions were generally handled through the ‘chat’ function and relayed to the speaker by the moderator, although for the final panel, Alan Summers allowed live questions, which worked pretty well.

The ‘chat’ function was also where website and email addresses could be posted, as well as comments on talks and thanks to presenters. From what I heard and saw, people were participating on everything from phones to PCs.

The HNA board announced that the next event will go back to being in-person and will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio towards the end of June, 2023. That immediately drew a big ‘chat’ response to make an online option available. No promises were made.

After it was all over, I had the chance to talk to HNA founder Garry Gay for a little bit. After the first conference in California, did he have any inkling the event would still be going 30 years later? “After the first one was over, I thought, ‘I’m never doing that again’,” he said. Garry is rightly proud that his baby is now so well-established and enjoyed by so many people.

When we met at my first HNA conference in 2013 (Long Beach, California), Garry gave me a brass coin, one of a limited set he’d had made to give away at the event. It contains three of his haiku, the name of the event and the date. It’s a very special souvenir. I keep it on my desk so could hold it up to the camera to show him I still had it.

Garry said he’d originally had pens printed with his haiku and gave those away, but he wanted something a bit more unique. Knowing someone who made coins and medals, he decided to try that and was very pleased with the result. Not cheap though, hence the limited numbers.

While we were talking, Roberta Beary in Ireland put a note in chat to say she still had one of his pens; Mimi Ahearn in the US said she uses her coin as a template for circles in her art; another poet said she kept hers on a shelf in her study; Bryan Rickert in the US zipped off and retrieved his coin to show Garry who, I think, was quite touched that we all valued them so much.

He said he’d heard about someone who had traded his coin for a beer in a bar. “Just the one beer?,” was the query. “Yeah,” said Garry. “Ripped off.”

The taste of haiku

Finding myself with some time on my hands I thought I would explore haiku that deal with our senses beyond sight. So there will be a themed post once a week for the next four weeks. I’ve had fun finding and selecting these poems, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading them.

Taste and scent are and likely the most difficult senses to weave into a haiku. I catch myself writing ‘the taste of …’  far too often so then must stop and figure out another way of saying exactly that. It’s been fun discovering or re-discovering taste-sense haiku where the authors have found ways of making their poem bold, fresh and vivid.

sweetness
oozing from a fig
indian summer

Harriot West
from The Wonder Code (Girasole Press, 2017)

mononofu no daikon nigaki hanashi kana

warriors
the bitterness of pickles
in the talk

Basho, tr Jane Reichhold
from Basho: The complete haiku (Kodansha, 2008)

The translator’s note for this haiku written in 1693 says Basho has chosen to pair ‘daikon’, a large radish that is often pickled, with ‘nigaki’, meaning ‘bitter’. Both the pickles and the military men’s stories left a bitter taste. She believes the haiku also references the Japanese proverb, ‘the ambitious man eats strong roots’.

shimmering pines
a taste of the mountain
from your cupped hands

Peggy Willis Lyles
from Montage (The Haiku Foundation, 2010)

wood smoke
a little something extra
in the tea

Adelaide B Shaw
from Another Trip Around the Sun (Brooks Books, 2019)

Valentine’s Day –
a cherry tomato
bursts in my mouth

Michael Dylan Welch
from Haikuniverse, Feb 14, 2017

carnival day
candy-floss kiss
on the ghost train

Ron C Moss
from the ‘Freshly Caught’ sequence, Kokako 2 (2004)

im-mi-grant
the way English tastes
on my tongue

Chen-ou Liu
from naad anunaad: an anthology of contemporary world haiku
(Viswakarma Publications, 2016)

no longer friends
the aftertaste
of imported ale

Polona Oblak
from A New Resonance 9 (Red Moon Press)

lovacore market
notes of diesel
in the chilled cherries

Lew Watts
from a hole in the light (Red Moon Press, 2019)

我味の柘榴に這す虱かな
waga aji no zakuro ni hawasu shirami kana

this pomegranate
tastes like me
enjoy it, little louse!

Issa

Translator David Lanoue says: In the prescript to this 1820 haiku, Issa recalls the legend of a mother demon who went about eating children. The Buddha recommended  she switch to a diet of pomegranates, which supposedly taste the same as human flesh. See R. H. Blyth, Haiku (Hokuseido, 1949-1952/1981-1982). In this hard-to-translate haiku, Issa catches one of his lice, and, instead of killing it, places it on his surrogate, the pomegranate.

