Day 3: August 6, 2009
I’d like to begin by saying I wasn’t able to attend all the sessions I’d have liked to. My recounting of these next days will be based upon those I was able to attend and experience first-hand.
The morning began at 9:00 a.m. with a presentation by Emiko Miyashita titled “Feel the Word” – one that I found very enlightening. Emiko spoke from a translator’s point of view, giving examples of haiku translated two different ways and contrasting them . . . what was conveyed? what was lost?
Emiko presented many concepts to us much as I imagine they may have been taught to her by her own haiku teacher. I felt very strongly the passing on of lessons as Emiko spoke with humble passion. Her haiku teacher, Akira Omine, said that “haiku comes not from one’s brain but from one’s subconsciousness.” This immediately resonated with me and with many others attending her presentation, as evicenced by the gentle nodding of heads around me.
Emiko spoke of kigo and the deep symbolism rooted within the Japanese culture. In fact, one member of the audience likened kigo to the “emotional echo of our life stages.” Emiko nodded. But Emiko also spoke to our choices of expression in the larger context, too. She said it was Basho who cautioned, “Straighten up and correct the usage of words” to which Emiko added, “Words are dangerous; if you misuse them you lose your dignity.”
We’ve all found ourselves at a loss for words at one time or another. It can be frustrating when writing haiku, when hoping to convey a special moment, to have the right word escape you. Emiko told us that “the word” is always simple. Akira Omine said to “seek real words – words with identity.” Emiko’s message was this: “Synchronize with the primal rhythm of the universe and wait for the word to come.” The haiku will follow.
She advised us not to draw a line between nature and ourselves.
At 10:00 a.m. I attended a presentation titled “Nick Virgilio: Crossing Currents of Form and Inspiration” with three haiku poets comprising the panel: Raffael de Gruttola, Kathleen O’Toole, and Michael Dylan Welch.
2009 marks the twentieth anniversary of Nick Virgilio’s death. Looking back on his poetry and haiku we were able to see the boundaries he pushed, which seemed true to his very nature. He had a gift of capturing the essence but often disregarded many of the traditional avenues of approach at the time and writing to form. Did this invalidate his poetry? Did breaking haiku conventions mean he wasn’t writing haiku? As I listened to each panel member speak of him, I came to realize I would have liked Nick Virgilio very much had I the opportunity to meet him. The panel as a whole, as well as members of the audience, were particularly focused on keeping Nick Virgilio and his legacy available to all haiku poets now and in the future. Michael Dylan Welch quoted Virgilio, and I wish I’d been able to write down the quote verbatim. I need to contact Michael to obtain the rest of the quote, but it went something like this: “I don’t care what you call what I do, haiku or shmaiku or whatever. What I do is poetry.” And regarding adhering to haiku’s poetic devices, Virgilio said, “it only becomes a problem when the technique overtakes the poem.”
One of Nick Virgilio’s most well-known haiku (which was recited during this presentation) is:
out of the water . . .
out of itself
Claudia Coutu-Radmore created an inspired presentation titled “Crosscurrents/Inspirations” also listed as “Haiku and Art Crosscurrents.”
Members of Haiku Canada were asked to submit haiku for this presentation. 32 haiku written by 21 poets were selected, and Claudia created several exquisite pieces of artwork, each containing some of the submitted haiku. The paintings were then further interpreted by 1) a musician playing on the guitar a song he wrote inspired by one of the paintings, 2) recorded sound by Dorothy Howard as inspired by another painting, 3) recorded music produced by production-line typyes of machinery, and 4) a vignette created and acted by a local actor and haiku poet.
Maudie, an aging art critic at times more interested in sneaking a quick sip from the contents of a flask she concealed in, well, you can imagine . . . any way, at times its lure overcame her often dramatic attempt to critique the piece of artwork at hand. This part was cleverly played by actress and fellow haiku poet Patricia “Pat” Benedict. Her vignette rounded out a varied, unique, and inspired approach in conveying crosscurrents, the theme of this year’s HNA gathering.