V, W, X of Haiku

V

Valentine’s Day —
she reminds me
to fasten my seatbelt

Michael Dylan Welch, Haiku Society of America Newsletter 15.4 , 2000

 

removing
     the bullet-proof vest:
          the heat

Nick Virgilio (1928-89), Modern Haiku 14.3, 1983

 

W

that one kid
with the plastic whistle —
evening heat

Cherie Hunter Day, Modern Haiku 45.3, 2014

 

water-melon

watermelons
the weight of our grunts
breaks an axle

Chad Lee Robinson, The Deep End of the Sky (Turtle Light Press, 2015)

 

X

I send a fax
protesting the bombing
pages come out hot

Ruth Yarrow, from The Haiku Apprentice by Abigail Friedman (Stone Bridge Press, 2006)

 

          Listening …
After a while,
     I take up my axe again

Rod Willmot, Haiku (1969)

Errors made

I’m repeating a posting I’ve made this morning at Haiku NewZ, because I think it’s an important issue.

The Apokalipsa Haiku Contest (Slovenia) has disqualified one of the three haiku that judges had selected as First equal. After the awards had been made on September 24, it was discovered that the haiku by Ernest J Berry of New Zealand was a very slightly modified version of one of his which had won the James W Hackett contest (run by the British Haiku Society) in 2008 and been published in white lies, the Red Moon anthology of 2009.

family bible
a wisp of baby hair
in genesis

– First equal Apokalipsa contest 2016; disqualified

family bible
a wisp of baby hair
in Revelation

– First place, James W Hackett Award 2008, published white lies, 2009

The judges say (in translation): “The commission unanimously believes that it is the same haiku, although [there is a] word change … in the third line, so unfortunately it cannot be taken into account. The other two first prizes remain unchanged.”

The two poets who share First prize are Marinko Kovačević of Croatia and Dimitrij Škrk of Slovenia. Ernie also had 4 Commended haiku.

I’ll also note another similar, recent example I’ve come across.

spring sunset
the breath of a fawn
ripples the pond

– Ramesh Anand, First place, European Haiku Society Contest 2016 (announced in April and for which he won €700)

spring dawn
the breath of a fawn
ripples the pond

– Ramesh Anand, Paper Wasp 22.2, 2016 (submissions closed at the end of May)

As it was the final issue of Paper Wasp, the editors were disappointed but not inclined to follow up.

I draw no conclusions about the motivations (if any) of these poets but note this isn’t the first time Ernie has been caught out like this.

Such examples should be a warning to us all to keep meticulous records of published and unpublished work – and to be very clear on what constitutes acceptable writing practice. Read my thoughts in the essay Cleaning up our Act and Michael Dylan Welch’s response to that, Plagiarism and Deja-ku.

Postscript: It never rains but it pours …

Word has just reached me that The Living Haiku Anthology Contest which announced its prizes this week has “vacated” first place after discovering the haiku had already been published! All other prizes will stand.

starry night
I carve the constellations
on his skin

– Diksha Sharma, First place, Living Haiku Anthology contest 2016, disqualified

Published as a single-line haiku in Asahi Haikuist Network, September 2, 2016.

starry night —
I trace the constellations
on his skin

– Diksha Sharma, published cattails haiku journal, May 2016

Second postscript: Another reader has pointed me to this:

starry night —
I carve the constellations
on his skin

– Diksha Sharma, published Sharpening the Green Pencil e-anthology (Romanian Kukai Group), April 2016

So this haiku was published a whopping three times before the author entered it in the Living Haiku Anthology contest! It seems obvious, but maybe the point needs to be made that contest entry rules should be read carefully. Most of them say “unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere” …

Postcard from Seattle

Clockwise from left front: Carmen Sterba, Sandra Simpson, Tanya McDonald, Angela Terry and Michael Dylan Welch. Photo: Keith Frentz

Had dinner with some fellow haiku-ists in Seattle last night, great fun – an exchange of news and views; some gossip; a brilliant idea was suggested, mulled and thought to be do-able; and there was plenty of laughter. I have met Michael and Angie before, both at Haiku North America in 2013, had met Carmen only by email and made a new friend in Tanya. Considering it was a week night in summer (school is just finishing in the US), I was thrilled that anyone was able to come and especially pleased that Carmen had come so far (90 minutes – and leaving her new husband alone for the evening!). I can’t tell you how special it is to make contact with other haiku enthusiasts when so far away from home so a big thanks to Michael for his organisational skills.

Michael had kindly bought me a copy of the new HNA 25th anniversary anthology (thus saving me quite a bit of postage), Fire in the Treetops, which he edited. Michael is also on the organising board of HNA.

Haiku in the Pacific Northwest of the US seems to be alive and well – Angie is president of Haiku Northwest which has a mailing list of more than 200, although numbers attending meetings vary wildly she says, anything from 5 to 40.

rain on the skylight
I carve off a petal
of lavender ice cream

– Tanya McDonald

the ferry shakes
into my spine – 
the whale’s wake

– Michael Dylan Welch

first snowman –
a toddler’s breath
on the windowpane

– Carmen Sterba

dry lightning
sizzling in twilight
the baby kicks

– Angela Terry