David Lanoue and I took a lunch break to savor some local food. We wandered down the “walking lane” between the many government buildings, called “Sparks Street Mall“, along which restaurants create outdoor seating areas to cater to government workers taking their lunch breaks. It’s apparently a practice that works, for many of the outdoor dining areas were filled, with waiting lists longer than the time we had to devote to lunch. I asked David what kind of food he wanted.
humid day . . .
all he knows he wants for lunch,
a non-sandwich and beer
We found an outdoor dining area serving Lebanese food, and we were set for lunch: A vegetarian plate with falafel, hummus, pita bread, rice, and macaroni salad (ok, so the macaroni salad was a little unexpected) and a beef & chicken shawarma plate . . . oh, and a side order of roasted potatoes with garlic mayonaise . . . YUM!
Emiko Miyashita conducted a reading from “Impressions of Wind“ which is an anthology of Haiku by World Children, edited by the JAL Foundation. She explained the history, dating back 45 years ago while the winter olympics were held in Tokyo. Japan Airlines (JAL) conducted a haiku contest that was announced on United States Radio. After receiving over 41,000 haiku, the winner was James W. Hackett.
After its success, many other haiku contests emerged appealing to a variety of age groups and world locations. In 1989 the first “Haiku by the World’s Children” publication was produced, and in 1990 the responsibility for continuing these activities transferred to the JAL Foundation. Emiko read to us that, “The contest is a biennial event, and for each contest, a haiku anthology containing winning pieces is published by the JAL Foundation.”
Attendees were seated in a circle, and Emiko distributed copies of the current anthology. Thumbing through the pages I found so many of the haiku and drawings enchanting and insightful. We took turns selecting a haiku, then standing up and citing the child’s name, age, and country of origin, and reading the haiku. What a touching experience this was!
Michael Dylan Welch gave a presentation titled “Fuyoh Observations: Seven Lessons we can Learn from Japan.” I was astonished to hear about the magnitude of submissions any one publication receives in Japan compared to what we experience here in North America and other places around the world. What’s more, there are literally hundreds of haiku journals in Japan, at a minimum one for each of the over 800 haiku groups there. “Hototogisu“, one of the Japan’s largest haiku journals, literally publishes approximately 10,000 haiku every month. Imagine over 800 journals each publishing tens of thousands of haiku every year.
Michael spoke of placement on the page and contrasted our tendency to print haiku with lots of white space surrounding them versus the practice and sheer necessity of concentrating haiku on a page in Japan within a journal containing so many thousands of haiku. It was interesting to consider how we’ve embraced the white space practice, to consider how in Japan the economy of space translates into their publications.
It was hard to imagine editing a monthly publication of the magnitude Michael described. How does one consider the volume of haiku submitted in a month to narrow down to 10,000 for publication. The thought alone dizzies me.
Jerome Cushman presented “Haiku in Performance” with three other wonderfully talented members of the Rochester Area Haiku Group. They spoke about preparing for a haiku performance. Jerome highlighted that listening to poets read haiku can be an uncomfortable experience at best, and can quickly become a very boring and frustrating experience. But with a little preparation, a “reading” can become a “performance.” Part of that preparation involves studying the selected haiku, understanding each one, discovering the world of each haiku, and then making meaning/feeling notations for each haiku.
Jerome also spoke about vocal techniques, highlighting proper pronunciation, enunciation with crisp articulation and “clip consonants.” He advised to “open up for good resonation and phonation” and to project, with prolonged vowel sounds.
Animation using body language and gestures can bring a haiku to life by emphasizing a particular part of the haiku, or the silent part at the pause between lines. And when the poet is in “delivery” Jerome advised to “be real” . . . to “see, think, feel, then move, then speak.”
We were then treated to a performance by Jerome and the three accompanying poets, all four reading their own haiku . . . no, PERFORMING their own haiku.
At the end of the day several of us headed for the “Glue Pot Pub” located across the street from the Crowne Plaza Hotel, for Bloody Mary’s and conversation.
And Day 3 in Ottawa, Ontario Canada came to a close.